If your holiday expectations are stressing you out, then it’s time to get realistic
Women are often applauded – or criticized – for being emotional caretakers and trying to make sure everyone else is happy. So it’s no surprise we have high holiday expectations.
The problem is, it’s not a realistic or healthy way to negotiate relationships, and comes at a great cost to yourself, says Dr. Teri Sota, a clinical psychologist in Toronto. “If you’re not balancing your own needs, whether it’s rest, taking time for yourself or pursuing things you actually want to do, you’ll usually feel distress, lack balance and experience strain in relationships with others.”
Dr. Sota says that it’s especially easy to lose sight of your own needs during the holidays, when you’re trying to meet all the additional demands and obligations that come with the season. (If you are hosting, try these party planning hacks to save you some time and energy.)
“Inappropriate guilt that can lead to shame comes from the ‘shoulds’ we have for ourselves and how we live in the minds of others. When we experience shame, we create a story about ourselves that we’re not good enough, or not worthy but what we need to do is have a little more self-compassion.”
Sometimes, she says, you need to be OK with the fact that you can’t always come through and accept that sometimes you’re going to disappoint other people. “Come to terms with the fact that you won’t always be able to tie it all up with a bow and that everyone is going to be happy,” she says. (And if you feel you need to say no, try this. It will help you feel better about declining something.)
To make it easier to step back and connect with feelings of compassion for yourself, it might help to turn things around and look at the situation from a completely different perspective, says Dr. Sota.
“If your dearest friend was in this position, how would you help and advise her? What would she need? The rules we have for ourselves are sometimes so rigid compared to our rules for others. It helps to step out of your own experience once in a while.”
Then, take the understanding and compassion you’d show to your friend and try to offer some to yourself with the same warmth and caring. And don’t feel guilty about that.