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Ask Nicole: Finding Peace and Joy During the Holidays

There have been many devastating events happening the last several years, one right after another. Lives and homes have been lost, and it feels as though the tidal wave of tragedies is relentless. It’s emotionally exhausting, and it’s hard not to get weighed down with fear and sadness every time I read the news.


Yet this is also a time of year when many people celebrate holidays that represent hope, peace, and new beginnings. It’s hard to feel the true meaning of these holidays when we’re stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed, but Taking Care of Yourself is one of the 5 principles of positive parenting that’s so important – now more than ever.


This monthly column provides tips for anyone who is helping raise children, based on the world-renowned Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, available to families in Santa Cruz County. If you have a question or idea for a future column, please email me at triplep@first5scc.org.


Dear Nicole,


The holidays are approaching, which always stresses me out no matter how much I try to embrace the holiday spirit. I love spending this special time with family, but between working full-time, managing my kids’ busy schedules, and helping my aging parents, I feel constant pressure. I’m exhausted and end up throwing “adult tantrums” when I've taken on too much. Do you have any tips to avoid total burnout so I can actually find joy this season, rather than just wishing it would pass quickly? I could really use some advice before the holidays get here.


- Rebekah


Dear Rebekah,


You’re not alone! This is a common issue in many families, and the holidays have a way of magnifying emotions so that even small things become a huge deal. Here are a few tips to try:


Notice the early signs of tension and stress in your body, before the “adult tantrum” occurs. Common signs can include: Tense or stiff muscles, headaches, irritability or anger, tiredness, difficulty concentrating, feeling overwhelmed or unable to keep up, and an upset stomach.


Use relaxation strategies. When you’re feeling tense or stressed, try to relax your mind and body by breathing in slowly through your nose. When you’ve taken a full breath, pause for a moment, then breathe out slowly through your nose or mouth. Repeat these slow, deep breaths a few times.


Or close your eyes for a few minutes and imagine a place that makes you feel peaceful and relaxed. It could be a forest, a meadow, the beach, another country, or a dark room with no one around you. Use your imagination to see every color and hear every sound. Take deep breaths as you envision this peaceful place and imagine your stress leaving your body each time you exhale.


Use coping statements. In stressful situations, you might find yourself automatically thinking negative things about yourself, other people, or the situation that’s happening, which can add to your stress. Try telling yourself some coping statements or affirmations, such as: “I will focus on what is most important this season – my own health and quality time with loved ones.” Or “I will aim for ‘good enough’ rather than perfect when it comes to gifts, meals, and hosting.” Using positive self-talk can help reframe thoughts when you notice tension rising and prevent your stress from escalating further. Remember to acknowledge your efforts, and that joy and connection can happen even when things aren’t going flawlessly.


Ask family members for their help. Have a family discussion ahead of the holidays to set expectations around celebrations, gift-giving, sharing tasks, and parenting duties with your partner or co-parent. Making these plans upfront helps prevent conflicts. Talk with your children about how they can be helpful during the holidays. Prepare them for possible changes in their daily routines, especially if you have guests staying with you. Let your children know which family rules can be flexible during the holidays, and which ones they’ll need to follow as usual.


Give yourself permission to say no. This can seem impossible for people who are natural-born helpers and thrive when they’re busy. Yet it’s vitally important to take care of yourself so that you have the physical and emotional energy to keep going. Let go of any guilt or fear of missing out when you say no, and notice how it feels to have fewer demands on your time.


FINAL THOUGHTS: Holidays are both joyful and stressful for all types of families. Take steps to minimize stress and give yourself peace of mind so that you and your family can create memories filled with love, joy, and laughter.


06 Peace & Joy - December 2023 - TriplePNews (Eng)
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Nicole Young is the mother of two young adults, who also manages Santa Cruz County's Triple P - Positive Parenting Program. Scientifically proven, Triple P is made available locally by First 5 Santa Cruz County, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, and the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department. To find a Triple P parenting class or practitioner, visit http://triplep.first5scc.org, http://www.facebook.com/triplepscc or contact First 5 Santa Cruz County at 465-2217 or triplep@first5scc.org.

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