[dc]A[/dc] client was recently expressing his frustration over the hype, expectations, and overindulgence of the holidays. “It’s as if we’re rushing through the good parts of life,” he said. That statement really struck me. Rushing through the good parts of life. How sad. But often true.
See if any of the following challenges resonate with you, and consider a new approach to your self-care:
Challenge: I do my best to make everyone happy
Solution: Don’t. It’s impossible. You can’t please all the people all the time, and by attempting to, you end up neglecting the most important person — you.
Maybe dig a bit deeper into your desire or need to make everyone happy. What’s the payout? What consequences are you avoiding by doing so? What’s your motivation behind it? By taking a look under the hood, my guess is you’ll see that this goal has nothing to do with “everyone” and everything to do with you.
Give yourself permission to make your needs a priority, even if it means dealing with the discomfort of disappointing someone. You’ll see that that discomfort quickly shifts to relief and empowerment when you honor your own needs. And, in the long run, your relationships with others deepen and become more authentic.
Challenge: I struggle with family drama and dynamics
Solution: Everyone finds themselves in this boat at some point. My suggestion? Try to love each family member where he or she is at. By that I mean, set your expectations realistically.
If you know that your uncle hasn’t gotten his drinking under control, don’t plan on having deep, meaningful conversations with him. If your Mom tends to stay in the kitchen working, remember, that’s her choice. It’s not your responsibility to get her to relax or join the gathering in the other room. You are only responsible for you. If everyone remembered that, each person could ultimately have the holiday they wanted.
The little kid in us gets excited to have a picture-perfect time with our loved ones, but what he or she forgets is that “picture-perfect” means something different for everyone. A festive day for you may mean gathering around to sing Christmas carols together, but to your brother it might mean a raucous game of poker. Be careful to not set yourself up for disappointment by expecting others’ definition of “memorable” to be the same as yours.
Solution: Yeah, that’s sweet and all, but how do you define “perfect”? If the gift is the right brand name, does that make it perfect? If the thought behind it is loved-filled and heartfelt, then is it perfect? Pay attention to where your definition stems from.
The real gift is in the giving, so if you find yourself overspending to get that designer bag because the recipient is a bit of a label snob, the energy that is then given with the gift is stressful, guilt-ridden, and worrisome instead of comforting and joyful.
This is another area of the season that can be driven by obligation. Review your gift list and see if there’s anyone on there who you’d rather not buy for. While it may not be possible to remove everyone who falls into that category, doing this evaluation can be a great start in coming up with a way to give and not feel resentful about it.
For example, lets say you have to buy a gift for your son’s teacher and you’re really not a fan of hers. Shift your thinking away from her personally and instead think about selecting a present for a favorite past teacher of yours. Doing so could not only make the shopping easier, but could actually soften your feelings about the teacher as well.
Challenge: What if I don’t want to put the “happy” back into the holidays? I’m in a tough place right now and don’t feel much like celebrating.
Solution: It’s particularly difficult during this time of year when you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, are struggling financially, or feel isolated and alone. The idea of putting on a happy mask and pretending to be merry and bright can be so taxing on the soul.
Try and strike a bit of a balance between honoring your current state and challenging yourself to put yourself out there more than you think you can. Choose who you’ll surround yourself with very wisely. Let those who you feel safest with know that you’re having a hard time, if they don’t already, and allow them to love and support you.
Also, give yourself permission to bail out on parties and give your inner child what he or she needs, whether that’s a nap or a good cry.
Challenge: There’s just not enough time to do everything I want or need to do!
Solution: That very well may be true, so you’re gonna have to prioritize what’s important to you. You don’t have to accept every holiday party invitation that comes your way or respond to every request for help. Take a moment to think about what the holiday season means to you. Do your plans or commitments support that?
December isn’t the only time of year to visit with loved ones, so don’t think that you need to squeeze everything into 31 days. Why not extend the holiday season by planning a mid-January or February gift swap with your friends instead of trying to squeeze it in? Last year, Melissa and I waited until two weeks after Christmas to celebrate with my in-laws. That gave us Christmas Day to ourselves to do whatever we pleased. This year, we’ve moved a get together with my high school friends to January so we’ll be able to really be there, in every sense of the word.
When it comes to shopping, give some thought to what you’d like to get or make for those who remain on your list and plan your errands strategically. Whenever I have to pick up anything, I think about where the businesses are located and I plan the order in which I’ll hit them, starting with the one that’s furthest away and ending with the one that’s closest. That particular order may not work for you, but in an effort to save time, and ultimately, your energy, have a plan.
Remember, you get to decide the type of holiday season you’ll have. A new perspective, a little planning, and the willingness to make your needs a priority is all you need to have a one for the memory books!
I’d love to hear from you. What do you struggle with the most during the holidays? How do you plan to take care of yourself? Please join the conversation in the comments below.