When I think about the holidays, things that often come to mind are twinkling lights, time with family, decorating, holiday traditions and so on. But equally top of mind is the stress during this time of year, particularly as a parent.
The need to be super mom and achieve the “perfect balance” of work, parenting, socialization and family time is always challenging, but it takes on a whole new level this time of year. At any given moment there’s a running list of all the things that need to get accomplished, balancing everyone’s different wants and expectations from extended family to our kids, and wanting to create lasting memories that feel as good as everyone’s “perfect” Instagram photos make them out to be.
It’s exhausting. And along with all of this is the idea that we have to pretend like we have it all together, and that there is only joy during this time of year. That kind of positivity can be toxic. Literally.
Toxic positivity is the idea that you should always have a positive mindset and ignore any negative emotions by acting positive all the time. And it has real effects on our mental health. It makes us feel isolated, like we are the only ones who are struggling, or that there is something inherently wrong with us for not feeling happy or positive all the time. This is especially true during the holiday season.
So this holiday season, I want to remind you that it’s okay to feel stressed this time of year. It’s okay to only participate in the activities that bring you joy, and choose not to participate in activities that would bring more stress. Particularly with COVID-19, everyone’s comfort level with socialization and participating in family or holiday activities is different. Give yourself permission to prioritize yourself and take time to do things that make you feel good, whether it’s finding time to exercise or (more realistically for me) watching your favorite television show. And it’s important to acknowledge when things are tough. It’s okay to not be okay. Parenting feels hard because it IS hard. The holidays can be hard too. You’re doing the best you can do, and that’s enough.
About the Author
Merideth Wirstiuk, Psy.D., joined Valley Children’s as a pediatric psychologist in 2017. She has worked with children and young adults diagnosed with behavioral issues, anxiety, depression, parent-child relational issues, grief and loss, chronic medical conditions and chronic pain, among others diagnoses.