The holiday season snuck in the front door of our house. It brought boxes and boxes of supplies to sustain itself for the long haul; it plans to stay for a full month. I wasn’t ready for this houseguest and I’m struggling to play hostess. It’s too early for me, I have other things to think about and accomplish. But there it is, staring at me, breathing, living and even singing its songs. The songs that have always evoked a sense of wonder, joy and sweet nostalgia somehow seem irritating this year. Have I turned into a Scrooge?

I think it’s all about balance. As “mom” of the household, managing Christmas has been primarily my responsibility. This year I am working full time; my days are already full with normal household chores, work, and maintaining relationships with my husband and kids. The extra tasks of the holiday season seem like a burden. I know that my stress affects my kids and your stress affects your kids – it’s contagious. What to do? We can turn the tables and turn this into something good. Are you with me?

First off let’s set some limits. We don’t have to take on “everything.” Learning to say no is important; let’s model that to our children. This year I’m going to give up sending out Christmas cards, I’m letting it go. My family will benefit as we can now enjoy down time together. What will you say “no” to or let go this year?

Second, let’s learn and practice a stress reduction technique. Here’s one you can use for yourself that you can teach your family; it even works with young children:

Sit comfortably with your feet on the floor and close your eyes. Consciously relax the muscles in your face, neck, shoulders and chest and take in a deep breath, then let it out slowly.

Now relax your arms, your upper and lower back, your abdomen and hips, your thighs, legs, and feet. Take another deep breath; breathe in slowly through your nose then exhale slowly thorough pursed lips.

Go back over your body in your minds-eye and release any remaining muscle tension. Then take in five very slow and controlled breaths, exhaling slowly and completely each time. With each exhalation, imagine you are releasing all of your concerns, worries, and pressures; you are left with a sense of peacefulness and calm.

Rest in that state of mind for 60 seconds. Marvel in the sense of goodness the quiet moment holds. Repeat this three times a day and teach the same routine to your children.

If your kids learn to set limits and reduce stress in childhood they will reap the benefits for the rest of their lives. And you will be a more balanced and happier family, starting now. Go for it!

By Amy Sluss.  Amy Sluss, RN is a family-life specialist, an author and an acclaimed mother-daughter speaker from Pleasanton, CA. Visit her website www.fab2bfem.com  to access her product line of uplifting parenting education tools and  to arrange a Growing up Female workshop for your daughter.