The Sensationalism of Holiday Stress — Let’s Opt Out

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The holiday stress headlines are already cropping up. This one in particular caught my eye:

“Along with the joys of the holiday season inevitably comes an extreme amount of stress…”

Inevitably? Really?

It’s true, the holidays are a break from our routine, and are often accompanied by additional financial and social commitments. But do you want your level of stress to be inevitable? Mythologized? Institutionalized by the media?

I’d rather pass.

This year, rather than assume that the holidays will be stressful, frantic, and something to survive, I’m operating under the assumption that they’ll be restful and fun.

Crazy, right? Sorry, every woman’s magazine ever published in November and December. You’re not hooking me with your “cope with the stress” headlines this year, because I’m changing my assumptions. And when I change my assumptions and expectations, my actions change. My experience changes. All from shifting a thought.

My question for you is, if you expected the holidays to be restful and fun, how would that change your assumptions and actions?

Here are some changes that I’ve found:

1. I’m remembering that all those commitments and obligations are actually choices.
In truth, there’s nothing that I truly have to do for the holidays. I could ignore them altogether if I wanted. My level of engagement and participation is entirely my choice.

2. That means I’ll have to be ok with disappointing some people.
Other people might expect things from me, but that doesn’t mean I’m obligated to fulfill their expectation. As long as I clearly communicate what I’m up for and what I’m not, my job is done.

3. I expect to miss out on things.
Secret Santa, food drive, office party. I might not make it to every thing. That’s ok. If anyone other than me is keeping score, they can see #2.

4. I’m planning for rest and fun instead of planning for stress management.
Rather than operating from a stance of avoidance, I’m actively building rest and fun in to my holidays. Better, no? Certainly feels better.

Will you join me in opting out of “inevitable” holiday stress and doing your best to create the holiday experience you prefer?

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Gathering light,

12 thoughts on “The Sensationalism of Holiday Stress — Let’s Opt Out

  1. I’m so in! We just decided last night that we’re ordering Chinese food for Thanksgiving. Everything in me wants to cry when I think of cooking. Going to honor that “no” and give myself a break!

  2. This! This! I’ve been following this policy for several years now and it is so much better. It’s hard to give up that feeling that I’m responsible for everyone’s holiday joy, not to mention realizing that the holidays can be just as enjoyable for ME with a saner amount of preparations (2 batches of cookies, not 10; one hour of cooking, not 2 days; a little tree, not halls decked to the max).

  3. This was my favourite part: “Other people might expect things from me, but that doesn’t mean I’m obligated to fulfill their expectation.” I’m going to borrow that and apply it to my whole life.

  4. Good timing. It’s great to think consciously about this ahead of time and prepare mind, body, soul for a fun, and lovely, and exciting and restful and joyful Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year for me. Thanks.

  5. I love this post so much that I plan to share it on Twitter & Facebook. I agree, I think that by expecting the holidays to be stressful, we make them stressful. And I agree with all of you who mentioned the importance of not having unrealistic expectations. The single most important thing that has made the holidays less stressful for me is not working in retail anymore. Between listening to the same 10 Christmas songs over and over (covered by several different artists), the hard-to-please customers, being expected to bend over backwards to every outrageous demand (because that’s what’s expected when your store is known for its customer service), not getting to spend time with my family and friends, and having half the things I sold returned the day after Christmas (which came out of my paycheck!), the whole Thanksgiving through New Year’s period was miserable for me. I am so happy I don’t have to do that anymore.

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