Christmas Eve 2019. A stressful day that will live in infamy forever in the Hein household. We had finished our first annual family dessert cook-off. Christmas Eve dinner had been devoured. Tim Allen as the Santa Clause joined us for some family snuggles before midnight mass. I was already planning that perfect matching outfit picture for social media later that evening. And….wham! My middle child throws up all over the floor, then the stairs, the bathroom, and then his room. Several hours later, my oldest child begins throwing up. Thankfully, he learned how to aim. No matching outfit picture for Facebook. No stress relief.
Christmas morning was spent watching three exhausted children open presents at a painstakingly slow rate. The excitement felt before Christmas fell flat on its face. No pictures of excited children opening presents. No matching PJ pictures by the tree. Just more puke and a trip to the ER for fluids.
I scrolled through my social media feed, seeing all the cute outfits, and wonderfully decorated houses. I wanted to be one of those families. It pained me to see my children so sick. I was worried like crazy. There was a part of me that was still concerned about getting that perfect picture. And it led me to wonder WTF?
Why did this matter so much to me? Why was I so concerned about posting a perfect picture on facebook? Why did I crave those social media comments? To be honest, I have no idea. I love my children. I know that they are absolutely adorable and amazing. But for some reason, I felt like I have to keep up with the other posts on social media. Keeping up with the Joneses has become digital. We are no longer looking for our neighbors to compare our lives, but we are looking at our digital newsfeeds. It’s causing us to become frustrated and irritated when our families don’t live up to the staged pictures on social media. So I have taken it upon myself to unlock the secret to happiness—the secret to stopping the comparison game. The secret to no longer being irritated with your family. Okay, I’m kidding. But I do have some pretty good stress relief tips.
Stress Relief Tip #1: Give Yourself a Break
Life is not a perfectly staged Christmas picture. Life is messy. Life has ups and downs. We would not expect anyone else to live a picture-perfect life, so why do we expect it of ourselves and our families? Put the phone away and live in the moment. Stop living for the perfect social media post. Stop worrying about how your life looks to other people. Remember why you had those kids in the first place. It wasn’t because you wanted perfection, it is because you wanted them.
Stress Relief Tip #2: Give Them a Break
Those little brains are still developing, still learning, still growing. They want nothing more to please you. They are trying so hard. So let loose a little bit. Laugh together. Play together. Let them be little. Let them make mistakes. Let them learn from those mistakes.
Stress Relief Tip #3: Go to Time Out
I’m not talking about sending the kids to the step. I’m talking about a daily parent time-out. This is important enough that you need to schedule it. Maybe it’s during nap time. Maybe it’s early in the morning. Maybe it’s late at night after bedtime. Take time to do something for yourself. I find myself struggling all day to get 5 minutes to myself. If I schedule it, I know it’s coming and I don’t need to wrestle all day for it.
Stress Relief Tip #4: Ask For Help
If you are stressed, remember that there are other people in your family. You do not have to do everything. Tell your spouse what you need. Clarify to your children what you expect of them. Be specific. Tell extended family if you need a break.
Stress Relief Tip #5: Be positive
Turn that frown upside down, Sunshine. Try to see the positive in every situation. When your children are fighting, be thankful that they have a safe environment to learn to argue appropriately. When the baby is up all night, be thankful that you get even more time to snuggle. When your spouse gets home late, be thankful that he works hard to support your family. There is a positive spin on everything. It won’t change the situation, but it will change the way you view it.
Stress Relief Tip #6: Remember This Too Shall Pass
Life goes fast. We all know it, yet we continue to wish it away. We think that as soon as we reach the next stage in life, things will be better. Speaking from experience, this isn’t true. Each stage of life comes with its own set of challenges. But it also comes with its own set of joys. As those challenges disappear, so do the joys that come with your current stage of life. My oldest son doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night anymore. But I also can’t even pick him up anymore. I miss being able to rock him to sleep. (If you know me, you know that I never thought I would say that after not sleeping for two years.) Enjoy the moment because moments are fleeting. You can do this.