So, the holidays are upon us and again, it’s that “most wonderful time of the year”. Here we are. This is about the time that everyone’s stress levels begin to rise exponentially in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Gifts to buy, parties to attend. Kids acting out more because of stress and high energy and adults doing the same and calling it “parenting”.
Everyone always wants to know the strategy for surviving the holidays- as if there is some magical solution that will help them skate through the next two months with a smile permanently plastered on their face and nothing able to ruffle their feathers. A solution that will help them stick to their diets, work-out routines and not experience conflict with that hard-to-get-along-with family member that knows just how to get under the skin. Every time.
Well, you’re lucky because I’m about to give you the secret for surviving the holidays, one event at a time. Without causing more stress for yourself or others and also being able to come out on the other side with fond memories of this time and intact relationships. All you have to do is follow this secret closely.
Here it is folks, write it down, record this, do whatever you have to do to keep this front and center this holiday season. Shhhhhh…are you ready…? Here it is: quit trying so hard to do the holidays perfectly.
Stop. Give up. Quit. Don’t. Do. Anything. Different. Just live them
Do whatever you want. When you want. Eat, drink, spend and be merry. Do what you want, when you want and don’t give yourself a hard time about it. Just do it.
The holidays are one of the most stressful times of the year, for a variety of reasons. They do not have to be yet somehow year after year we humans manage to make this chunk of time more stressful than any other time of the year and then complain year after year how we wish it wasn’t so stressful and we just do not know how we will get through another holiday season.
It’s maddening how this happens.
And yet year after year, it happens the same way despite our best efforts to try to stay on a diet, not drink too much, keep our spending to a minimum, make sure we keep up our rigorous work out routines and get to every party invited to. And in the midst of all of this, try to keep ourselves to a high standard of behavior and emotional stability.
Give it up. Let it go. It doesn’t happen anyway and then you just feel worse afterwards. So, not only did you miss an opportunity to numb out or get some relief, you’re giving yourself a hard time about it too. Defeats the purpose of these behaviors altogether.
Did you know that the way we change a pattern or behavior in our life is not to try to change it? Rather, the paradox of change requires us to build compassion and understanding for whatever it is in our life that we want to change and to learn about its presence in our lives and underlying purpose for why it is around.
Everything we do and want has meaning- when we try to eliminate or change a bad behavior without delving into the underlying reasons about how it supports us emotionally, we run the risk of finding ourselves in the middle of an intense “Whack A Mole” game like at a carnival where you knock a mole back into its hole and it pops up somewhere else. This can be maddening too.
Quit trying to do the holidays in any certain way. Just do them. Just live them exactly how you want to, imagining that you could block out that negative voice inside that wants to give you a hard time about what you need to do in that exact moment, healthy or not.
The paradox of change requires us
to build compassion and understanding for
whatever it is in our life.
And realize as you’re doing whatever it is that you wish you were not doing, that this is how you are managing your stress and anxiety. Without these exact types of behaviors or choices, YOU WILL NOT SURVIVE THE HOLIDAYS. Guaranteed.
So just bring some consciousness to what it is that you’re doing. Notice that I said “consciousness”, not judgement. I get that very often the negative critical voice inside has all sorts of opinions about what you’re doing and how you should be doing it differently. And can really get in the way of having compassion for our habits and behaviors that we would like to change.
Tell it to bug off or better yet, send it home with that “hard-to-get-along-with” family member when they wrap up their visit and go home. Sneak this inner critic into their hand bag or jacket pocket. Let them know that you’re sending them home with a nice batch of leftovers from the party. With a smile of course. Afterall, that’s what the holidays are about, right?
Without compassion and understanding for all parts of who we are, we will stay rigidly locked into these patterns. It can feel impossible to make room for gentleness and compassion when we are battling this negativity inside. It is.
Often, to take this next step, we need outside help from a therapist and a supportive community which creates the environmental support we need to learn about what is happening deep inside of us and begin to be able to let go of our inner critic.
This is not something most people can do on their own in any deep and transformative way. Some people create an environment like this on a cognitive level, but this type of change is not ever going to be a lasting change. It only deals with surface and outside behaviors and runs the risk of waking up in the middle of a “Whack A Mole” game again.
In order to access change that is lasting and permanent, we have to create this environment in a place that is beyond language and cognition, deep inside. We have to go to the place that is older than words and learn about our needs and how to meet them in more satisfying ways.
And generally speaking, the holidays are not the time to be rigid with ourselves about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it or to get locked into an argument or debate with the internal negative critic.
Consciousness is the key. Compassion brings healing.
As an experiment, you might consider giving yourself permission, this holiday season, to live each day exactly how it happens. Do exactly what you want, when you want. And know that whatever way it unfolds, you’re doing the best you can to manage your anxiety.
You’re doing the best you can. And it’s perfect.
Do you want 15 summarized strategies that you can easily grab to use this holiday season?
Happy Holidays and Go gently forward.
~ Kate ~
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Kate is an INFJ-3 on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Enneagram.