Pursue What Matters
Episode 31: Opt Out of Holiday Stress
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
It’s December Are you panicking yet? Have you found the perfect gift for those you love? Have you found any gifts for those you love? Is your calendar full of parties and events and end of year traditions? Are you overwhelmed looking at said calendar. While I definitely will not pretend to have all the answers to your problems, as if, but I do have some tips on how to opt out of some holiday stress. I even have a great freebie for you that will help you navigate your calendar full of events, party shopping, traditions, guilt, and everything in between. Let’s jump in.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:39
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the pursue what matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. Okay, I love the holiday season. But I’ve got to be honest, it is also the season that totally stresses me out. There is so much pressure that comes with this time of year, about the second week of November, I tend to start panicking about gifts and holiday cards and neighbor gifts. And then I have a little bit of a come apart and remind myself that this is totally ridiculous. And I’m missing the point of why I celebrate the holidays. Can anyone else relate? So you know, I’ve tried lots of tricks in the past to deal with the stress of the holidays. You know, one year I started my holiday shopping earlier. But that was a total disaster because I really I just spent way too much money completely missed the point of the holidays and ended up completely stressed out and grumpy. Because it felt like I spent the entire holiday season at the mall. And I hate the mall. It was not fun at all. Then, you know, one year I did all of my shopping entirely online, I think like from my bed. And that was a little bit better. But I still felt totally caught up in the consumerism of the holiday season. While the reason for the season was totally lost. So that was also an epic fell, that was not good. So rather than trying to find a way to deal with the stress of the holidays, let’s find a way to help you opt out of the stress of the holidays. Like is it? Is it possible, so it might sound a little radical. But just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t mean you have to can you tell I have two teenagers at home. We have these conversations all the time, just because everyone else is jumping off a cliff doesn’t mean you have to either.
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:10
But I think that this is really true when it comes to the holiday season, it can be really easy to get caught up into the holiday pressure. There’s a lot that comes with this season, that may have very little to do with the reasons you actually celebrate the holidays. So, you know, this is kind of where, where I’m at where my family is at with the holiday season. So at this point, we are total minimalists when it comes to the holidays. So you know, we celebrate Christmas. And so we do Christmas stockings, and maybe one gift for our kids. But that’s it. And I’m telling you this has really made our holidays so much more enjoyable. Like there’s really very little stress. So, first of all, our kids really don’t need anything. So there’s that. So we really tried to resist the pull of the consumerism because back when I was you know, getting stressed out about the holidays, I found that I was just buying crap to buy it, which really is not cool. I did not like that at all. So you know, there’s, we just didn’t really need anything. And second, we want our family focusing on our values tied to the holiday and of course not on consumerism really trying to resist that poll. And then of course third we wanted to spend our time together as a family, not out shopping or in malls and you know in traffic and all that stuff, getting stressed out and then you know for I would say we definitely wanted to be mindful about finances and really thinking about, okay, well, you know, do we do we want if we’re going to spend money, what do we want to spend that on? Or do we want to save our money for something, you know, that feels more meaningful or more important to us.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:20
So, in our decision to opt out of some of the craziness of the holidays, we’ve definitely had to have some conversations with family members about you know, please don’t buy us a bunch of gifts. And these can be really tricky conversations, because sometimes, family members can kind of get their feelings hurt, or sometimes they don’t necessarily understand. And so they can be kind of delicate conversations. And really, you just need to do your best in communicating your intentions for your family, and you know, your wish to be respectful. And so I think just kind of owning where you’re at with that. That is kind of funny. Recently, I was telling a group of women about, they’d asked me to share some of my holiday traditions, and I mentioned this to the group, you know, that we don’t do gifts, and they were like, totally aghast. They were shocked. And, you know, like several of them said, how do you do this. And, you know, my smart alec response was, you know, we as parents are immune to whining like we don’t, we just don’t care if our kids whine, which is partially true. But what is even more true is that as a family, we’ve set the expectation that the holidays are not about buying and receiving a bunch of gifts, but that they’re more about spending time as a family. And I would say, you know, truthfully, you know, the first few years that we did this, I would say probably like the first year, our kids were like, what, like what’s going on, and there was probably like a little bit of grumbling, but really not that much. And now, it’s just like, this is what Christmas is like at our house. And so everyone’s everyone’s on board. But I would also say our kids are older, I think this would be hard to do with really little kids. But I think you also kind of set expectations with kids. And that makes a really big difference.
