This morning I woke up, got my people out the door (and by “got” I mean I let them do all the things they needed to do while I laid on the couch and called out “Bye, I love you!” because luckily my kids are old enough for that), and then stayed on the couch and read a holiday book. Dreamy, right?!How to feel less overwhelmed at the holidays

This is not typical Amber behavior. Usually, I am puttering around the kitchen, putting on my workout clothes, starting a load of laundry, or something like that. Getting ready to start my day. But today I am sick and felt like doing nothing but what I did. So that’s what I did. How great is that!?

Except, to be quite honest, it’s sometimes hard for me to embrace this “lazy” behavior and I start to think about all the things I “should” be doing. Anyone else know what that’s like?

Everything is Bigger at Christmas

I mean, it’s the holiday season. I’ve got the normal day-to-day stuff that always keeps me busy PLUS there’s shopping and wrapping to do still, kids’ events to attend, movies I want to watch, treats I still want to make, more fun to be had—I should be focused on all of that, right?!

As you know, it’s really easy to get terribly overwhelmed during the holidays. It can feel so out of control to try to juggle all the things and make the season “magical” for our people.

The thing is, in a lot of ways, we WANT to make it magic, right?! It’s so much fun to pull off fun nights with our kids doing the holiday things we love, setting and keeping traditions, and spending time with everyone.

Because of this, the holidays ARE going to be busier than other times of the year.

And we love so much of that. But how do you know what you’ve just enjoying the holiday season and all that comes with it, or when you’ve crossed the line into self-silencing?

How can you step out of the crazy chaos and into the joy that you want to feel?

Quick Overview of Self-Silencing

If you’re not already familiar with self-silencing, here’s a quick rundown.

Many of us (specifically those who self-silence—which is most of us) worry a lot about what other people think about us. We want to live up to their expectations and be labeled as good and successful in their eyes.

Because of this, we often stifle who we are and don’t speak up for our own needs. Or we keep quiet instead of rocking the boat. Or we love and care for other people because we want to earn their love.

And all of this leads to feelings of anger, resentment, or overwhelm. (Read more about self-silencing here.)

Signs That You Might Be Holiday Self-Silencing

How to enjoy the holidaysIt’s important to remember that at the root of self-silencing is a concern for impressing other people. Now, this doesn’t have to be a spoken or even acknowledged concern, but if deep down you are trying to impress others, to live up to their expectations, you’re probably self-silencing.

And those “others” might just be in your head. The people you think are watching you and judging you.

If you were to make a list of all the things you have going this holiday season (and if this is a helpful practice, go ahead and make it) and then you took a look at that list…

Ask Yourself:
  • What on my list is motivated by a sense that this is what “good moms” do or I’ve got to do to make the season magic? Or because everyone else is doing it?
  • Are there things on my list that are stressing me out or stretching me thin and I’d be happier without but I’m doing them anyway?
  • Am I (if I really probe myself) doing them because I think I “should” or because someone else wants me to?

Here Are Some Examples From My Own Experience

For a lot of years, I sent Christmas cards. My husband would write cute poems to describe our year and they were fabulous! I loved what he put together every year and people told me they loved receiving them.

BUT—it took a lot of reminding (ahem, nagging) on my part to get him to get the poem done in time for me to get the cards in the mail in a timely manner. It also took a lot of time and money on my part to get everything printed and delivered to our house, stuffed in envelopes, addressed, stamped, and mailed out. And it stressed me out.

So one year I decided I was done. I took Christmas cards off my holiday to-do list and I haven’t looked back. And I haven’t missed it.

A lot of people enjoy doing Christmas cards and if you’re one of those people, GREAT! Keep it up!

But if you, like me, are only doing them because it’s something everyone else does, skip it!

One more example from my own life…

Great Expectations

A couple of years ago (while in the midst of graduate study on, you know, not self-silencing) I decided to more fully reclaim Christmas. I was determined to say no to things that didn’t matter to me and only say yes to things that did. That meant slowing down, being deliberate, and enjoying the season.

And that went pretty well. We’d had a pretty good holiday season and I didn’t feel too frantic.

Until Christmas Eve rolled around. Christmas Eve comes with big expectations to make it extra magic, am I right?!

We decided that year that we would have fondue (a favorite tradition of ours)—both cheese and chocolate. I love it, but fondue is a lot of prep work.

We also decided we’d go pay to drive through a favorite light display of ours afer the fondue. We knew it would be crowded so we wanted to get there right at the beginning…which meant we were in a hurry to get through dinner.

Through a series of events, things got extra pressured that night and by the time we all sat down to dinner, I was NOT in a good mood. I was tired, overwhelmed, and resentful of the amount of work I was doing for everyone else while they were being divas.

And the first words out of my mouth were “You’re all a bunch of jerks!” A really festive way to kick off the evening.

Lesson Learned

Don’t worry, we were able turn things around and have a fun evening. But when I thought about that night and why it hadn’t gone as well as the rest of the season, I realized there were a lot of expectations tied to it. Other days throughout that holiday season we were able to just go with the flow and enjoy things.

But when the expectations to create something extra magical crept in, that’s when things fell apart.

It was all about the expectations. Watch for that in your life too. Expectations, real or imagined, can bring you down.

Embrace the Magic without the Self-Silencing

OK, those are just two examples of mine and I am sure yours are different, but the important question is… how do you embrace the holiday season in a way that works for YOU without leaving yourself overwhelmed and resentful?

Here are some things to try:

  1. Take time to consider the things on your to-do list for the holidays. Write them down or do it in your mind, whichever works best for you.
  2. Take an honest look at the list. What on it is there not because you WANT it there but because you think it SHOULD be there?
  3. Or are there things on that list that you love and want to do, but you’ve just got too many of them and it’s stretching you way too thin?
  4. Pay attention to which fall under the category of trying to meet expectations that are unrealistic or trying to prove your worth as a great mom.
  5. Pick something that falls in that category to take off the list or delegate. Maybe it’s neighbor gifts or Christmas cards. Maybe it’s that stinkin’ elf on the shelf. Trips to see Santa? Gingerbread house making? Baking? Parties?
  6. Take it off the list. And then don’t feel guilty about it. You don’t owe anyone else, real or imagined, something that’s making you stressed out.
  7. And finally, pick something that you LOVE about the holidays and make sure you do it. Maybe that’s taking some time to lay on the couch and read a book or to watch a favorite holiday movie. Do something to refuel that tank of yours! It matters.

(Psssst…I’d love to hear what you’re taking off your list and what you’re keeping on it because you love it! Leave a comment below!)

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