“Have compassion for others, but not at the expense of compassion for yourself.” – Paul Gilmartin
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times—and no, I’m not talking about Charles Dickens’s thoughts on The French Revolution…
I’m talking about the holidays.
What do you think about when the holidays are approaching? The food? Gathering with friends and family? Opening presents under the Christmas tree?
How about the unspoken pressure to spend your holidays the way others want you to?
True, the holidays should be a happy time of the year, but for many, they’re not. Where do I go to celebrate? Should I spend time with my husband’s family or my own? Can’t I just stay home and watch movies in my PJs?
Choosing to spend the holidays the way you want to spend them doesn’t mean you love your family any less. But unfortunately, many of us have experienced the spoken/unspoken pressure that if you don’t come to a certain family obligation, you don’t love your family as much as you say you do.
Gee, thanks Aunt Betty.
This spoken/unspoken pressure is not fair and NOT right. The reality is that if we don’t show compassion for ourselves on the days that are supposed to be a day off, we end up being a martyr.
It is only from a filled cup that one can give from the overflow. You can never give what you don’t have.
If you don’t put your own compassion first, you can’t give compassion to others.
Here’s another thought to chew on: there are 363 other days in the year besides Christmas and Thanksgiving. How are you cultivating your relationships during those other days of the year? Do you choose to spend the entire year ignoring them? Do you dread them so much that you save up all of your energy until Thanksgiving and Christmas to see them? Or do you have a relationship with them throughout the entire year, calling them, making plans with them, or visiting them?
If the former, you need to ask yourself this question: Do I really want to spend one whole day with this person just because of my DNA? Do I really like this person, or do I feel obligated to see this person?
Let’s take a look at the very definition of “holiday”:
hol·i·day /ˈhäləˌdā/ noun: a day of festivity or recreation when no work is done.
Notice how the definition isn’t “a day of festivity or recreation when you spend time with family.” Now, if the phrase “no work” means spending time with the people you love, then live it up! But if the phrase “no work” means spending time by yourself, then you also have permission to live it up.
Do what you want to do. Use that day the way you want to.
And since we’re on the topic of spending the holidays the way you want to spend them, I wanted to offer some stress-free holiday dos and don’ts to optimize your time for YOU.
Six Easy Dos and Don’ts For A Stress-Free Holiday
1. Do ask for help
There’s nothing worse than being absolutely exhausted on your holiday. Remember holidays are meant to be savored and enjoyed. Don’t be afraid to ask for a helping hand.
2. Don’t have awkward or controversial conversations EVER!
Religion, race, politics, family choices or whether you’re having kids are absolute NO-NOs.
3. Do remember to breathe
We all have that cray-cray family member who’s annoying as can be. The truth? They’re probably never going to change, so just breathe, smile, and nod. It’s not worth your energy getting angry with them.
4. Don’t underestimate the power of a nice turkey day walk
Not only does it make you feel less guilty for eating a carb-heavy lunch, dinner, and dessert; it also gets those endorphins going. Bonus: it may relieve any anxiety or depression!
5. Do answer personal questions concisely and confidently
This is not the time to over-explain your life choices, especially on a holiday. It’s just not fun. Plus, it’s draining. You never owe anyone an explanation for what you choose to do with your life.
6. Don’t feel pressured to catch everyone up to speed
Keep it brief and polite. No need to fill everyone in on the past 364 days of the year. Psst…when all else fails, always refer back to number three: Smile and nod!
What helps you destress during the holiday? Leave a comment below! We’d love to hear your thoughts.