Dr. Melissa Smith 7:13
So with the podcast today, I really want to help you opt out of stress. And really, you know, take your holiday season back, take your time back, take your money back, and reclaim the holiday season for yourself and for your family. And let it be about you know what you value and so let’s help you take your time back this holiday season. And of course time is our greatest commodity, it is so much more valuable than possessions. And so, you know, for me, making memories will definitely have a greater positive impact on happiness than will fancy gifts. And of course, the research absolutely supports this. So one thing that we do as a family as you know, we’ll just, we’ll save our pennies throughout the year, not literally our pennies, because I don’t know like who uses pennies anymore. It’s all like debit cards, but we’ll save our money throughout the year. And then plan a holiday trip. And you know, sometimes it will be a bigger trip to a warm Island somewhere. And sometimes it will maybe be a quick ski trip for some powder. But the point really is to spend time together doing things that we enjoy. And it’s great because it’s time that set apart from our everyday schedules. It’s time set apart from kind of all the craziness of life. And I love it, it’s really precious time. So in this way, we’re really conveying values to our kids and helping them to also challenge some of the messages that are so pervasive in our culture. So I really love that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:53
So I hope that you are thinking about how you want to spend your holidays, rather than who you have to buy for, what shopping you have to do, and how much money it will cost. So. So those are the things to really think about. So thinking in terms of how you want to spend your holidays, rather than who you have to buy for, what shopping you have to do and how much money it will cost. So we really shift our focus for the holidays. And, you know, for many of us, we do have the possibility to take more downtime during the holidays, right? So, you know, a lot of times, especially the week between Christmas, and the New Year, you know, for many of us work is kind of shuttered or at least, you know, pretty darn quiet and so it’s a perfect time to spend time with the family, read some great books, watch some great movies and play. And so I definitely hope that you can take some time and totally unplug from work and that It will help you to, you know, return to work and to life even stronger.
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:07
So okay, so with this podcast, I have a great freebie for you that is focused on helping you opt out of stress this holiday season. And start with the freebie is going to walk you through some questions to help you prepare for the holidays. Okay, so I’m going to go through the questions with you right now. But make sure you take the time and download this freebie. So I will give you the link to the show notes at the end of the podcast. And then you can access that freebie from my show notes and make sure you download it because it will be good for you to go through these questions and really take some time and reflect on them.
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:56
So the first question, what do I want this holiday season to look like? And take some time and really answer this question with as much detail as you can. So where are you at? Who are you surrounded by? What are the sights, the smells? The flavors? What are you doing? Think about as much detail as you can as you answer this question. Okay. Question two, what will work best for me? What will work best for my family? And so these two questions are really important because you need to think about your specific situation. So right, maybe you have, maybe you have a toddler. And so you really need to pay attention to, you know, what is the situation that’s going to work best for you. So a skiing trip might not be the best situation for your family this year, that might be the best situation for my family. That’s actually what we’re doing this year. But that probably won’t work best for your family if you have a little toddler. So really want you to think about what will work best for you, personally, what will work best for your family? And so, you know, one year I had hip surgery, I think it was like, two days after Christmas. Yeah, I would not recommend that. But I had to do that because my husband was getting deployed in January. So we needed to get it taken care of before he left town. And so when we looked at, you know, what will work best for me and what will work best for the family that Christmas? You know, it was a very altered Christmas that year in consideration of that surgery. And so you really want to be respectful of your situation during the holiday season.
Dr. Melissa Smith 13:00
Okay, question, the next set of questions. So if I didn’t have to worry about all the obligations, parties, gifts, etc? How would I want to spend my time this holiday season? And so with this question, we’re giving you permission to put all of the obligations and the commitments on a shelf. And just consider how you want to spend your time. You don’t have to worry about the neighbor gifts if you didn’t have to worry about the family party or the work party. How would you want to spend your time? Maybe it would be spending every night in Christmas pajamas watching hallmark movies, I hear those are popular. I’ve actually never watched a hallmark Christmas movie, but I’ve got lots of girlfriends that swear by them. They say they’re awesome.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:04
So if you didn’t have to worry about all the commitments, how would you want to spend your time so give yourself permission to explore options. Okay, so those are the questions I want you to explore. So what kind of answers did you come up with? I hope that you will definitely download the freebie and take time to explore these questions. So now we want to move on to the next piece which is working with your partner, spouse and family to figure out first things first. So I don’t want you to start with what a lot of families start with witches. We have all of these obligations, we have no choice. So don’t start there. Instead, start with the question. What kind of holiday Do we want, and then craft a holiday season that fits with your values. Now, this can be really radical for a lot of families, because we really get kind of ritualistic with our holiday traditions. I mean, there’s a reason they’re traditions, it’s something that we do every year. But sometimes we never take a step back to look at whether our traditions continue to fit well for us. And there can be some strong poles around those traditions from extended family, you know, there can be a lot of obligations, pressure, guilt, dare I say, guilt around those that really take the time to ask the question, what kind of holiday Do we want, and then be willing to craft a holiday season that really fits with your values. So that’s, that’s the first step with your partner and family.
