Holidays stressing you out? There are all kinds of factors we can lay the blame on—parties, school performances, year-end pleas for donations from non-profits and political candidates, relentless digital marketing from retailers trying to move some merchandise, trying to finish things up at work before the break, the thought of climbing credit card bills.
While there may be plenty of external stressors, some of the most powerful ways the holidays start to go from special to stressful originate in our own minds. Meaning, re-thinking your approach can spare you a lot of stress.
Here then are three things you might be doing or thinking that are making the holidays harder than they need to be. Raising your awareness of these things can help you make different choices that up your enjoyment and turn down your overwhelm. It’s not too late to change your experience of this particular holiday season!
For 14 ways to up your enjoyment of the holidays, check out this article I am delighted to be quoted in (three times) for Parade.com.”
1. Saying Untruths
When you get invited to the cookie exchange and you think “I’d rather eat dirt” but you say “Oh how wonderful!,” a little piece of you dies inside. It may seem like just part of life that you have to suck up, but saying yes when you mean no is a mini-violence to yourself.
I’m not saying you that you should say, “I’d rather eat dirt!” or drop any other bombs that you would regret saying later. I AM challenging you to respond with something along the lines of, “Oh gosh, that is so sweet of you to invite me. I am feeling really swamped and the thought of adding an item to my to-do list makes me feel a little weepy, so I’m going to decline. I know you’ll have a wonderful time.” You acknowledge what the other person said, you relate how the thing makes you feel (but not what you think about it in general), and you say what you’ll do next. Boom. Then you get to walk away knowing that you were true to yourself, and that is a magical feeling!
2. Losing Sight of “Enough”
Here’s what so often happens: You think about what you want to get everyone for a gift. You feel good about your choices. You make your purchases in advance and feel good about how on top of it you are. And then as the holiday(s) itself draws nearer that voice in your head pipes up with: Maybe I should get just a couple more presents. And then you hit another store and walk out with two more big bags of stuff because stores are pulling out all the stops to get you to buy as much as possible. I mean, you would have to be some kind of robot to go in to Target for a pack of Pokemon cards and not also grab a new spatula for your husband’s stocking, fuzzy slippers for your daughter, and a huge pack of bones for the dog. Then you get that pang of regret for blowing another $200.
I understand that you want to make the holiday memorable; perhaps even magical. Aside from that one gift that comes along every once in a while that’s a total hit (a la Ralphie’s Red Rider BB gun in A Christmas Story), do you really remember the gifts you got even last year, much less 10 or 20 years ago? If you feel like you need more of something, make it memories; not stuff.
3. Doing Things Just Because You’ve Always Done Them
If there is something on your typical holiday rotation that you just can’t feel any joy about doing this year, don’t do it. (This is how I’m feeling about holiday cards. If I do manage to send any out, they will be New Year’s cards because they are not happening any time in the next 10 days!) I definitely believe in the power of tradition, but if the tradition feels like 100% obligation, there is no law that says you have to do it! If you want to honor it, try to change it or infuse it with something that you can look forward to. Or maybe there’s a different tradition you can start in its place.
I hope something on this list will help you find a little more peace amidst the whirlwind!