The holiday season is supposed to be a time of light, love, and happiness..or not. There are so many complicated layers to stepfamily life. We not only deal with the stressors everyone else does (hosting family dinners, staying on budget while finding that perfect gift for the mail carrier) but then we can often add on sudden changes to visitation and access, appeasing demanding and unaccommodating exes, angry and demanding kids, financial constraints, extended family, in laws, ex in laws and the list can go on. It sometimes feels like you can barely keep your head above water. This time of year we add extra pressure to ourselves to make everything so perfect. There are so many expectations, and without realizing it, they can be unrealistic. So how do we care for ourselves when we barely find time to breathe? Here are a few tips to help:
1) Expectation Management:
Buying the perfect gift, being in 2 or more places at once, being unable or unwilling to say no to please others. Shave down your list of must do’s and focus on what’s critical: quality time with your friends and family, slowing down to enjoy the lights and the company of those in your home. And letting go of what doesn’t serve you and what you have no control over. Prioritize the top 5 things..the rest needs to wait. Otherwise the turkey won’t be the only thing being burned.
2) Self Care is Critical:
Small things can make a big difference. Find time to have cup of tea in a sunny spot or by the roaring fire. Or, kick it up a notch and have something extra yummy to your hot chocolate. Taking a breath of air that fills your lungs and shaking off the burden like a rag doll, releases stress. Watching funny movies, a brisk walk outside with the kids can help shift your perspective. But more importantly, do these things ahead of time so you are not trying to top yourself up when you are in crisis mode already.
3) Don’t Bump Your Partner to the Back Burner:
We take each other for granted. All the time. We expect our partner to just hang in there. One. More. Minute. One. More. Day. There’s no urgency in connecting with our partner to contend with the dog who just ate a box full of poisonous chocolate requiring a trip to the emergency vet. But don’t let those minutes turn into days, turn into weeks then months without any intimacy or turning towards each other. It’s dangerous! You need your partner to manage the stepfamily chaos and turbulence WITH YOU. He/she is on your team!! Carve out time for the two of you.
4) Make a Plan:
It’s easy to talk the talk ”sure I’ll take a bubble bath and drink wine” and harder to do it. “Damn the dog just ate the tinsel!!!” But put it in your daytimer/ calendar. Put an alarm on your watch. Tell your partner in crime you are taking some much needed recoop time. Fight, hiss, and claw your way- if you must – into some time on your own. After all, you have to have your cookie jar filled so you can share it with others right? Add your couple connection time into your daytimer too. He or she will thank you for it 😉
5) Stick to Your Plan: I’d say enough said but really…you are your own priority. Make it so.
Wishing you and your family many warm blessings!