Tuesday, December 20, 2011



**STRESS** Is anyone not familiar with stress? I imagine that there isn’t a single one of you who hasn’t been entangled by its insidious tentacles more often than you’d care to remember. I have!!! And I know from personal experience that Christmas can be a most extraordinarily stressful time. I also know that stress is responsible for many of the ailments we suffer. It can cause migraine headaches, back problems, skin rashes, irritable bowel, ulcers, heart conditions, nervous breakdowns and even cancer. So, what’s the remedy?

**STILLNESS** As stress and stillness cannot dwell in the same body at the same time, a powerful healing tool is learning the art of stillness. This means that we allow our mind to slow down, our emotions to balance, our bodies to rest. We can achieve this by practicing meditation. Meditation can be practiced in many different ways and the only suggestion I have as to what type of meditation is right for you is that it is in line with your belief system. Meditation at Christmas time can be as simple as lighting a lovely scented candle, putting on some soft and soothing music and dwelling on whatever the meaning of Christmas is for you.


** TENSION** usually is a by-product of stress. It can make us cranky, knot up our stomachs, cramp up our shoulders and send everyone (including the dog) looking for cover when we are around. Not a happy thought – right? So, what is the antidote?

**TOLERANCE** is a virtue that doesn’t seem all that easy to come by, especially for those of us who are fairly rigid in our views, are perfectionists and have high expectations of ourselves and others. For the survival of step-parenthood, however, tolerance is an absolute MUST. Tolerance can be learnt. The steps towards greater tolerance are:

* Lower your expectations (those you have of yourself and those you have of others).
* Recognize that different people function by different standards and that this does not make them wrong and you right, or vice versa.
* Drop any desire you may have to judge other’s thoughts and/or behaviours (even if you are convinced that they ARE wrong).
* Develop an attitude of curiosity. Try to find out why people think and act the way they do.
* * Remember that you don’t have to prove anything to anyone.
* Let go and relax!!! 


**MISERY** is a state that many stepparents find themselves in at this time of year. Some may be miserable because they find themselves in circumstances beyond their control. For instance, they may be unable to spend time with their children…or be unable to afford the kind of presents they would ideally like to give…or they are locked in battle with their ex…or they are reminded of happy or perhaps unhappy times of the past etc.

**MEMORIES** One of the most important tasks we have as stepparents is to create memories with our new family members. Good memories can be the glue that holds people together. Christmas is a good opportunity for creating new and happy memories. When planning how to go about creating new memories it is important to remember that this does not require erasing old ones. Stepchildren need to know we respect whatever their old memories are and that they have every right to treasure them, just as we have a right to treasure ours. Making new memories can be great fun!!! A few ideas are as follows:

* You could combine some of your cherished traditions with those that are meaningful to your stepchildren.
* You could create a brand-new tradition that, in time, will be your new family’s trade-mark.
* You could do unexpected things like spend Christmas at the beach, go skiing, tobogganing, ice skating or make a snow-man. Just be sure that whatever you plan isn’t something anyone in your family hates.


**ANNOYANCE** is that uncomfortable feeling that makes us edgy, short-tempered and causes us to snap at people. In a stepfamily, Christmas with its multitude of complexities and its variety of stresses can be a source of great annoyance. We might feel annoyed with our exes, our partner’s exes, the out-laws (ooops, I meant to say in-laws), the stepchildren and even with our current partners. As though that wasn’t bad enough, we can even be annoyed with ourselves.

**ACCEPTANCE** is the perfect antidote for annoyance! How can we make acceptance work for us at Christmas? Well, firstly we need to accept that it may not turn out to be the kind of Christmas we are used to or we would ideally like it to be. Secondly we need to accept that if we haven’t been getting along with our partner’s ex, with our step-kids, the in-laws etc we are not likely to change that during the Christmas period. We must accept that Christmas will bring a variety of stresses that we need to handle even if that’s the last thing in the world we feel like doing. We have to accept that our partners will probably go along with whatever they believe is right and important for their children at this time of year and this may make us feel unsupported and left out. We need to accept that, whilst we might feel like abandoned children on the inside, we need to act like the adults we are, on the outside. Last, but not least, its important to accept that Christmas Day isn’t a good time to discuss issues of conflict. Put them off until the festivities are over!!!


**SADNESS** may be the feeling we experience at Christmas if we realize that not many of the changes we’d hoped for have occurred throughout this year. It may be what we feel if we cannot have our own children around, yet are entertaining our partner’s. It could be our predominant sensation if we are remembering loved ones that may have passed away or cannot be with us for whatever reason on that day.

**SERENITY** is a wonderful state of being which is usually only achieved once we have learnt to be tolerant and have cultivated the art of acceptance as well as the ability to be still in the midst of a storm.
As you all know, as we travel the stepfamily journey we come across many hurdles, potholes and rough spots. These can make us fall and get hurt in the process. They can, however, also help us become wise and strong. Serenity is the wonderful state we achieve once we know that hurdles are no more than lumps in the road that we can step over; that potholes are there to be circumnavigated; and that the way we move through the rough spots will show us how far we’ve already come. SERENITY IS THE GIFT YOU RECEIVE WHEN YOU’VE COME TO A PLACE OF PEACE WITH YOUR SITUATION.

I trust that this Christmas you’ll be able to make the journey from the first acronym to the second.
May it  be a wonderful, joyful and peaceful time for each one of you. 
My Best, 

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