By Natalie McIvers
Your How-To Guide for The B.E.S.T. Holiday Season
The leaves are turning, the air is getting chilly and you are excited for these next few months of festivities! In the midst of your excitement, you may notice that hints of stress are creeping in and souring the pumpkin spice latte season: also known as the holidays. Your family; your partner’s family; your children, all expect your time and attention. If the demands of this season make you feel like you are going to lose your mind, you are not alone. This stress can be frustrating, especially since you want to enjoy this wonderful season with your loved ones! Thankfully, there are a few simple tricks that can help you ditch the stress and embrace a joyous holiday experience. All you need to do is remember these four things to have your BEST ever holiday season: Boundaries, Expectations, Self-care and Traditions.
Boundaries are the limits that we set for ourselves in order to maintain our safety and wellbeing. When setting boundaries this holiday season, try leading with an “I” statement. This will clearly and kindly communicate your limits. Boundaries can include limits for your time, personal information, and finances. So, this season when that overly-intrusive Aunty of yours is grilling you about your personal life, here is your script: “I don’t feel comfortable talking about that right now, but I would love to tell you about (insert whatever safe topic you choose).” You love your Aunty, but she will just have to get her juicy-gossip elsewhere this year.
Expectations is not a dirty word. They are not demands, they are your hopes, assumptions and preferences. We all have them, and sharing them with your loved ones early on can prevent disappointment and frustration. Clear communication regarding your expectations is a gift for yourself and your loved ones, as it relieves them of the pressure to read your mind. You might communicate your holiday expectations by having conversations about gift spending limits for your kiddos; your down time needs; or romantic dates you are hoping to have with your partner: ice skating and hot chocolate, anyone?
Self-care is all about making time for your own needs. For many parents, this can feel difficult, especially during a season in which you are already pulled in a million different directions. Just remember, taking time for self-care is a necessary anecdote to the dreaded holiday burnout. A simple trick for practicing self-care is to choose one thing that recharges you and makes you feel present. However tempting it is, try and resist the urge to choose something that encourages you to mentally check out (I’m lookin’ at you, Love Is Blind). Instead, choose engaging activities such as getting a festive fall drink at Starbucks, or taking an extra two minutes outside to stop and enjoy the sunset. The trick is to really savor the moment and soak in all the self-love and pampering vibes. The world will be waiting when you are done, and you will be more equipped to face the day.
For many people, the holidays are all about traditions. You love your traditions, and your partner does too. Maybe your family celebrates by having all 20 family members in the home together, while your partner's family opts for an immediate-family only restaurant dinner. In the midst of navigating both your families and personal preferences, don’t forget to create your own new traditions together! Creating shared meaning through traditions is a powerful way to strengthen the bond with your loved one. From making each other handmade tree ornaments, to ordering takeout and watching a cheesy Christmas movie, these rituals are wonderful points of connection that you both can look forward to for years to come.
There you have it, your simple guide to having your BEST ever holiday season! With this guide in hand, you can venture confidently into the land of carbo-load dinners, spiked eggnog, horrendously ugly Christmas sweaters and most importantly, beautiful moments with yourself and your loved ones.
By Dr. Parie Faridnia
With Valentine's Day just around the corner, you are probably seeing masses of sugary commercials—seemingly everywhere you turn—of couples being romantic with each other with lavish displays of affection. Now that you've had a baby together, it may seem like such a long time ago that you once had that time for one another, or felt that romantic connection.
With your little one needing your undivided attention and what seems like all of your time (not to mention sleep!), it may seem impossible to have any energy to give to one another.
It probably feels like the only time you communicate is to talk about the baby. Or worse, to argue because both of you are so frustrated, sleep deprived, and overwhelmed. (If a new mom is dealing with intense mood swings post-baby, please see below on what’s normal to expect.)
Everything has shifted. Many couples feel wistful for their old relationship, before children and have no idea how to reconnect with their partner or to get "back to the way it used to be". Therein lies the issue, it likely will not ever really be exactly the same. Don't despair! Instead, find a way to create a "new normal" with your partner, to reconnect and start rebuilding your romantic relationship, post-baby.
You might be asking, "How do I do this? I'm so tired, I haven't slept more than 2 hours a night for weeks, and even washing my hair feels like a victory! How in the world do I carve out time and muster up energy to give to my partner as well as my baby?"
Well, there is a simple solution. All you need to do is find ONE thing the two of you used to do together before baby, and find a way to recreate that at home, maybe when the baby is asleep. Perhaps you liked to watch a favorite TV show while eating frozen yogurt or indulging in some popcorn. Think of something you can do together—to recharge—instead of using more energy to think of grand date night ideas or how to spice up your sex life. All of that will come with time, as your baby gets older and becomes more independent. You will eventually feel more comfortable finding a sitter or loved one to watch your baby so you can get of the house.
If you are at that stage now, give yourself permission to have a night out together, and accept help that is given to you. If you can't even imagine leaving your infant alone, then some of these "at home date night" suggestions should be right up your alley.
Finding simple moments to reconnect is much more realistic and will take the pressure off. Right now the two of you are focused on taking care of your new baby, and that will take most of your resources, but this is temporary. Finding a new normal in your romantic relationship will take time. For now, focus on finding that one thing that both of you enjoy doing to help the pair of you feel more connected, to ignite that old spark once again.
Share your ideas
Chime in below with a comment with your best ideas for how to keep the spark alive in your relationship post-baby.
How do I know if the really intense mood swings I’m having are normal and not something else? My partner is worried about me.
This is an excellent question, and one we hear often. Over 80% of all new mothers deal with intense mood swings for about three weeks following the birth of their children because of their changing hormones. It’s important to understand that if the intensity of these mood swings are still lasting and you or your partner feel overwhelmingly anxious, having intense feelings of anger or irritability, having thoughts that scare you, or are experiencing endless sadness or tearfulness beyond three weeks, we suggest you seek professional guidance and support and/or see your doctor for a check-in, as this may be a sign of postpartum depression or anxiety. You and your partner are not alone. There is help and hope, and soon you’ll be able to carve out a happier “new normal” life post-baby.
Dr. Parie Faridnia is a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of California.
OC Family Wellness Group loves hearing from couples who may have questions or concerns or who are in need of resources about postpartum life. Knowing when to seek help for yourself or your partner about postpartum issues is not always easy. We are here to help.