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Holiday Stress? Give Yourself a Gift
Susan Emery

My boss frequently uses the expression “Be a duck.  Let it roll off your back, “ to make sure thefrequent change, intense pressures, and weighted emotions that come at our team daily don’t throw off our ability to perform or distract from our priorities.  This is a good reminder to help keep those external stressors from disrupting what I need to get done, but often it doesn’t help me with my biggest stress source – myself.

Most of the pressure, fear, and stress I experience is actually internally generated.  My expectations of myself drive a kind of pressure much more intense than any outside stressors and my boss’s favorite duck mantra doesn’t help with them. How do you let it roll off your back when it’s coming from inside your head and heart?

For me, holiday stress is this kind of self-generated pressure. The idea that because I did it previously (beautiful packages with curled ribbons for all!), I have to achieve (or over-achieve) with some new delight is a huge source of internal pressure for me.  The curse of traditions, the ongoing attempt to recapture the “joy” of the holidays past, the fear that I’m going to disappoint a loved one.

  • Will my nephews care if their gifts aren’t wrapped perfectly?  Or at all?
  • Will my sisters be disappointed if I don’t shop for them at all?
  • How will I find meaningful gifts, on a set budget, with a hard deadline?

To reduce holiday stress, since the duck strategy doesn’t work for these internal pressures, I have started to allow myself to accept each holiday as a unique experience, to accept there is no perfect holiday, wrapping job, or present and no need to top last year. I now allow myself to focus on the parts of the traditions that I want to and can experience this year.  

So give yourself a gift.  Take a deep breath, exhale slowly and with that exhale allow all of these fears, worries, and concerns be released into the December air.  Let yourself off the hook. Release yourself from the stress and obligations of your own demands.

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