Pandemic Stress Mental Load

Holidays take on various meanings, experiences, and expectations for all of us. Enjoying rituals of connection and celebration; honoring cultural and religious traditions; spending time with family and loved ones; taking some time to reflect and set intentions for the new year- all come to the front of my mind when thinking of the holiday season. They also all hold sets of expectations that can leave us feeling stretched thin and worn out, by the time the holidays arrive. 


So how can we prioritize what feels realistic and fulfilling to us during the holiday season. Expectations can be sneaky and often feel out of control. You may be catering to professional obligations (tying up loose ends before taking some time off for the holidays); catering to extended family (cleaning your home, making special recipes, preparing for the responsibility of meeting other’s needs); catering to your children (wrapping presents, making cookies, decorating) and trying not to let yourself down. It’s a lot! Having a realistic perspective and planning imperfection into your agenda can help. 


Take a pulse: Ask yourself, is this wearing on me? Do you find yourself feeling depressed, anxious, frustrated and tired while trying to meet the standards of yourself and others around you? If so, then consider whether the cost is worth the effort. 


Stop watering the weeds and start watering the flowers: Intentionally place your energy and relationship in people, experiences, relationships that feel good to you. As you take your pulse and become aware of your own experience, take an inventory of what simplicities fill your bucket (drinking a cup of tea alone in the morning, hearing your children laugh, taking a walk in the fog), and try to engage more of your energy into this!


Embrace and incorporate your imperfections into your day and life: Imperfections- we all have them, and isn’t that wonderful! They aren’t always bad and they make us human. Talk about them. Share them with others. Lead by example of imperfection. There are great benefits to imperfection, and shifting your perspective to allow yourself to see them can help. Maybe your house isn’t clean and you have visitors this afternoon. Maybe you didn’t clean your house, yet you had time to take a walk with your family or watch a movie with your child. Maybe not cleaning your home right before others come, normalizes and embraces the reality of how others keep their homes as well. 


Set boundaries: What boundaries are in place to protect your time, your relationships and your emotional stability? Having boundaries offers clarity to those around you to know and understand your needs, limits, and experience. Setting boundaries is showing love and compassion to yourself and those closest to you. Be prepared, having boundaries may cause a reaction in others. Especially if setting boundaries is new for you. That’s to be expected! Although others may react to your boundaries, perhaps you’re also sharing a more authentic version of yourself with them, with the hope that boundaries will allow your relationship to grow deeper and in healthy ways. Having boundaries during the holidays, can help to reduce feelings of depression, anxiety or resentment, clearing out the way for time and space to enjoy what is meaningful to you. 


Holidays bring a whole array of emotions and experiences. Be kinds to yourself. Give yourself the gift of lowered expectations this year. Wrap it in a bow, cherish it! 


Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.” ~ Brandon Sanderson 

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