720.370.1800 - Intl 844.331.1993
Healthy Boundaries: The Holiday Edition

Healthy Boundaries: The Holiday Edition

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Healthy Boundaries = Happy Holidays

So many wonderful things are possible during the holidays: Quiet time to expand our souls, the chance to embrace generosity and good will, opportunities to enjoy the warmth of our families and friends, and be grateful for the wonderful relationships in our lives.

But many people suffer through this season, becoming increasingly frazzled, resentful, and hurt with every new disappointing interaction, extra commitment, and unrealistic expectation put on them. (And often, feeling most hurt and put-upon by the people who should love them the best). I’ve been a marriage and family therapist for a loooong time now, and there is one thing I consistently see in people who do NOT have a good time over the holidays: Bad boundaries.

When Boundaries Are a Problem Over The Holidays

  • When Boundaries Are Too Soft: When people are too passive and don’t speak up about their needs and feelings, they often wind up feeling put-upon, mistreated or disrespected by family members, children, friends or partners, and resentments brew. 
  • When Boundaries Are Too Hard: When people are too rigid and inflexible with their boundaries, they often feel tense, stressed out, and irritable by all the assaults to their preferences that this season can fling. Furthermore, friends and family members may feel put-upon, mistreated or disrespected by them — and it creates unnecessary conflict.
  • When Boundaries Are Not Considered: When people aren’t self-aware and clear about their own limits and struggle to hold healthy boundaries with themselves, they overcommit time and energy, have unrealistic expectations of themselves, over-indulge in unhealthy ways, and are prone to overspending. This leaving them feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, exhausted, and emotionally and financially depleted by the time New Year’s rolls around. Not fun at all.

Because these kinds of boundary problems are so common (and so darn avoidable, with advance planning) I thought I’d put together some holiday-specific boundary advice for you.

Listen, and learn specific, actionable tips and tools that you can use to set healthy limits with your self and others, and also be selectively flexible.

I sincerely hope that it helps you stay in a good place over the next month, and enhance all the wonderful moments that this season has to offer.

All the best to YOU this holiday season…

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast

Healthy Boundaries: The Holiday Edition

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Enjoy the Podcast?

Please rate and review the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

iTunes

Stitcher

Google Play

What is Self Love?

What is Self Love?

Teena Evert, M.A., LAC, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist and certified coach with Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She specializes in wholehearted living and empowered relationships. She can help you connect with your true self, and cultivate thriving relationships with others.

Understanding Self-Love

What is self-love? Why is self-love so important? The importance of self-love cannot be overstated. “Self Love” refers to our ability to hold ourselves in esteem and have confidence in our worth, no matter what happens around us.

Allow me to give you an example of the power of self-love, and how the lack of self-love can negatively impact you.

Lack of Self-Love

Does this sound familiar?

You feel like angry gremlins are coming at you, you’re exhausted from hauling the weight of the world on your shoulders, you’ve got this imaginary ball and chain locked around your ankles, and if that isn’t enough you’re at your wits end from constantly dodging bullets that are aimed right at your head and chest!

The truth is, you may not even actually be emotionally attacked or dragged down. But when you’re feeling vulnerable or insecure, it can seem that way. These are all distortions we can experience when our self-love tank is running on empty and our self-hate tank is topped off and running on full throttle.

The Importance of Self-Love

Did you know that the level of our self-love affects every aspect of our life?

The way we feel about ourselves impacts our relationships, our careers, how much money we make, how happy we truly are, and how people perceive us.

To determine your level of self-love, here’s a quick “self-love” quiz:

  • Do you believe that it is your job to define your own worth and lovability and no one else’s job, OR do you believe your self-worth is based on how people feel about you?
  • When you make a mistake are you able be compassionate with yourself and learn from the situation, OR do you beat yourself up?
  • Do you feel guilty for taking care of yourself, OR do you do practice self-care on a regular daily basis?

How to Practice Self-Love

Your self-love will increase if you begin to see who you really are, rather than seeing yourself through all the false beliefs and distortions. As adults, we need to take responsibility for knowing who we really are. When we are able to embrace this responsibility, then we know we are connected to our authentic or truest self. At the very essence of who we really are is a deep reservoir for our capacity to love, experience joy and compassion.

Reminding yourself that you are a good person, worthy of love and respect, will help you swat away the false beliefs telling you otherwise.

Here are 3 positive affirmations for self-love, to help guide you towards expressing your true authentic self

  1. “I don’t allow other people to define who I am.”
  2. “The worth of my true authentic self is intact, unchanging, and nothing can change it and nothing I do can take it away from me.”
  3. “My self-worth is not based on my performance or how others think of me.” (Otherwise, your self-worth will fluctuate based on those events.) 

