Decorate, finish shopping, clean the house, wrap gifts, write and mail cards, attend holiday gatherings, prepare holiday meals and do all your normal to-dos for your work and family. Welcome to the holidays!
It is a cheerful (if you're lucky) and exhausting time of year. And the external pressure we feel to "do the holidays perfectly" doesn't help.
A few years ago I cried as I tried to tackle my growing-ever-longer to-do list. I pushed through the holidays only to collapse from exhaustion. Afterward, I wrote in my journal, "This isn't right. This isn't what the holidays are supposed to be about. I can't keep this up, nor do I want to. So, what are the things I enjoy doing for the holidays and what am I willing to let go of? There has to be some give and it must come from me giving something up because I can't magically create more time in the day!"
As I continued writing, I made a list of things NOT to do during the holidays the next year and shared it with my husband. I needed him to hold me accountable to my boundaries. I needed to remain steadfast when I started feeling pestered by the expectation to do it all, with a smile and in perfect execution.
My strategy worked.
Ever since then, I've felt much less bogged down by the holidays because I'm now doing them on my terms! There are still times where I feel the pinch, but I now have the skills to pause, bring my attention to the present moment, and choose my next steps with intention.
Before, I would feel the pressure and double down. I spoke harshly to myself when I felt overwhelmed. I saw my stress as a sign of weakness. I compared myself to those around me and felt deeply inadequate, driving my need to do ALL the things while enjoying none of them.
Now I say, "no thanks" to tasks, events, and especially the expectation I be superwoman.
I say yes to joy and light-heatedly decorating our home because I love the glow of the lights when darkness comes so early. I say yes to the pleasure of giving without burdening myself to find the perfect gift for every person I love - instead, I embrace gifting for the heck of it, regardless of whether it's their birthday or Christmas. I say yes to connecting with others while letting go of the holiday greeting card assembly line. I say yes to getting crafty and accept the fruits of my labors might not be done in time for this season's festivities, and that's ok because there's always next year!
Over the years, I've learned enjoying this time of year is a series of choices. It's about choosing to listen within and honoring my needs. It's about choosing to set and hold compassionate boundaries. It's about choosing to find joy in small things - the way the lights glisten or the beauty of the sunset or the pleasure of doing small acts of kindness for others.
And I pace myself - doing a little bit here and there. Keeping things quaint and simple rather than elaborate and Pinterest perfect. Sleeping if rest is what I need, which my body tends to thirst for during these long winter nights.
How are you feeling? Are you frantically trying to do it ALL? Are you stressed and overwhelmed by all the expectations this time of year?
If you want to feel joy this time of year, you must renegotiate your commitments around the holidays as well. Take a moment to pause and reflect on what's really important to you. Take stock of everything you're doing and intend to do. And ask, how do these tasks align with what really matters to me? Then choose what you're going to let go of. Share your new expectations with a friend or family member, and reconnect with the deeper meaning of the holidays.
Have you reflected on 2021 yet? Are you ready to start 2022 strong? Checkout our next Leadership Circle (formerly Journal Jams) with Ariana 9 a.m. MST Wednesday Dec. 15th. Enjoy camaraderie with like-minded change-makers while leveling-up! More information and registration is available here.