Pressing Pause Podcast episode 33 When you’re trying to make everyone happy at Christmas
Welcome to Pressing Pause, the podcast for overthinkers.
I’m Gabrielle Treanor and I’m here to share with you ideas, inspiration and actions to empower you to spend less time overthinking and worrying and more time enjoying your life.
Hello and welcome to episode 33. Back in episode 25 when I talked about giving yourself permission I said that it’s a big topic and one I would keep coming back to. Well, in today’s episode I’m looking at the subject of permission again, this time with how it relates to what may be the ultimate people-pleasing event of the year, Christmas.
Now, why am I talking about Christmas when it’s still weeks away? Because it’s by preparing for it ahead of time, looking at what the challenges are and starting to explore how to deal with them, that you can make Christmas less stressful and actually enjoy it more. If Christmas stresses you out, pushing thoughts of it away adds to the overwhelm rather than eases it.
Now, on one hand Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, to quote Andy Williams. There are days off work, you spend time with friends and family, there are decorations and presents, food and drink, old movies and Christmas specials on the TV. But on the other hand Christmas can also feel pretty stressful for a lot of people too. Honouring family traditions, taking everyone’s needs into account, travelling, the shopping, the decorating, the cooking and the juggling of diaries, and managing your own and others’ expectations can create tension and overwhelm, and reduce your enjoyment of the festive season significantly. It’s not that you don’t want to enjoy Christmas, it’s not that you want to be all bah-humbug about it, but trying to juggle all the things and keep everyone happy can just be a bit more than you can cope with.
And this is where permission comes in. In your quest to have a wonderful Christmas and make sure everyone’s happy and having a good time you can feel like you don’t have permission to do what you want or need to do. Christmas can be tied up in a lot of tradition, this is how it’s always been done and so the expectation is that this is how it will always be done. I’m all for traditions but they do need to add to a celebration rather than detract from it. As time passes, families evolve, children arrive and grow up, a family gains new members or we lose loved ones, traditions can be a comfort but they can also be restrictive. Feeling like you don’t have permission to do things differently, to break with tradition and mix things up a little, can be a huge source of stress within families at Christmas and increase the pressure you feel at this time of year to make everyone happy.
The issue of money and how much you spend on presents or going to festive events or parties can be another permission pressure point. Within a family or group of friends there will be different levels of financial affluence or hardship and if you have a tight budget it’s pretty stressful to feel like you have to spend more than you’re able to or are comfortable with. Money is a topic that isn’t talked about that openly, not in the UK at least, so it can feel like you’re simply not allowed to suggest adapting present buying or socialising to work with different budgets.
As I said at the start of this episode, Christmas can be a wonderful time of the year. But it isn’t for everyone. For some it can be incredibly challenging to feel jolly and happy and they really don’t wish it could be Christmas every day. With all the cheery Christmas messaging at this time of year it can feel like you’re simply not allowed to feel sad or lonely or tired or anxious. So called negative feelings are not a part of the festive season, only positivity and happiness are welcome here. So if you’re going through a difficult time, if you’re missing a loved one, if Christmas stirs up painful memories or if you’re simply feeling worn out by life it can feel like those feelings aren’t permitted, there must be something wrong with you that you aren’t as happy as everyone else and you should hide your true feelings.
So what can you do when you feel like you don’t have permission to feel what you’re feeling, to break with tradition and do things differently, to adapt and change Christmas to work for you? What can you do when you feel like making sure that everyone else is happy is more important than how you feel?
Well, for a start, how you feel does matter, your needs matter just as much as everyone else’s. This isn’t about putting yourself above everyone else, doing whatever you like and screw everyone else. It’s about factoring in what’s important to you and how you can enjoy Christmas along with your loved ones.
There is a chance that your family or friends may want to change things up at Christmas too but, just like you, haven’t mentioned it because they didn’t feel they could. Perhaps your friends are secretly wishing that you’d all drop buying presents for each other and just go out for drinks instead. Maybe your mum would love to go out for Christmas lunch but feels like the family expect her to cook a turkey with all the trimmings so she doesn’t feel like she can suggest it. So what you may be wanting to change about Christmas could be what others want too! Someone needs to take the first step to suggest a change and while it may not be met with the response you’re hoping for it, you won’t know unless you try.
Picking what feels like a calm, relaxed time to start this conversation, suggesting how you see things working and having solutions at the ready for any problems you can imagine cropping up, can help reduce any fears of confrontation. You don’t need to go into lengthy explanations or apologise profusely for making your suggestions. As with any difficult conversation, listening to the other person (really listening and not just waiting for your chance to speak again), keeping an even volume and tone of voice, and owning your opinions by using I as you talk can help the discussion run more smoothly. And if you feel like things are escalating and tempers are beginning to flare, taking a break from the conversation and letting everyone cool down is probably a good idea. That doesn’t mean that you have to give up on the discussion, just revisit it at a later date when everyone’s had time to think and you can talk more calmly again.
Remember that wanting to do things differently, being ready for change or feeling however it is you feel doesn’t make you wrong. If someone disagrees with you, or you disagree with them, that doesn’t make either of you wrong. You have different views, you can respect your differing opinions and work on finding a compromise that suits you both.
Your needs, your opinion and your feelings matter. You are allowed to have needs and opinions and feelings whatever time of year, even at Christmas. Just because Christmas has always been done this way or you’ve always done things in that way doesn’t mean that you’re wrong or selfish or uncaring because you’d like to do things differently. The fact that you’re worried about being any of those things, that you’re overthinking what your family or friends will think or say, that you want to make everyone happy, shows just how unselfish and how caring you are.
While you’re taking everyone else’s needs and feelings into account be kind to yourself. Recognise what you’re struggling with and don’t beat yourself up about it. Give yourself a break and treat yourself as you would if it was your best friend feeling like this. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t tell her that she’s not allowed to suggest doing something different this Christmas, that she shouldn’t feel sad or upset or tired, that her needs don’t matter and that she has to do whatever everyone else wants even if it feels wrong for her. You wouldn’t treat her so meanly so don’t be so unkind to yourself.
You are allowed to feel however you’re feeling, at Christmas, and at any other time of the year. If you’re feeling lonely or exhausted or anxious or sad take care of yourself, talk to someone who will support you.
You are allowed to make changes to Christmas if the way things have always been done is no longer working for you. Traditions only become traditions over time, they all start as a brand new idea to begin with so perhaps the change you’re suggesting will become a beloved tradition in a few years’ time?
You are allowed to factor in your needs, alongside everyone else’s, at Christmas. You are allowed to create a Christmas that works for you and that you can enjoy.
If you want to work through the challenges of the festive season, focus on the practical action you can take and find support in a safe environment where you can feel heard, let off steam and celebrate the wins, if you want to feel less stress and overwhelm, and more calm and joy this Christmas, my Coping with Christmas course is for you.
We won’t shy away from the difficulties the festive season can bring, the tension, and sadness, and we'll work through them together. We'll bring back the fun, exploring ways to create the relaxed, calm, joy-filled Christmas that you want in ways that work for you. And as support is so vital at this time of year the private course Facebook group will stay open and active up until Christmas.
Your Christmases may usually be full of family drama, trying to please everyone, juggle schedules and live up to your own, and others’, expectations but this year can be different. Go to gabrielletreanor.com/courses to find out more about Coping with Christmas and the early bird special offer ends this coming Friday 16th November.
You can cope with Christmas, and enjoy it more too, and I’m here to help you do exactly that. You can also find the link to Coping with Christmas in the show notes for this episode at gabrielletreanor.com/podcast.
Thanks for listening, until next time, lovely people.