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Mental Health and the holidays: Moms and dealing with holiday stress

While moms may have many superpowers, holidays can have them facing a familiar foe...stress.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Up..Up..and away, it's that time of the year where moms put on their extra cape and become everyone’s holiday hero, but the villain they're facing is stress. 

Dr. Angela Stowe director of Student Counseling Services with University of Alabama-Birmingham knows that moms are just trying to make the holidays special.

"When we think about the holidays, I think along with that comes this idea that it's our job as parents and especially moms to be the magic makers," Dr. Stowe states. "We want our children and our family and our friends and anybody who we're around experiences some kind of magic of the holiday season."

A 2006 study by the American Psychological Association states that “holiday stress has a particular impact on women, who take charge of many of the holiday celebrations, particularly the tasks related to preparing meals and decorating the home.” While the research in this article was done 15+ years ago, the findings still ring true today. Monretta Vega of Huntsville Psychotherapy and Counseling Services says there are many factors that may play a role in this.

"One factor is an overpacked schedule, not being able to prioritize everything because they feel the need to accomplish everything at once," Vega states. "And then another big factor is not properly taking care of themselves. You have to be able to say, 'okay, I'm going to do this, but I'm also going to do some self-care practices. Another big thing is like lack of boundaries."

And while moms may want to say yes to everything, the Christmas magic may come from the word no. "It's okay to say no," Vega states. "No, I won't be able to host a holiday party. I know I won't be able to bake or provide this, but a lot of times that goes back to the desire to make this holiday so special for family, friends and children so, it's very difficult at that time to utilize the sentence."

Dr Stowe shares how 'no' can make the holidays more enjoyable. "By saying no, you can actually say yes to the things that are really important to you. So, you don't have to go to every event or host every event or make everything picture perfect," Dr. Stowe states. "If you can back off on a few of those things, then the times that are really important to you, you can give more of yourself in those areas."

And to moms feeling overwhelmed, they also shared a few tips on how to cope:

From Dr. Stowe:

"Anything that can be really captured in that term of self-care is really important. Taking time to breathe, just pausing for 60 seconds to take some real good, deep breaths can actually have a very physiologically calming effect by lowering your heart, slowing your heart rate, by slowing your breathing down. and actually, relaxing the body.'

From Monretta Vega, LPC-S, NCC, CHt, CPC:

"It would be important to have a list of things that you want to accomplish," Vega states. "That way, if we have a list, whether it is a concrete paper list or is something that we have in our phone or on our tablet or computer, we can check it all our mark it off that to give a sense of accomplishment. And we want to lastly, keep in mind with the whole holiday season is about. We can keep it commercialized, but there's still a slow way of spending time with family and friends. and that could be our purpose."

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