The holiday season is feeling more and more like a frenzied free-for-all. I know, a lot of people say this and think this. But how do we each deal with it so it does not trample all over our sense of emotional well-being?
I allowed my sense of emotional well-being to get trampled each year. I was excessively anxious, frustrated and resentful. I was overwhelmed and felt extremely pressured to live up to the expectations others had of me. I "should" accept invitations for parties-if I am lucky enough to have friends, why should I not show up and show my appreciation for being invited? A cookie swap? Sure, I will bake ten dozen cookies so that everyone else thinks I am good in the kitchen. Small talk? If I focus hard enough. Gifts? That is what credit was for. I did not have disposable income, and my time was going to doctor and therapy appointments. I hated it. It was a time of year to present myself as "normal" like everyone else. I was a fake and I faked my way through. January soon became my favorite month of the year.
Okay, so I had a lot of anger to deal with. The expectations of others became the expectations I took on for myself. I had not come into acceptance of who I really was, what really mattered to me, or that the expectations of others did not define who I had to be for their comfort level. I had to find my own comfort level and my own pace if I was going to stop spinning my wheels and continuing forward with my deeply held resentments.
This realization came to me after I completely fell apart. I needed to rebuild myself according to what I believed and what I needed to do for myself. If I needed a time out during the holiday season, I took it. If I did not accept an invitation, it did not mean I did not appreciate the invitation. If I did not own three separate cookie sheets, I did not have to bake cookies for a take-home platter that would just sit on my kitchen counter. I stopped making small talk with others because it made me nauseous and I did not want to feel that way. I did not have to purchase gifts, but get creative and make them myself. Wow! That made a tremendous difference! I put the kibosh on what made me uncomfortable until I could figure out if these were activities I actually wanted to do, and then, if so, how to do so with a sense of enjoyment rather than anxiety or pressure. Anxiety and pressure pretty much drain any potential for enjoyment for me.
When I started on this new path, there were some friends and family members who were not entirely pleased. I could understand, as I was interrupting what I had always done and what they had always expected of me. I do not think they even knew how uncomfortable and anxiety ridden I was. I put on a front and did not tell them the truth.
When I started sharing the truth with family and friends, they began to understand. Not all at once, but it continues to increase. As my comfort level increases, I can make better decisions for myself. I can do what feels right for my own emotional well-being--I just had to understand what emotional well-being meant for me first. Once I understood this for myself, I was then able to be very clear on what hindered or supported my well-being.
Although full avoidance was my first tactic, this did not last long. I was not learning anything about myself, but hiding. As I took steps to practice my comfort levels-perhaps push the envelope here and there-I got to see the new changes within myself as I related to others. Eventually, the more I "practiced" the more I enjoyed myself as I came to understand my capacities as well as my limits.
What I have come to discover is that what enables me to move forward within the context of frenzy is my own pace, my own choices, my own appreciation for self-care.
A continuing practice I make great use of is taking a moment to take a breath or a mini time-out if I begin to feel overwhelmed or a sense of anxiety or resentment. This is an opportunity I give to myself to allow for a moment of reassessment. I do not like such feelings and I know they stand between me and the opportunity to take in certain holiday enjoyments. In the end, whatever I do or do not do, the choice is mine to make. If I am acting on impulse or old triggers, I can take a look and decide what is best in the moment. The next moment may be completely different or the same. But I took a moment to be in discovery so I am not sabotaging myself. And I do seem to need to take additional moments many times over during this time of year. But for me it continues to make a difference.
Published On: November 29, 2007