Why Self-Love is So Important

Many of the issues that people struggle with, such as depression, anxiety, and relationship issues are really symptoms of a lack of self-love and disconnection from their true authentic self. When people feel insecure, they can worry, feel sad, or even lash out. In contrast when you feel confident and embracing of the real you, those bad feelings are less likely to arise.

Examples of Self-Love

Be kind to yourself as you learn to apply these principles of self-love into your daily living.

Believe in yourself as you open your heart to the magnificence of who you truly are.

Allow yourself to be curious as you learn to raise the level of joy in your tank of self-love.

A powerful form of self-love can even be reaching out for support when you need it. When you work with an experienced therapist or life coach, you can understand the roots of self-worth issues, and begin building yourself up from the inside out. When you feel good about yourself, you’ll feel not just happier but more empowered in your life and your relationships. 

I believe you deserve that, and I hope that you do too.


Warmly,

Teena Evert, M.A., LPC, LAC, LMFT

The Path of Personal Growth: Self Discovery, and Self Acceptance

The Path of Personal Growth: Self Discovery, and Self Acceptance

Who are you, really?

Are you the person you feel like you are?

Are you the person that others see?

Is the real you partially unknown, even to yourself?

Heady questions, I know, but worth considering if your goal is to become a happier, healthier, fully self-actualized person. Many of our life coaching and therapy clients begin their journey with us in a place of frustration. They’re here because they want something more for themselves and their lives, but can’t even get a handle on what “the problem” is that they need to address. They just know that they don’t feel good, and they don’t like the results they’re getting. They’re often asking themselves questions like these: (Can you relate?)

“Why can’t I follow through with the things I know I should do?”

“Why do these things keep happening to me?”

Why can’t I get over my Ex?

“Why can’t I be more organized and on top of things?”

“What am I doing that’ contributing to the issues in my relationship?”

“Why can’t I just be happy with myself and my life?”

“Why do I keep falling into these types of relationships?”

“Why do I get so stressed out?”

“Why do I react this way?”

“Why do people treat me this way?”

Why can’t I get ahead in my career?”

“Why am I always worried about something?”

The Core of Motivation: Frustration + Hope

We could go on and on with the questions. However, at the core of all of these questions is the essence of motivation: frustration + hope. People who ask these questions of themselves, and others, are trying to crack into understanding “the problem” because they hope that self-awareness will then allow them to overcome it. They’re saying, “I’m frustrated wth the results I’m getting, but I know I can be happier, do more, have more satisfying relationships, and get better results from myself and my life — just show me how.”

These “questioners” are so smart, insightful, and correct: Understanding why they do what they do — consciously or subconsciously — is often the very first step in breaking old patterns and launching new ones. If you don’t know what you’re doing that’s creating bad outcomes, how can you ever fix it?

That’s why the first step in the personal growth process is self-discovery. This involves figuring out who you are (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and then using that knowledge to build on your strengths — and even develop new strengths. When we know what we’re doing that’s getting in our own way, then we become empowered to cultivate the positive aspects of ourselves that can help us overcome our limitations, as well as try out the new skills and strategies that will get us better results in every area of life.

What Self Awareness Looks Like, In Action: An Easter Story

Let me give you a very simple (silly, even) example of what I’m talking about: At the time I’m writing this article, it’s shortly after Easter. Like many kind and loving Easter-celebrating parents, since Sunday I’ve been secretly eating my child’s Easter candy while he’s away at school and unable to defend his stash from my chocolate-smeared fingers.

Of course, this is a bad idea for a number of reasons: Aside from making me feel guilty, at my age and activity level I really don’t need to be eating an extra 500 junk-calories a day. I might as well just glue Almond M&M’s and Reece’s cups directly to my thighs, as that would create about the same effect on my body as eating them. Yet every time I walk through the kitchen, there’s that darn Easter basket… with the open bag of candy… uuuuhhhhh. Before I know it I have a mouth full of chocolate, and as I’m giving myself a stern talking to about why I shouldn’t be doing this, I still reach for another handful. What to do?

Know Thyself, and Prosper

One thing I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I have a terrible memory. Really. While I aspire to be a super-together person who gets things done, one of the things I need to work around in order to achieve this is my memory.

When I first realized I was different from other people in this way, I felt bad about it. Who wants to be the spacy, forgetful person, right? I would be endlessly frustrated with myself for forgetting appointments, losing things, getting side-tracked, being late to places. If I wasn’t looking at it, I’d forget it existed. I annoyed myself as much as I annoyed others.

