Thursday, November 18, 2010

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Stressed up for the holidays

Apparently, frazzledmomma felt inspired to co-write! After 40 hours of awaketude. The pink bits are her commentary. - Bubbe

Definition of STRESS \'stres\

- A physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation

- A force exerted when one body or body part presses on, pulls on, pushes against, or tends to compress or twist another body or body part

- The deformation caused in a body by such a force

Bubbe's been thinking about stress lately. I mean, stress is always there. There's no avoiding it. And it's not always bad, either. There is a term coined by Hans Selye, "eustress", which means good stress. Examples of eustress are getting a new job, getting married, having a child. It's all good… but it's still stressful!

And with the holidays upon us, there's a fresh batch of stress that includes doing all the multitudinous things that we do on ordinary days, PLUS buying presents, cooking huge dinners for 28 of our closest friends (and 20 pies so there is enough for dessert and a pie for each family to schlepp home, like the Monster House tradition), and even converting old favorite traditional foods to GF/CF/SF alternatives your child can dig into and build memories upon.

Planning how to deal with your stress proactively can be a tremendous tool for keeping your stress down to manageable levels (because a frazzledmomma is not a happy momma). You plan for parties, you plan your Thanksgiving menu, you plan your day's chores. Plan how you're going to keep your stress levels manageable.

Know your limitations. Part of planning how you're going to manage your stress is knowing how much is too much. Is adding one thing to your already full day going to push you over the top? Two things? What if it's two things but one's something you enjoy, like shopping for presents?

Line up your support staff. No one should be without a team supporting them. Figure out who supports you, and let them know that you may need a little more support -- emotional or physical -- than usual over this extra busy time. Maybe that means that you're friend should text you funny jokes or pictures daily to give you a mini-break every day. Or maybe it means that you need to arrange sleepovers for your kids. Or sleepovers for yourself (get someone you trust to spend the night at your house so you can do an all night Walmart raid and then crash at your best friend's house for an uninterrupted six hours, which is six more uninterrupted hours than you've had in the past year and a half). Or maybe it's saying to your spouse, for this month, I'll need you to do the [morning drop-off/laundry/dishes/homework help/time-out monitoring].

NB!! If you don't have people to support you, to free you up a bit, ask everyone you know (especially the strangers you've met online like frazzledmomma does) what resources are available to you. Arrange for respite care, home nurses, or paid companions so that you're not juggling everything on your own.

Schedule in time for yourself. Once a week, every week, at a minimum, you should hang up your parent hat and go be an adult. This can mean spending an hour at the library flipping through a glamour magazine or reading a book of short stories (in case you fall asleep five minutes into the book; with short stories, you have a fighting chance of reading an entire story). Or having a standing coffee with a friend, kid-free. Or going into your bathroom and LOCKING THE DOOR and taking a long bath, or a shower until there's no more hot water in the tank. Or taking the dog for a two-hour walk and using the time to call a friend and chat uninterrupted. Or watching your favorite TV show while your spouse takes care of the kids. Doesn't matter what you do, just as long as you create "ME" time.

Learn that "no" is not a four-letter word. Mom? Can we have pumpkin AND cranberry pie? No. Mom? Can we go to just one more store, even though the baby's exhausted and cranky? No. Honey, let's throw a New Year's party. We haven't had one since before Junior was diagnosed. No. (Do not tell your sweetie to throw HIMSELF out the window, like frazzledmomma would.) Mom, I'm hungry. Will you make me lunch? Yes. Mom! I forgot I was supposed to wear a white skirt for my performance that starts in an hour, and I don't have one! We have to go shopping! No.

Don't forget to breathe. Seems obvious. But are you doing it? Full, lung-filling breaths. That's right, just…like…that. Good girl. Don't forget again, Bubbeleh, because it's just so important.

And when all the planning doesn't work and stress gets the better of you…walk away. Not forever! Don't be silly. Like Bubbe would encourage you to abandon all you hold near and dear. But if you're feeling like you are about to scream, hit, throw things, (beat things with your computer mouse) or otherwise melt down, walk away. Walk into your bathroom and lock the door. Walk into your closet and sit in the corner. Walk outside and take some deep breaths of fresh air. Take a few moments to regroup, to let some mental energy seep into your well of reserves so that you can go back into the fray with some resources to deal with the chaos.

And one last piece of advice. When you're busy shopping or making presents or even creating coupons for holiday presents, don't forget to put your own name on the list of people who deserve something special. And follow through on it -- tell yourself how special you are with a gift you'll remember for years to come. (Do not guilt yourself into thinking you don't deserve it, like frazzledmomma does. Because every parent, especially the frazzled ones, deserve it! -B.)

Relax, bubbelehs! Enjoy this holiday season! And save Bubbe a bit of the dark meat, tov?

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