The holiday season brings with it so much potential for loving connection . . . laughter . . . and  family traditions.   As we visit with family and friends, share food, gifts, and time while attending many celebrations of  light in the darkness, we enjoy timeless rituals and the power of hope.  Yet we frequently find that our glowing expectations turn to ashes as we experience stress: overcommitment stress, emotional stress, family stress.  Over time I’ve developed some basic guidelines to help find and maintain balance during the holidays, which I hope will be useful to you, particularly if this is your first holiday season with your new baby. . .

Balance can be obtained with Breath and Love and Needs-Centered Experience. What does this mean? First, it seems so basic, but we do forget to BREATHE.  Both physically and symbolically, we get so busy and anxious that we forget to take longer, fuller breaths. As we breathe less fully, we become more anxious and a vicious cycle begins.  Take one setting, such as in your car, and practice breathing more deeply each time you get in. Put a sticky note on the dashboard reminding yourself to breathe deeply.  On a more symbolic level, remember to take “breaths” during and between activities. Both you and your babies/children need “breaths” or breaks between busy times and quiet times.  Family members, who understandably want to spend time with you, can often accept “the baby needs her nap”  as a reason for a break from the action for awhile.

Extend the Love of the season to compassion for everyone’s needs, including your own.  We can forget that we can “practice” love. A conscious effort to speak in a kind voice can go a long way in our interactions with others, particularly if we need to share disappointing news, (such as “I’m sorry, but we can’t go to three different family gatherings in one day”) .  When we remember that another’s expectation is motivated by caring, even when the tone is irritable,  it often makes it easier to respond  in a more loving tone and thereby calm the interaction a bit.

We often get attached to our “ideal” vision of what makes a good holiday. . .or to a family member’s vision . . . without taking into the account our own and our children’s changing Needs.  Sorting out these differences after the birth of the first child and as the family’s developmental needs changes over time can be complicated. Managing the stress of conflicting “wants” can be better managed by first attending to the basic “needs”: food, sleep,  activity, rest, socialization, and relaxation.  It seems fairly basic, but I can remember being puzzled about why my daughter or son was cranky and then realizing that in the hustle and bustle of visiting with family, they had not had their usual snacks, or had skipped their morning naps!  A little planning, with flexibility, can help make sure that everyone’s needs are met, paving the way for a loving, balanced holiday, with lots of  “wants” achieved as well.