Dr. Melissa Smith 16:02
And then second, is make a list of all of your obligations, plans and traditions during the holidays. So don’t don’t get overwhelmed here, but just make a list. So some of these you may love and some of these you may hate. And some of these, you may simply under, okay, but just make the list, just do it kind of as quickly as you can. So I’ve got some examples here, but I’m going to have the freebie for you. So it will have some structure for you. So you can have some guidance on this. But let me just give you some ideas here.
Dr. Melissa Smith 16:45
So some of the things that might be on the list, your spouse’s companies holiday party, your holiday party, and maybe your spouse has a couple of holiday parties. So right, like my husband has, I think for his for his work. He has like two or three holiday parties. Yeah, it’s like a little over the top. Maybe you have a church party. Maybe you have children, school activities, and maybe there are multiple school activities depending on how many kids you have. Maybe you have children’s performances. Think about the Nutcracker ballet, maybe you have a child in the Nutcracker ballet, maybe you have a violin performance, maybe you have a piano recital, and depending on how many kiddos you have, right, these can grow exponentially. Do you have a caroling tradition? Maybe you have holiday greeting cards that you traditionally send out? stockings, you know Christmas stockings that you maybe typically do we have decorating the house for the holidays which is no small feat right? Like that’s a that’s can be a big job. Family parties so and and on this list identify how many family parties so you know that the in laws the outlaws list them all? So right we’ve got the extended family party, the in laws party that outlaws parties, do do lights on the house, you list that if that’s something that you typically do, attending a New Year’s Eve party is that something that typically happens? neighbor gifts Is that something that typically happens? Making neighbor gifts, if you’re if you’re one of those that does that, I don’t do that, but my husband does that. So that’s something I have to plan for. Because, you know, I do have to be involved at some level, although he does the heavy lifting on that. And that’s something he really enjoys. So it’s, it’s awesome. Hosting, hosting a party or hosting, you know, say a Christmas Day dinner or Christmas Eve dinner, or a Hanukkah dinner. Making candy and cookies, having a game night having multiple game nights having a movie night. So hopefully that gives you some ideas. You might have a you might have an even longer list than that, but I want you to take the time and make the list and then again, use the freebie to help you with that list.
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:33
Okay, so third, as you look at the list, I want you to identify your feelings right now as you listen to me. Go through the list, you might have started to feel a little overwhelmed. Maybe you felt a little excited. But as you look at your own list, I really want you to connect with your feelings. So do you start to feel some overwhelm? Some, you know, a little bit of stress, or anxiety? Or do you feel excitement? Do you start to feel, you know, kind of that holiday spirit? Do you feel a little bit of both, that certainly can be the case. Okay, so now, once you’ve done that, I want you to go through each item on the list. And I want you to add a plus sign next to the activity, if it’s something that you enjoy, and want to include this year, so we’re just talking about 2019. And then a negative sign, if it’s an activity that you do not enjoy, and do not want to include this year, and we’re just talking about this year only. Okay? So I want you to add two plus signs, if it’s a definite yes. And two subtraction signs or negative signs, if it’s a definite No.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:08
And that’s all about nuance here, I want you to add a plus sign and a negative sign, which means you don’t want to attend, but you probably need to. So right, this might be your husband’s company party. Right, it’s like you don’t know anyone, you definitely don’t want to attend. But you probably need to, right. So that would be an example in that category. So again, we’re only talking about this year, so you can totally change your mind next year, nothing is set in stone. And you may even change your mind after you go through the list this year. But we just got to start filtering the list somewhere. And so now I want you to to take the time, and do that for each item on the list.
