The secret behind the Christmas magic isn’t elves, it’s MOTHERS.
This time of year it seems that working mothers are in a pressure cooker situation. Everything seems to be more intense in every area of your life. Mothers run around behind the scenes doing a million things such as:
organising EOY school events (my number two finishes primary school this year and there are three separate presentations plus the dance… why?)
buying presents for everyone (plus 1 of yourself just in case)
finding vacation care now that school is out
attending work functions and organise childcare for these too
buying a tree and decorating it
going to family gatherings
plus managing the increasing number of relatives that descend on you this time of year
Did I miss something? Probably did. (add it in the comments if so please)
“Moms don’t enjoy, moms give joy. That’s the way moms work.” as the Bad Moms 2 movie mum says..
I disagree and the movie plus neuroscience backs me up. You cannot give what you do not have or experience. When you are joyful, then you can give joy. Your children and those around you will pick up on your joy and will feel more joy themselves. It is inevitable.
Being joyFULL is a state of mind that comes from a place of self-care. You first need to acknowledge that you need to take care of yourself in order to take care of others and share the joy.
12 ways of self-care
Here are 12 ways (for the 12 days) to practice self-care this festive season as a working mother so you can BE more joyFULL and ENJOY the holidays.
Take 15 minutes a day just for you. Wake up earlier or stop on your way home from work to make this happen. It is amazing what happens when you honour yourself with that 15 minutes - everything changes. Taking this short break can lead you to feel: less resentful toward others and instead more connected; validated about your own worth, which builds our self-esteem and efficacy; and replenished so you are able to function at your best counteracting exhaustion.
Breathe deeply. In our rushing from place to place we tend to breathe “shallow” and that reduces the amount of oxygen in our blood and increases the cortisol. Thus we feel tired and stressed. So several times a day, simply stop and breathe BIG.
Set boundaries and say “No” (politely of course). You cannot do everything and make everybody happy so think about the 3 Cs before you agree to another function, “Do you have the capability to do this? Do you have the capacity to do this? and Do you really care about this enough?”
Give your presence to your kids not presents. With all the climate change conversations that are increasing, I am leaning towards “no landfill” presents and the best, most valuable present of all is ME - my presence. So give your presence and take your kids out to dinner, take your partner out to dinner and have conversations. Notice the smiles and enjoy the connections.
Give hugs and hold on for 3 breaths. That is important. Thich Nhat Hanh says “When we hug, our hearts connect and we know that we are not separate beings. Hugging with mindfulness and concentration can bring reconciliation, healing, understanding, and much happiness.” We call them “heart to heart hugs” in our house.
Make lists and stick to them. According to Time Magazine, 43% of employees don’t finish their daily todo lists. Don’t get sidetracked by “bright shiny object syndrome” (of which there are many at Christmas!), stick to the list! There is so much going on that lists make sense so you remember everything and that feeling you get when checking off your list is relief and satisfaction - feels good!
Ask for help. By this I mean get everyone involved. It doesn’t need to be just you in the kitchen slaving away. Get the kids involved in making cookies or decorating or wrapping presents for others. From a neuroscience perspective, when people are involved in an occasion they tend to remember it more because it means more to them. Memories last longer than the fad toys and you get more done with more joy.
Hang with friends. Scientists in UCLA study now believe that hanging out with our friends can actually counteract stress and so keep us centred during this hectic time of year. The holiday season is a great reason to hang out with friends so invite them over for holiday cheer.
Sing and dance the holidays away. Singing carols lifts your mood as your diaphragm expands to hit those big notes and more oxygen fills your blood. “Dance is the source of joy” is the motto of my daughter’s dance school and I believe that wholeheartedly. Aside from just feeling good, dance also benefits the brain. Verghese et al (2003) study showed that dance lowered the dementia risk by 76%.
Smile. "Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." ~Thich Nhat Hanh Smile at everyone. When you smile you release neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress. Smiles also release the feel good neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins and serotonin which bring us joy.
Practice gratitude this holiday season. We are told to say thank you because it is polite but it is more than that. When we genuinely give thanks we must think of a reason to do so and this thought pattern forces us to appreciate others and our situation, and this brings us joy. Furthermore Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman’ s research shows a strong positive link between giving thanks and happiness. So give thanks or a compliment and feel the joy to spread the joy.
Take it easy on yourself and enjoy the holidays. Stop comparing yourself to others or to the mother you think you “should” be. Theodore Roosevelt said that comparison is the thief of joy. This is because you spend all your time thinking of what others have that you miss what is happening in front of you. Be mindful and be present … and you will find the joy in the holiday season.
There you have 12 ways to practice self-care this festive season as a working mum so you can be joyFULL.
Shannon Young is an Executive Wellbeing Coach for working mothers to enable them to show up as more of their authentic self so that they can smash their results by day and have quality time with their family at night. She coaches from a place of expertise, experience, and empathy in her 1-1 programs and on her transformational weekend retreats.
Shannon will be running a Facebook Live on this article in depth on December 7th at 8pm. Join us at www.facebook.com/thecarefactor