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Ways to manage anxiety

Bar mitzvah-zilla!

for The Brooklyn Paper

Everyone has a trigger. A bright, red button within ourselves that says: “PUSH and I will EXPLODE!” Planning a bar mitzvah is hard work, and you may try to keep your cool, but with lists, budgets, and fast-approaching deadlines bogging you down, a certain word, attitude, or inconvenience can easily set you off. The result is a fiery, volcanic-like eruption that releases a crazed, she-devil of an alter ego we like to call the “bar mitzvah beast.”

Don’t let your inner-ogre loose. You’re better than that. Linda Walter, a New York-based psychotherapist who knows all about reducing anxiety and preventing stress, offers some advice on how to tame your stress monster:

Realize your child is ‘growing up,’ not ‘grown up’

As a parent, it’s tough to see your son or daughter transition from a child into an adult.

“Stress builds up because you’re seeing your child grow up seemingly before your eyes,” says Walter. But this doesn’t mean it’s time to break down and obsess over the day he will pack his bags and say goodbye. Instead, Walter suggests using this upcoming celebration as an opportunity to spend more time with your child. Let him know how proud you are of his accomplishments and, more importantly, what’s to come — although this is a ceremony celebrating adulthood, he’s not quite an adult yet. Also, be sure to cherish the moments that are typically seen as stressful, such as choosing a venue, theme, and finalizing the guest list. These tasks may seem overwhelming as you’re doing them, but with the right attitude, you’ll look back on the experience as a sweet memory. Remember, that this is a once-in-a-lifetime event that will never reoccur.

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel

There are an overwhelming number of things to do, so it’s hard to take a relaxed, carefree approach to the party-planning process. Everything must be perfect for your child and guests. However, giving into stress by sleeping less and eating poorly can physically impair you — and worse — affect your child’s attitude towards the big day. Even in the most tense of moments, make sure to be approachable and loving. If you feel the beast bubbling inside of you, take a moment and think before you react. You’re planning for something that will come and go. Becoming a bar mitzvah monster for an entire year could have a much greater impact on you and the ones you love than a perfect one-day event.

Make lists

This is a huge event and it’s easy to feel disheveled while preparing.

“We get stressed when we feel overwhelmed and unprepared and we tend to stress about things when we don’t want to forget them,” says Walter. The easiest way to ensure you know exactly how to tackle each day is to make a list. Start off with a master list (or buy a binder or notebook) when the planning begins and note every major decision you’ll have to make. Then, simply make daily lists with the tasks broken down into steps.

“Think about what needs to get done, put it on the list, and delegate,” she says. You’ll be able to cross items off as you complete them and you’ll quickly see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Talk to other parents

There’s comfort in camaraderie. Walter recommends speaking to parents who are also planning a bar mitzvah. This doesn’t have to feel like a therapy session, though. Casually meet up for coffee or lunch and share how your experience is going — whether it’s negative or positive. Taking real-life, pragmatic advice from others will broaden your opportunities and give you a chance to vent, which always relieves stress.

Communicate and listen

You will often feel as though you’re the only person who cares about the bar mitzvah. Your child might brush off decisions and your spouse may not show up to important appointments. To avoid this, it’s best to ask your family members in the beginning how they’d like to contribute and listen carefully. Remember, if you are too strong about your opinions or closed off to different ideas or processes, your family may be intimidated and not want to participate. Also, keep in mind that this is your child’s day. Keep him in the loop and listen to his opinions, ideas, and concerns.

Plan a low-key and inexpensive family outing

If your home is beginning to feel like an event-planning company, there’s a problem. It’s good to be excited about the bar mitzvah, but don’t let it consume your life. Your spouse and other children in your family tend to feel unappreciated and forgotten when all of the attention is on one person. Plan several family outings before the day of the party. At-home movie nights, board game competitions, and barbecues are perfect, and, most importantly, relieve a ton of stress.

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