There’s a lot to be dealing with during this festive period – freezing cold weather, strike action, the rising cost of living, as well as getting ready for Christmas with presents to buy and wrap, food to shop for, gatherings to go to, work to squeeze in before the break plus everyday life to wrangle too! So it’s not surprising it all gets a bit much. But how we can ease the pressure at this time of year when you feel the weight of tradition, of expectation from yourself as well as from other people?
In this episode I share:
Pressing Pause ep 124 Easing the pressure at this time of year
Welcome to Pressing Pause, I’m your host, Gabrielle Treanor, a coach, writer, introvert and sensitive soul with an inclination to ponder over the stuff of life. Join me as I explore how we can create, find and feel more calm, ease and joy in our daily lives.
Before we get into the episode I wanted to say thank you for listening to Pressing Pause this year. There are many more podcasts available now than when I started this podcast so I appreciate that you choose to listen to me for a little of your valuable time. And if you enjoy Pressing Pause it would be an amazing Christmas present if you would leave a rating or review on iTunes. I genuinely do a happy dance every time I get one and, more importantly, it helps other people who could find the podcast useful to find it in the first place. So, thank you very much in advance.
Now, on with the episode.
Welcome to episode 124. We’re getting to a point in the year when it can feel like it’s all getting a bit much. Here in the UK it’s cold, really cold, and because of snowfall (not even that much in some places) transport grinds to a halt. Then you’ve got the general stress and anxiety around the rising cost of living, there’s lots of strike action taking place, Christmas is days away so there’s presents to buy and wrap, food to shop for, gatherings to go to, work to squeeze in before the Christmas break plus everyday life to wrangle as well!
All in all, it’s a lot. If you’re feeling this, I hear you. And you are not alone. Even if it seems like other people have it all together, they’re organised, they’re full of festive spirit and look like they’re taking it all in their stride, that may not actually be the case. Or they have support you can’t see that makes it possible. It may seem like it, it may look like it, you may get that impression, but that’s all it is, you don’t actually know for a fact what’s going on inside their brains, inside their nervous system, inside their homes.
Plus, however anyone else is or is not coping with this time of year doesn’t actually have any bearing on you. We don’t need to compare, there isn’t anything to be gained by it, even if we think there is, that’s a myth. How someone else goes about their life doesn’t make your life any better or worse, their life is theirs, your life is yours. You are whole and complete, your worth, who you are, isn’t improved or diminished by how other people are, even though that’s what we’ve been led to believe.
Just think about it for a moment. If you haven’t bought your Christmas presents yet and someone else has everything bought and wrapped already, does that change who you are, your integrity, your worth? It may feel like they’re better than you, that they’re more organised, and that you’re slow or slapdash or behind but that’s a story you’re telling yourself, in part because it’s one you’ve been fed growing up and by beautiful images on Instagram and Christmas countdown planners in magazines, and how your mum went about things and numerous other ways.
But it IS a story. Because the fact is you have presents to buy, another person hasn’t. Attaching moral value to one person’s actions isn’t helpful and doesn’t change the facts of the situation. Yes, telling yourself you’re behind and disorganised compared to someone else could spur you into action and at the same time suck the joy out of choosing gifts for your loved ones and giving you feelings of shame and self-recrimination.
We can feel this pressure in all kinds of ways on any given day but especially at this time of year. We do things because we think we ought to, because that’s what other people are doing, or have done already, or expect us to, or we think they’re doing it or we think they expect us to, and because we have our own expectations of ourselves. We think we should do a or b and if we don’t that says something bad about us – that we’re lazy or boring or rubbish or uncreative or some other deficiency.
Obviously we can feel under pressure at any time of the year but Christmas can heap on a whole pile of extra pressure as we want to make the most of the time off work, with family, to make sure we are jolly and bright and that everyone is having a wonderful Christmas time. There’s nothing wrong with such a goal but when striving for it makes you feel tense and stressed and drains the fun out of this season that’s a sign there’s something amiss.
