Is This Belief Keeping You Anxiously Stuck This Holiday Season?Dec 15, 2021
"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" is a song that is playing on repeat in my mind at this time of the year. And it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas out there. With that may come the additional stress and anxiety of social gatherings, buying gifts, putting on a cheerful face. Around this time last year I wrote " Festive Season Anxiety: Your Survival Guide" offering 5 tips to survive anxiety over the festive season. But I have noticed there seems to be an overriding belief that keep many people stuck in their anxiety during this time. So I wonder, is this belief keeping YOU anxiously stuck this holiday season?
Common Sources Of Holiday Season Stress
Many of my clients have shared their concerns and anxieties with me as we lead into the last few weeks of December.
"I'm not sure I can cope with a whole Christmas lunch and the whole family"
"It's the one time of the year we all get together, I just want it to be amazing"
"My kids aren't behaving and I'm worried people will judge me"
"We haven't managed to buy the quality of gifts we normally do - finances have been tight this year"
"We normally go on holiday and this year we are staying home - it's going to be such a disappointment"
And so many more... Do any of them sound familiar?
When I hear my clients share these concerns I hear the amount of pressure they are putting on themselves and this one holiday to perform.
When you listen really closely it isn't really about the Christmas spread, the size of the tree or the amount of presents. The source of stress is not about how many people you will be socialising with or whether you're going away for the holiday.
When you listen in really close you hear "I'm worried it's not going to be good enough"
.... Good enough.
Is This Belief Keeping You Anxiously Stuck?
The belief that you have to always get it right and make every moment count can be so exhausting. It doesn't leave much room for mistakes or imperfections, does it?
What's more, is that the need to keep things "just so", removes the potential for spontaneity and fun. When you want it to be perfect, then you're likely to over-plan and over-organise. After-all, how can it be perfect if you leave it to chance?
Believing that the holidays and Christmas (if you celebrate it) needs to go a certain way creates a huge expectation to perform.
And if you're struggling with even the slightest bit of anxiety then that has the potential to send you over the edge.
But besides that - it doesn't sound like much fun at all.
When something needs to be perfect, then it is never just 'good enough'... And we all know that as humans we all struggle with feeling not good enough.
Cue more anxiety.
Change The Narrative and You Change The Belief
The story has always been that Christmas comes but once a year, right? So we want to make the most of it. We have our family traditions and our high expectations. We face comparison-syndrome and Christmas-tree-envy, which only suck the joy from the moment.
What if, just once, we suspended the old story and went with a new one?
A story where the holiday season was a time to see what unfolds. To do things differently. To connect on deeper, more meaningful levels.
If those became the goals of the holidays - what would you be doing differently?
Perhaps you would still be keen to roast a turkey, but the stress of making it perfect could be lessened. Or maybe you would still choose to have the entire family together. But you would be curious and amused as to watch it all unfold instead of trying to manage the inevitable dynamics between your husband and your sister's boyfriend.
How To Change The Narrative
The first and most important tool is to stay present. Make sure that you let go of any future pacing, "what if" scenarios as these often include the things you're worried might happen. Staying present in the moment allows you to reap joy from what is happening in the now and stops you from over-thinking and over-planning the next move.
Let go of the old expectations. If things have changed for you this year - then roll with it. Nothing is ever meant to stay exactly the same. The Buddhists know this all to well and have a good giggle when they notice Westerners attaching to their illusion of permanence. when you're able to lean into the change then you can find the joy in creating something new. What might that be?
Forget about "perfect". Strike that word (along with "should" Ought to" and "must") out of your vocabulary. I know you "just want things to be perfect" but this is NEVER POSSIBLE.
Practice curiosity and an openness to what unfolds. Surrender what you can't control (which is everything other than your own thoughts, feelings and behaviour) and watch with curiosity to see what unfolds. What else can become possible when you simply let it be?
When you change the expectations to simply enjoying whatever THIS MOMENT brings, then you know, without doubt, it will all be good enough.