Written By: Skyler Clark, MA, LPC
“I’m already anxious about all of the events I have going on through the holiday season and it hasn’t even started yet.
This is what a client told me recently as we started our session. The last couple of months in the year is often a time for family, gatherings, and having fun with so many fall and holiday activities. Unfortunately, so many of us are so busy this time of year that we feel more anxiety than relaxation. We get caught up in stress and feel like we miss the joy of it all. Instead of slowing down to be present with our families we instead have bought into this pressure to do and keep up with the things and stretch ourselves too thin.
We feel like we have to take our kids to every holiday event or we feel like we have to attend every holiday party we are invited to. We compare and feel we have to do every festive activity we see our peers doing on social media. Schedules are packed and busy on top of trying to buy gifts and keep up with normal daily life responsibilities. No wonder we often feel more stress!
How can we care for ourselves through this?
I think it’s helpful to pause and ask ourselves questions. What do we want the holidays to feel like? What values do I want to prioritize during this time? What things can we say “no” to? What commitments feel more like a burden than a joy? What keeps us from stepping back from those things? We have to be intentional to create rhythms that feel good for ourselves!
I often encourage my clients during busy seasons of their lives to do check-ins with themselves. We often bounce from one activity to another and don’t stop to pause throughout our day. What if you slowed down and paid attention to your body for a moment? Where do you feel tension? Do you feel energized? Run down? What emotions are you holding? Based on all of these indicators, what might you need in this moment? Do you need to slow down? Do you need physical rest? Do you need to move your body? Do you need to find a way to vent the mental or emotional load you may be carrying?
We place so many expectations over ourselves and it seems the holidays create even more of this! We worry about what others will think of us if we don’t buy a gift, if we don’t come to certain gatherings, or if we choose to not do certain holiday “traditions”. So many of us end up feeling trapped in these commitments and run down at a time that should feel rejuvenating and fulfilling. This guilt and fear of standing up for our needs and desires causes us to try and just keep pushing through over-filled schedules and uncomfortable situations.
I challenge you to reprioritize your holidays this year if the things you are doing create more stress than joy. You are allowed to say no to events, activities, or traditions that weigh you down. You are allowed to say no to commitments that feel like too much on your plate. Each time you say no to something that would create more anxiety or more time to be spent, you are also saying yes to more time slowing down with family. You are saying yes to your own mental and emotional health! You are worth creating a schedule that feels good for you and your family and it’s allowed to look different than those around you. The best part is these patterns and ways of thinking can carry into the rest of the year. You are worth prioritizing!