In a study conducted by the American Psychological Society, 68% of respondents said they feel a higher level of stress during the holidays. I am sure you agree that it doesn’t take a scientific study to come to this conclusion. Many of us already feel like there isn’t enough time in the day without adding on the dizzying array of demands – parties, traveling, shopping, baking, sending cards, cleaning, extra entertaining, family expectations…just to name a few. No wonder we become completely unbalanced.
Although, I work hard throughout the year to maintain physical and mental health, there is one specific practice that I started implementing a few years ago that has made a HUGE difference in my holidays. I have removed “should” from my vocabulary.
Someone once explained to me that “Should” is how others want us to show up in the world - how we’re supposed to think, what we ought to say, what we should or shouldn’t do. It’s the vast array of expectations that others layer upon us and, no doubt, is intensified during the holidays.
Each year, I look at what I commit to and make sure that I am making a conscious choice and not just doing it out of guilt, obligation, tradition, or because of what others will think. Here is a peek at what this looks like for me.
- I stopped sending Christmas cards. Not one person has asked where my Christmas card is and I save a ton of time.
- I stopped buying gifts for everyone and their brother. My shopping is narrowed down to my kids, a few close family members and friends. Teachers, bus drivers, and sitters love gift cards and personal care providers always seem to appreciate extra generous holiday tips. This has freed up so much energy trying think of and shop for the non-existent “perfect” gift.
- I stopped accepting every invitation. I suffered from a bad case of FOMO (fear of missing out) and was way too concerned about what others would think of me. I now attend parties and events that are meaningful and are in alignment with my highest good. Although my ego thinks that I will be missed or I will offend someone, I have learned that I am really not that important.
- I stopped traveling to see extended family. For years I compromised on this one as my husband’s relatives were scattered between DC, New York, and Florida. Over time, I recognized that resentment started to build and weighed heavily on me. This one was really hard as it required some difficult conversations. Jason and I concluded that it is our strong preference to be home on Christmas and that we could actually choose what is best for our family.
I have to warn you, to stop “shoulding” yourself is simple but not always easy. It takes courage and may hurt some feelings. Next time you find yourself saying “I should do this” or “I should do that;” ask yourself, “according to whom?” and “why?”. I hope you find the courage to make this holiday season what you want it to be for you and your family!