You’re not superwoman and you don’t have to try to be. You’re not failing and you’re not a failure if you acknowledge you can’t do everything and you can’t please everyone all the time (spoiler alert: that’s never possible because you can’t control how other people feel however much you wish you could).
A useful analogy is to think of all the different elements in your life, all the things on your list as balls you’re juggling – which ones are glass and will shatter if you drop them? And which are actually plastic, if you drop them, they won’t break?
If you’re thinking, well, they’re all made of glass, I can’t put down any or they’ll smash, that would suggest there’s some more thought that needs to go into really looking at what and how much you’re taking responsibility for in your life, and if all of it really is your responsibility.
Now you may want to keep all the balls in the air, you may think or feel that you should keep all the balls in the air but try to identify which you could drop for the moment and they won’t shatter. You’re not saying you won’t pick them up again later, but right now, with everything you have to juggle you’re setting them down. So it could be there’s a project at work which is a glass ball you really can’t drop, but going to a work Christmas party is a plastic ball you can choose to put down, to not attend, and the world won’t end. Or going to your little one’s school nativity is a precious glass ball you have zero intention of dropping but making cakes from scratch to sell at the Christmas fair is a plastic ball you’re dropping in favour of buying readymade.
There are times, or maybe it feels like all the time to you, when we can’t fit everything in, when we can’t do it all, and we have to set some things down for a while or let them go completely. Not because you’re inadequate or incapable or a failure but because you’re human.
When you’re thinking you have to do something, you should, you ought to, you need to and it’s feeling stressful and weighty, ask yourself where is that pressure coming from? Is it from someone else and do you know for certain that’s their expectation or have you made an assumption? If they have explicitly expressed their expectation, is it reasonable? Does that mean you have to meet it or, actually, is this an opportunity for you to express your boundary?
And if you think it’s a pressure you’re putting on yourself, it’s your own expectation first check that really is the case. Often we’ve taken on a belief so deeply that we think it’s our own until we really question it and discover it was given to us long ago. If it truly is your own expectation then what is the resulting reward, what is the benefit to you from meeting your own expectation?
Christmas is a time when we can find ourselves ditching our own desires, our own needs, our boundaries because we feel pressure to follow tradition, to make everyone else happy, to keep up with other people and to do what’s expected. But if that leads to you feeling stressed, anxious, spread thin, worn out and resentful there’s something out of kilter here. You wouldn’t want someone you dearly like and love to feel like that, you’d want them to ease the pressure, so apply that same thinking, that same care and kindness to yourself too.
This is the last podcast episode of the year, I will return with new episodes at some point in 2023, I don’t know when yet because I’m taking the pressure off myself to make that decision!
And if you’re feeling some pressure and overwhelm around this Christmas I have lots more to help you navigate the festive season with less stress and more joy in my online course, Calmer Christmas. It’s self-paced and you get instant access the moment you sign up which means you can read or listen to it as quickly or as slowly as you choose, it’s completely up to you. The course is packed with guidance and practical actions so that you can lower your overwhelm, soothe your stressed nerves, feel calmer and more in control and, crucially, enjoy the festive season. The course is available at gabrielletreanor.com/courses and you get the complete course the moment you sign up.
Thank you for listening to Pressing Pause, this year and all the years I have been hosting this podcast, I’m delighted you are here with me. As always you can find details of what I shared in this episode in the show notes at gabrielletreanor.com/podcast. And if you’d like to share your thoughts on this podcast or anything else feel free to drop me a line at [email protected]
Thanks again for listening, I hope you have a nourishing, calm and joyful Christmas and I’ll be back next year!
Throughout this website and my work when I refer to women I include people identifying as women.
If you have, or think you may have, a mental health problem that requires professional diagnosis or treatment, please consult a mental health care professional and your GP.
You can also talk to the people at Mind on 0300 123 3393 or SANE on 0300 304 7000 or Samaritans on 116 123.
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