Dr. Melissa Smith 22:03
Okay, so then, after you’ve done that, the fourth thing I want you to do is that for each of the negatives, or the double negatives for sure. The question is, can you eliminate these from your holiday plans? Without the earth spinning off of its axis? So that’s the challenge. Can you do that. And this is really where you want to examine your stories, because your stories in your head are going to hit you like a freight train. And these might be some of what the stories in your head might sound like, Mom would be so disappointed. My husband would never forgive me. My child would never recover. If I weren’t on the front row with a smile plastered on my face. I’m sure there’s lots more stories, maybe you have some really good stories in your head. So my question to you as you have these stories, is really are these stories true? Are these stories accurate? And then who do you need to talk to in order to check out your stories? So do you need to check in with your spouse? Do you need to check in with your mom? Do you need to check in with your kid? Oh, do you need to check in with your therapist? Maybe you need to check in with a good friend, someone who can provide some reality testing for you.
Dr. Melissa Smith 23:43
Okay, you might also need to negotiate. Right? Because if you’re like most of us during the holiday season, there’s just too many obligations. So here are some examples of negotiation. So I don’t think I can make it to both holiday parties. So this would be the example of two company parties. I don’t think I can make it to both holiday parties. Which one would you prefer to have me attend with you? And I have done that with my husband before and it worked really well. And then he could he could figure out like which one was really the higher value holiday party for me to attend with him and it worked out really well.
Dr. Melissa Smith 24:53
So, fifth, so fifth step I want you to work on is you and your partner or spouse make two lists together. So this is where you kind of join back up and make two lists together. And so the first list is a will list. So, W-I-L-L list. And so this is where you would include the items you are retaining from your big list. So this you know, includes your answer from step one of what kind of holiday Do we want here. So for instance, you may have new items added to your will list such as you know, we’ve decided we want to go snowshoeing on Christmas Eve, or we’re going to stay in our PJs all all day during the holiday, or we’ve decided that we want to serve in our local care facility at some point during the holiday season. So, you know, you might add something new to your will list based on your conversation about what kind of holiday do we want. And then of course, feel free to include other items consistent with the kind of holiday you want here. So for example, maybe you add to that list, I will enjoy time with my kids, I will play with abandon, that would be nice. I will serve with my family. So this is where you set your intention. And be very clear about those intentions. So that is what your will list is for. And I think doing that as a couple can be really valuable. And you can even do that as a family that can be really helpful. As well, I would say start it as a couple and then take it to the family. So you avoid mutiny that that might be useful. And then the second list that you do together as a couple is your won’t list. So W-O-N-contraction-T so this list should include the items that you crossed off the big list.
Dr. Melissa Smith 27:08
Okay, so feel free to include other items on this list such as I won’t feel guilty, I won’t get into others judgments. I won’t worry what others think of me, that’s a big one for a lot of us, I won’t fret, and I won’t check work email. So especially for those of you who may be are entrepreneurs or who run your own business, you might have to set some very clear boundaries for yourself as it relates to work. So like, like the example that I included, I won’t check work email, or I won’t, I won’t call in to the office and check or I won’t go in for a morning to work those sorts of boundaries could be really helpful as you consider your want list. So of course these lists include items you won’t do, and items you will do. And remember that these are just for this year, you can always reinstate these items next year if you want to. And that’s that’s the cool thing about this is it’s it changes every year you change every year, your family changes every year and so you know it, it becomes fluid and you can make it work for your family.
Dr. Melissa Smith 28:28
Okay, so I hope that this podcast has been helpful for you. For you know, first of all, realizing that you do have a choice to opt out of stress during the holiday season, it can feel kind of radical to step out of the holiday, stressful season. But it is I mean that that can be the greatest gift that you give not only to yourself, but also to your family. And so I really hope that you will consider giving that gift to yourself and to your family this year. And I really hope that you will take the time to head on over to the show notes and download the freebie because this freebies really very helpful for you for slowing down and reflecting on the kind of holiday season that you want. And it will walk you through this process to help you opt out of stress this holiday season.
Dr. Melissa Smith 29:30
So make sure you head on over to my website to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode, including how you can get your hands on this freebie. And so that is at www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-31 one more time that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-31, or 31. So that’s a great, it’s a great freebie. Also on the show notes, I will include a link to our embodied living book recommendation Gift Guide. So I don’t know that I’ve never mentioned this, but our psychological clinic balance, health and healing, we have an awesome Facebook group. It’s called embodied living. So if you ever want to check that out, you can just search for embodied living. But every holiday season we do a gift guide. And this year, we’re doing our favorite book recommendations. And so I will include a link to our book recommendations gift guide, so you can check that out as well on the show notes. So anyway, I hope that you have a lovely holiday season that it is full of peace and joy, and that it is stress free for you and that it is really about surrounding yourself with those you love. And those you value. So I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work in love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
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