How to Have a Mindful Holiday Season
Can you believe the holiday season is here again? On one hand it seems like yesterday and on the other hand, so much has happened that it feels like lifetime ago. One of the common themes of the holidays, especially here in New York City, is overdoing it. We attend too many gatherings, eat too much, drink too much, and spend too much. Get-togethers with friends and family and thinking about holiday gifts can be joyous and exciting. At the same time, these happenings can bring on feelings of stress and pressure, as we begin to wonder how we are going to find enough hours in the day and we try to figure out how to avoid the seemingly inevitable holiday exhaustion.
If creating the boundaries that are necessary for us to care for ourselves is difficult to do on and average day, it gets even more difficult this time of year. But hopefully by the time you finish reading, you will have an idea about how to come up with your own plan to give yourself what you need and stay mindful during the holiday season and beyond.
We often feel that our schedules are out of our control, that setting boundaries is going to be met with a catastrophic reaction. For example, my co-workers will resent me if I ask for that. Or, if I say no to my friend’s invitation, she won’t ask me again. Or, I feel selfish for putting myself first. You get the idea.
Setting boundaries and taking care of ourselves can be scary and it can be a difficult choice. It is true that other people can take our lives personally, that there are people who need us to be a certain way, and so when we do something that is outside of that box, we fear that we will grow apart from those people. And of course it isn’t until we say, this is what I need to be happy, to take care of myself, that we see how people handle our changes. That’s an incredibly scary time and it can be hurtful if things don’t work out the way we expected.
At the same time, setting boundaries is necessary to be happy and healthy at work and at home. The truth is that most of the time, there might be some growing pains, but the people who belong in our lives want us to be happy and healthy. They really will do what they can to make that possible.
Here is an example of when I wasn’t listening as carefully as I should have been to what I needed and the universe intervened and forced me to set a boundary.
A couple of years ago during the holiday season, on a day I was supposed to have dinner with a bunch of good friends, some of whom were in from out of town, I woke up feeling awful. I had this crushing and not well-timed feeling of not being able to recognize myself or my life. I had been searching for a job for just about 7 months, a few days prior I had a procedure that would determine the extent of my cervical cancer, and because I was completely underestimating the stress of these events, I hadn’t slowed down at all.
Now I was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, trying not to burst into tears. Throughout the day, it became harder to hold it together, and I thought, “What is going on with me and why am I feeling this way now??” I felt so awful and so tired but I didn’t want to disappoint my partner, our friends, or myself. And while I wasn’t sure that everyone would understand, I felt I had no choice but to listen to what my body was telling me I needed. I had hit some type of exhausted bottom, and I just couldn’t go. I wanted my couch, and a movie, and some Mexican takeout.
So I stayed home. I felt guilty for bailing on dinner, scared that our friends might not understand, and disappointed because I was missing a fun evening. But most importantly, I felt relieved. I felt relieved because I had figured out what I needed and it felt good to have given myself what I needed. It wasn’t easy, or pretty, but I got there.
Everyone’s capacity is different. Everyone’s situation is different. That’s why there are no neat, five or ten steps to get anywhere. So as we start this holiday season, I encourage you to figure out what you need. Do a quick assessment. Sit quietly, tell yourself that you have 100% control of what you are going to do and not do, whether it feels that way or not. Make a list of the things you need to feel good and nourished, and the things that make you feel overwhelmed. Figure out what your limits are. Maybe that means that you can’t afford to buy as many holiday gifts this year and now have to ask a friend or relative to cut back on what you usually do for each other. Or maybe that means limiting the amount of times you are available to attend after-work events.
When the time comes that you think you know what you need, have faith in yourself and the people around you, and ask for it. Start small, take baby steps, and I promise each time you will feel a little more comfortable. Try not to allow yourself to get to a place where you are feeling like an exhausted, tearful, mess before you do. But if that’s what it takes, at least you get there. And remember, what you are envisioning as the worst reaction someone can have most likely won’t happen. Ask yourself, is keeping that unlikely reaction from happening worth you feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, mad at yourself for agreeing to something you shouldn’t have agreed to, or getting yourself into debt for holiday gifts? Only you can answer those questions for yourself but I would better the answer is no.
Thank you for reading, take care of yourself, and feel free to contact me with any thoughts, comments, or questions on setting boundaries or any other topic you think will help you better create your own experiences and own your