A technique to transform holiday stress

I’ve been having more conversations lately with people anxious about the holidays. Worried about how to balance it all and feeling stressed by the expectations and obligations that can potentially permeate the holiday season.

I’d been reflecting on the forces that seem to work against the potential cheer of the end of the year, when I heard a recorded conversation between Brené Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert where they talked about the exhaustion of saying “yes” when we mean “no.”

Wow. Nail. On. The. Head.

We’re setup to expect ourselves to produce a holiday season that is picture perfect, full of gift-giving, sharing, and elaborate meals.

But saying saying yes to this expectation can be potentially hazardous to our well-being, not to mention totally exhausting to pull off.

Instead, the holiday season can be a generous opportunity to set an intention and practice boundaries.

What do the edges look like that keep us sane, engaged and grateful instead of anxious, resentful and contracted? What does it mean to say no?

Perhaps, it means giving yourself permission to send holiday cards on a generous timeline or simplifying the gift giving process.

I find it a good practice to go into the season having wrestled with these questions. The points ahead can help make it a formal practice by offering a structure within which to write or reflect.

Set an intention: Spend a few minutes in quiet and with curiosity reflect on what sort of holiday experience do you want to say YES to? Or what would January feel like without (too much) chaos or stress? Open to the possibility of experiencing joy and presence during this time. See if a phrase arises like “I intend to do the best I can” or “I want to be more present” or “May I experience more joy and well-being during the holidays.”

Write down the intention that comes up and revisit at the start of each day or whenever apprehension arises.

Clarify your priorities:
From this intention, you can then create a reference point for priorities.

Are my actions and intention in alignment? 

If my intention is to share quality time with my loved ones, for example, then maybe having a coffee date with a close friend is a more important priority than spending hours trying to find a gift. 

Give yourself the permission to set boundaries:
Committing to your intention will provide the flexibility to say no when you need to. Politely declining a request or not adding another activity to the list maybe the most compassionate action to foster a more positive experience. I like to think of choosing the discomfort of “no” over the resentment of feeling overtaxed, overburdened, or spread too thin.

Most importantly, though, remember this is a gentle process. Not one to beat ourselves up about or feel guilty for failing at. More than anything, it's a inquiry and exploration about noticing places of ease in a time that can feel tight and rushed. Applaud and appreciate any moment that feels the tiniest bit more joyful. That is gold! 

With love,