Per request we are publishing the “Stress Management” series published in our monthly column for the Madison Enterprise Recorder.
As we discussed in last month’s column, teaching our youth stress management techniques can often be one of our most important jobs as an adult in their life. But how can we expect our kids to do what we say if we don’t demonstrate positive behaviors and stress management in our own life? Like the airplane instructions go, “First you put on your mask, then you assist your [child].”
So what are some ways we can be positive models of stress management? Let’s take a look at some of the ways the American Psychological Association (APA) suggests dealing with holiday stress in particular.
APA suggests these tips to help parents effectively manage holiday stress:
- Strengthen social connections– We know that strong, supportive relationships help us manage all kinds of challenges. So, we can view the holidays as a time to reconnect with the positive people in our lives. Accepting help and support from those who care about us can help alleviate stress. Also, volunteering at a local charity on our own or with family can be another way to make connections; helping others often makes us feel better, too.
- Initiate conversations about the season– It can be helpful to have conversations with our kids about the variety of different holiday traditions our families, friends and others may celebrate. Parents can use this time as an opportunity to discuss how some families may not participate in the same holiday traditions as others. Not everyone needs to be the same. It is important to teach open-mindedness about others and their celebrations.
- Set expectations– It is helpful to set realistic expectations for gifts and holiday activities. Depending on a child’s age, we can use this opportunity to teach kids about the value of money and responsible spending. We need to remember to pare down our own expectations, too. Instead of trying to take on everything, we need to identify the most important holiday tasks and take small concrete steps to accomplish them.
- Keep things in perspective– On the whole, the holiday season is short. It helps to maintain a broader context and a longer-term perspective. We can ask ourselves, what’s the worst thing that could happen this holiday? Our greatest fears may not happen and, if they do, we can tap our strengths and the help of others to manage them. There will be time after the holiday season to follow up or do more of things we’ve overlooked or did not have the time to do during the holidays.
- Take care of yourself– It is important that we pay attention to our own needs and feelings during the holiday season. We can find fun, enjoyable and relaxing activities for ourselves and our families. By keeping our minds and bodies healthy, we are primed to deal with stressful situations when they arise. Consider cutting back television viewing for kids and getting the family out together for fresh air and a winter walk. Physical activity can help us feel better and sleep well, while reducing sedentary time and possible exposure to stress-inducing advertisements.