Most of us have an image in our minds of the perfect family holiday: Sitting together around a table eating a delicious meal and sharing family stories, or maybe cuddled in front of the fireplace with beautiful decorations all around, exchanging gifts.
But these pictures often aren’t as close to our reality as we would like. The pressure to create beautiful holiday memories, coupled with the everyday pressures of being a parent – especially a new parent – can lead to overwhelming feelings of anxiety, stress, and even depression.
Deborah Groening, LMFT, executive director of Well Baby Center in Mar Vista, says reaching out for help can make all the difference. “Every new mother struggles,” Groening says. “It’s just on a continuum.” Well Baby Center offers support groups for new moms and their babies and toddlers, led by infant-parent specialists who can add an extra level of guidance. Mother-child pairs are added to groups based on the age of the child and types of issues that might be present with mother, baby or both. Fees are on a sliding scale, but Groening says financial issues are not the only thing that keeps moms from getting help. “There’s a lot of judgement out there, and shame,” she says.
But getting the help you need can make the holidays, and every day, better for you and your family. Here are some of Groening’s tips for managing the holiday season:
- Make time for your self-care routine. Shower, put on clean clothes and a little makeup and you’ll feel ready to socialize with others.
- If you have access to a mindfulness meditation video, use it daily to quiet your mind (InsightLA has many free downloads).
- Don’t stay home! Don’t watch TV! Instead, take a walk, read a book, visit a friend. Seek out support from neighbors, family and mental-health counselors.
- Limit your alcohol intake.
- Create simple holiday activities that involve you with your children, such as making greeting cards, making homemade decorations or decorating cookies. Rent holiday movies and make special treats (popcorn, cookies, hot chocolate) so that it’s a special event, not just another night in front of the TV.
- Explore the holiday traditions of your family’s ancestral heritage. Every country (or religion) has its own special rituals to celebrate. Teach your children about them, and perhaps re-enact some.
- Remember that mental states are usually temporary. A new state is just around the corner. If you still feel overwhelmed, however, seeking professional counseling is absolutely necessary. You are not alone and it isn’t your fault that you are experiencing depression.
Groening reminds moms that there is no shame in needing help and support from others. “It’s totally normal that people need to find other people in their tribe,” she says. Learn more about the services available at Well Baby Center by visiting www.wellbabycenter.org.