Hello Dear Readers,
I feel a self-care reminder is in order for all of us at this crazy time of year, for this is the beginning of endless family and friend get-togethers, office parties, excessive consumption of all things unhealthy, high hopes and expectations, holidays, and if one is not careful, BURNOUT. I would hate to see any of you in the “burnout” category by the time January second rolls around.
So in order to take good care of your own sweet, kind, and lovable self, I thought it would be a good idea to give you some pointers on not taking on other people’s emotional baggage this season. As a therapist and co-human, I believe that this is the key to prevent burnout during holiday season (or any time of year when you find yourself taking on too much stuff that doesn’t ‘belong’ to you).
I’m guessing that most of you are going to have to endure some people this holiday season who you’d rather not hang out with (insert your own names and expletives here!) In fact, I’d be willing to bet that the majority of your holiday stress actually stems from having to put up with people you don’t really like. I like the idea of what one of my clients does at this time of year- escapes to a hot tropical place with just her partner and waits until the holidays are over before coming back.
Here’s my take as a therapist:
DURING HOLIDAY SEASON, MOST HUMAN BEINGS COME ‘UNHINGED’ EMOTIONALLY AND DO SOME STRANGE AND BIZARRE THINGS AS A RESULT.
WE HAVE UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS OF WHAT A “HAPPY HOLIDAY” SHOULD LOOK LIKE.
If you’re having trouble relating to what this looks like in everyday life, imagine that come the first week of December, everyone around you has had way too much alcohol and does what most people do in this state- emotionally pukes on others. Sorry, but I like to be clear and ‘emotional puking’ always seems to hit home for my clients. Or put more politely, people’s anxiety levels are at an all-time high around the holidays and they tend to REACT based on their emotional state rather than thinking things through before doing something they will later regret. In therapy lingo, we call this using the ‘reptilian brain’.
To prepare you for taking care of yourself by not taking on other people’s “stuff” over the holidays, I offer you the following exercise:
My Personal Self-Care Plan for the upcoming holiday Season:
Get out your trusty journal (or computer) and answer the following questions as honestly as you can:
What are my hopes and expectations for the holidays? List them until you can’t come up with any more.
Go through each one and ask yourself how realistic it is and give a percentage of how much you could be disappointed if it didn’t go the way you had fantasized?
Write a list of your own emotional triggers, which arise during the holiday season and under what circumstances. It could be the people you find yourself around, memories of past holiday meals, smells, certain songs, etc.
Make a plan of how you can practice self-love when you get emotionally triggered. For example: If my mother tells me the turkey is too dry as she does every year, I will politely excuse myself by going to the bathroom and say to myself as I look in the mirror- “My mother is rude and inconsiderate. She’s emotionally unhinged because of the stress of the holidays. That behavior is inappropriate. Your turkey is just fine and so are you.”
List all of the people you plan on spending the holidays with and next to each person’s name, write down what behavior they might display based on past holiday experiences. Write a plan for how you are not going to take on their “stuff” this year. For example: “My uncle Leon hugs me a bit too intimately and it makes me really uncomfortable. This year I will make sure to not let him get within hugging distance of me and will consciously stick out my hand for a handshake instead of a hug. Then I will tell myself later how proud I am that I set a boundary with my creepy uncle and that I protected myself.”
Lastly, rewrite your list of hopes and expectations for the holidays, except change them to be more achievable and realistic. This often involves lowering expectations both for you, and for others. It’s about having “a good enough” holiday instead of “a perfect holiday.”
Now, get ready to cruise through holiday season with less stress and anticipation about all the of negative things that may happen…