It’s the holidays… perhaps you’ve noticed? Festive music, garish signs advertising who-knows-what, parties, lights, and of course, tons of additional external and internal pressure.
Over the past week, I’ve been in a funk. Totally disoriented and paralyzed by this vague sense of things I should be, want to be, and need to be accomplishing. Like, NOW.
The problem is, there is no real clarity of what those things are or how important they actually are in the grand scheme of things. (most likely not very). I do know they are all holiday related which makes it even more frustrating because, in general, I do as little holiday stuff as possible.
Have you been experiencing anything similar (stress, pressure, additional shoulds, wants, needs)? If so, give the following process a try. It’s quick and simple and may just bring a bit more ease into your holiday. It did for me.
Step 1: Make a pressure-filled list:
Get out a piece of scratch paper and list everything (yes, everything!) you feel pressured by or think you should/want/need to be doing this holiday season. Give yourself no more than 2-3 minutes to make this list.
Here’s mine (ignore the letters for now):
- Presents/cards for parents, siblings + spouses, niece + niece/nephew on the way, grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins…. (A)
- Appreciation gifts for clients, colleagues, friends, mentors. In short, all the people who inspire support and love me. (B)
- Find the perfect gift/surprise for my partner. (A)
- All the gifts, by the way, must total $100 (cash is tight right now) AND they must be super thoughtful, meaningful and tailored to each individual person. (How’s that for a little pressure?) (C)
- Decorate the house. (C)
- Find the perfect holiday outfit, or at least a new shirt. (C)
- Make treats to take to the in-laws (healthy, low-sugar, mind-blowingly-great-tasting treats, of course). (B)
- Do extra volunteer work. (B)
- Attend the various events, parties, etc I’ve been invited to attend. (C)
- Run some awesome holiday themed business promotion. (C)
- Host a small dinner party. (A)
Funny thing about my list?
A lot of the stuff on it never happens (like gifts for everyone), is not really expected by anyone, and still I feel pressured! It’s the holidays indeed. (Shakes head in dismay).
Alright, got your list? Let’s move on to Step 2.
Just look at your list. How does it feel to actually see all the stuff you are supposed to be doing?
For me, just writing the list was a huge relief. I was quickly able to see so many unrealistic expectations I had and how much unnecessary pressure I was putting on myself.
Step 3: Categorize the list.
No, not the way you’re thinking.
What I want you to do is look at your list one item at a time and notice what happens in your heart as you read it. Does your heart lift a bit? Or, does it sink? Maybe there isn’t really any reaction at all.
Heart too far fetched? Well, maybe you notice a sense of lightness or relaxation in your body when reading some. Perhaps more tension and heaviness with others.
As you read the list, place an A by the items that feel lighter, a B by the neutral ones and a C by the heavy items.
Do this part quickly (the checking in and assigning letters). Don’t think about it. Just read the item, notice your body, jot down a A, B or C and move on. Your first instinct is right on. Trust me. Ok, actually, trust yourself. 🙂
And, don’t worry. I’m not going to tell you to not do the things you put a C beside. That’s not the point of this exercise. The point is to just check in and see what your body, your heart, has to say on these matters.
If you are curious how this step went for me, take a look at the numbers at the end of each item in the list above.
Anything odd or surprising happen looking at your list in this way?
Looking at my list, I was surprised to realize the idea of hosting a small party was actually very appealing to me while attending events felt like a huge, heavy chore.
Also, while my heart does feel really happy when thinking about giving gifts to loved ones, the pressure I was putting on myself to make them a certain way (thoughtful, unique, meaningful, perfect) was taking away any joy I felt in giving. Not fun!
So, what do you do with this information?
Here are my suggestions:
- Treat the list lightly. The point is to give you a sense of where your priorities really are, based on your heart vs external or internal pressures.
- Give yourself permission to not do one of the things that you rated B or C. Assuming you can do this in a way that feels safe and comfortable, of course.
- Give yourself permission to devote extra time to one of the heart lifting items on your list. If there were no As, consider making it a priority to do something non-holiday related that does nourish and support you on a regular basis (whether that is exercise, reading, movies, tea with a close friend, etc). This is loving and taking care of *you* during the holidays. This is finding balance during pressure filled times.
The key is to give yourself permission.
To do what you want to do, yes.
To not do the things you don’t want to do, yes.
Also, to *do* the things you’d rather not as well.
Because, it’s the holidays. And, most likely, we are going to be doing some things we don’t want. That’s ok.
So, go ahead and give yourself permission to both do the thing and to totally hate and dread it. In my opinion, allowing yourself to feel what you are actually feeling (and acknowledging those feelings “wow, I really hate decorating for the holidays…”) is a very healthy thing to do.
What I’m going to keep in mind is that I’m consciously choosing to, for instance, attend a particular holiday function – because I value community and supporting others. I’ll give myself permission to dread it and hate being there (if that’s how I’m feeling). AND, I’ll give myself permission to leave whenever I want to go snuggle on the couch with my boyfriend – because that’s how I find balance.
What surprised you about your list? What things are you going to give yourself permission to do or not do? I’d love to hear about them. You can leave a comment here or email me directly.