How many times have you said, “this year I’m going to start preparing for the holidays early,” only to see mid-December roll around and have nothing done? You are not alone! Most of us are so busy throughout the year that we’ve broken that promise over and over again. Then, inevitably, the stress level raises and we rush through the holiday season, documenting memories through social media posts, and completely missing out on being fully present with our family and friends. Suddenly, Valentine’s Day is upon us and we shake our heads in disbelief that yet again that ‘special and magical’ time of year passed us by.
When I meet with my clients, I always ask what types of responsibilities they have in life. We all have many things to keep up with on a daily basis, so it’s no wonder that we suddenly realize the holidays are here and scramble to prepare. It’s beneficial to take an inventory of our daily or weekly tasks to give us awareness of what might be worth giving up. Especially if it means less space being rented in our heads by endless chores and scheduled busy time! This is even more important when we have children at home because then the responsibilities seem to include making our kids happy around the holidays. This can be an impossible task when the stress of last minute preparation finally hits us. Maybe you’ve seen or been a parent who sternly tells their kids through gritted teeth that “Santa doesn’t bring presents to children who complain!” It makes me chuckle because I totally get it! It’s like, “COME ON, KID, don’t you know I’m doing this for you?!” Maybe it’s time we adjust our priorities, so we can weather the Winter Holidays with grace and patience, instead of tension and exhaustion.
Honestly though, the struggle is real, people! The struggle is real. And there is not a perfect time to downshift in life, we just have to go for it. Otherwise, it will continue to happen that our year will pass too quickly, and we will again be scrambling over each other to create the perfect Holiday for ourselves and our families. I don’t know about you, but if I am rushing and overwhelmed with stress, I am just not a pleasant person to be around. I don’t necessarily get mean or angry, but I definitely have a hard time relaxing and enjoying the moment. That is not something I find acceptable for myself! Do you?
If not, then consider this:
After you’re done reading this, get out a piece of paper and a pen.
Write down all the responsibilities you have at this moment in life, i.e. keeping track of your finances, lawn maintenance, changing diapers, maintaining friendships and family relationships, and all the paid work responsibilities too! Everything.
Then give yourself a break, maybe a day or two.
Revisit the list and identify what you absolutely need in your life - for example, and some people may disagree, not every child has to be in a scheduled sport or activity every single day of the week. It’s not healthy for them and it’s not healthy for you, especially if you’re working 40 hours a week and take care of house chores as well.
For a couple of months after adjusting your responsibility list, keep track of how you are feeling, how your family is feeling and behaving, the overall vibe in your household, and your attitude toward work and friends.
If you notice a positive difference, great! If not, then adjust again.
Finally, give yourself permission to make mistakes and relapse into old unwanted behavior with over-scheduling and over-committing. Just notice it. Then try again.
Remember, it takes a while to change our habit of “keeping busy,” so give yourself some time, keep trying, and ask for help from a friend or family member or professional, if you need. It will get more manageable and, maybe even, more enjoyable!
Happy Holidays, and take good care!
By Seija Zimmerman, LMFT 106164
Thrive Therapy & Counseling, 916-287-3430