Beating holiday stress before the holidays begin

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Now that we’re looking at the business end of holidays, most moms are anticipating cherub-cheeked tots writing letters to Santa, trees that look like spun sugar just after a snow storm—and skull-crushing stress so acute, you wake each day with a face that makes the dude in Edvard Munch’s The Scream look as placid as the Dalai Lama.      Google that. See? Exactly.

     Managing stress means managing yourself first. Now, I know you read articles about managing stress by writers who sometimes advocate cutting caffeine from your diet.

      And of course, you silently scream one word to the author: Die! Die!

     Yeah, that’s two words, but I’m sure you understand.

     I won’t tell you to cut caffeine or write “You go, girl!” in lipstick on your mirror. But you will get stress-busting ideas from a mom who’s had her three-year-old sing, “Shake, shake, shake your pe-nus,” while in line for a church potluck. (My boys pronounce the male organ as “pe-nus” for reasons unbeknownst to me, mostly because I’ve never had one.)

     Pay attention to what events trigger your stress, and eliminate them. Nota bene: I said, eliminate your stress, not your kids.

     When I recently went through a busy patch, I realized most morning radio shows stressed me out. So I monitored my mood; if I was too anxious, I turned off the radio. If I could handle some news, I turned on NPR, where announcers are surely coached to maintain a measured, peaceful tone. Maybe they’re trained to read aloud the U.S. Tax Code while giving each other wedgies—anybody done research on this?

     Also, remember: You’re not stressed. Really, you’re not. Check out http://www.stopthehunger.com/, and you’ll see how many people have died from hunger in the time it’s taken you to read this column. So if you forget to put sprinkles on the freakin’ cupcakes for the bake sale, it’s OK.

     Here’s another idea: Go off the clock. At a certain time every night, I tell my kids, “I’m going off the clock in ten minutes. Anybody need any glasses of water? A deluxe tuck-in? Napalm?”

     Then, when the second hand hits the hour, I turn on the hot water in the bathtub. Don’t get me wrong: If the contents of the toilet spontaneously combusted, I would grab the fire extinguisher.

     But if my kids call, “Mom, I need water,” I call back, “I’m off the clock.” Now, even my oldest son, Jake, will tell the other kids, “Mom’s off the clock.”

     The benefits of going off the clock are many: You ensure Me Time, and you give your brain time off from whatever’s worrying you. You can’t do anything else about saving the world because—repeat after me—

     “I’m off the clock.”

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About Rebecca Bailey

* Columnist, The Times of Northwest Indiana, for three years. * Professor for twelve years. * Mom of four teeny kids. * Voted "Most Dramatic," Castle Junior High School eighth grade, 1984. * Failed to diaper her first child before he projectile-pooped on the curtains. * Accidentally splattered her white Jack Russell Terrier with her red hair dye, which did not come out.

2 responses »

  1. Rebbeca, I soo needed to read your column today! You made me laugh out loud and I will definitely remember to say the words, “I’m off the clock” as much as I possibly can. Our family celebrates all of our birthdays in addition to the holidays. Between mid September and the last day of December, I’m a shopping maniac and party planning diva. 🙂

    • Amy,
      You and I are practically sisters! My role model is the parties in A Christmas Carol; starting tomorrow (Halloween), I’m totally going to be in “creating magic” mode! Big hugs!

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