I didn’t want this to be true about myself, so when I was younger I avoided the truth. I’d always have an excuse for being late or losing something. Alternatively, I’d just hate myself and beat myself up about being so forgetful. (As if that would help).

But the interesting thing is that as soon as I accepted that I don’t have a very good memory, and that this is just part of who I am — without judging myself for it — I was then empowered to do something constructive with my affliction instead. (This really does relate to Easter candy-stealing. We’ll get there.)

Self Acceptance = Empowerment

Many people believe that “self-acceptance” means settling for mediocrity in themselves. They believe that if they keep beating themselves up and hating themselves for their shortcomings it will somehow encourage them to improve. The opposite is true. Self-awareness and compassionate self-acceptance actually leads to humility, personal responsibility… and consequently, more useful options.

So, for example, when I let go of the delusion that I could rely on my memory to keep track of myself, I had to find new tools if I wanted to have a good life.

I now carry a planner / notebook with me everywhere (here’s my latest personal-organizational tool crush), and if something is said that I need to remember I immediately write it down. On the rare occasions I am notebook-less and something comes up I know I need to remember, I will send an email to myself with my phone.  If I need to take something with me somewhere, I will literally place it next to the door (immediately, while I’m thinking about it) so I’ll see it on my way out. If I need to remember that I need to be somewhere at a certain time, I must set a timer to remind me when it’s time to go. And if I put my keys anywhere else besides on the key hook on my kitchen wall, I might as well have mailed them General Delivery to Argentina. I’ll never see them again. I have about 87 more specific strategies that I use each and every day to keep myself on track, but I won’t bore you with all of them.

BUT, you know what? Because of my heavy reliance on all these compensatory strategies… I actually am a super-together person who gets things done. I’m also pleased to report that I’m no longer embarrassed by this “shortcoming” either. In fact, because of learning about myself, and embracing who and what I am, I’ve actually learned how to turn this quirk of mine into a strength.

Back to the Easter candy: So here we are, in my kitchen, as I’m trying really hard to stay away from my kid’s Easter candy. I run through my self-redirection strategies to see if any of them will work: “I could eat an apple.” “I could drink some water.” “I could imagine my thighs getting lumpy and gross.” Yeah, no. I still wanted the chocolate.

Then, remembering my forgetfulness superpower, I realized that If I put my kid’s Easter basket on top of the refrigerator where I can’t see it, I would forget it was even there. So I did that, and then left the room… and here it is like five hours later and I have not even thought about the candy once until I sat down to start writing this post for you. Super. Power.

I know this is a simple example about one small frustration. However, this is also really what self-awareness looks like in action. Like you, I have many things about me that are true (some strengths, and some liabilities), and I use this knowledge and assorted “hacks” every day to help me be my best self, and get better results in my work, my relationships, and life. I want the same for you.

How to Uncover Your True Self, and Use Your Self-Awareness to Grow

Here’s my point: YOU also have superpowers. You have things that are true about you that you either may not fully know about yet, or that you may know about but want to be different. There may be things that you do without understanding why you do them. You may have automatic reactions to certain situations, and not even know why.

You may feel one way about yourself, but seem totally different to others. (You’d be amazed at how many clients I have who feel so badly about themselves, and yet who are objectively lovely people in every way — beloved both by me and others in their lives.) You may be putting things out in your relationships that others react to, without even being aware of it.

Worst yet, you may judge yourself harshly for the quirks you have, rather than learning how to embrace them, work with them, and even use them to your advantage.

Knowing who you really are, and understanding yourself, is the key to personal development. When you compassionately understand and accept yourself for who you are, all of a sudden you have the chance to develop new strategies and use your strengths to help you balance out your weak spots, in order to help you get the results you want.

If you would like to have a better understanding of yourself so that you have the opportunity to learn and grow, here are some tools to help you get started on this journey of self-discovery:

Keep Asking Those Questions… But Answer Them Too.

We started this post together with a list of “Why” questions that many people ask about themselves. I’ll say to you what I invariably say to my counseling or life coaching clients sooner or later, when they’re trying to figure out the answers to these self-mysteries: “Well, why? What’s your best guess?”

And you know what? When given time, space and opportunity to reflect… they always have remarkable insight into themselves. YOU can do this too. If you have a “why” question about yourself, grab a journal and write down the answer.

If you don’t “know” the answer, write down the possible possibilities. I bet you’ll have at least a few nuggets of useful truth fall out of your head for your trouble.

Get Feedback From Others

There does come a point when self-reflection has limits.

For example, it’s really, really hard to identify something about yourself that legitimately lies outside of your awareness. It’s hard to know what we don’t know, you know? When it comes to deeper self-discovery, it’s essential to have feedback. Here are some possibilities:

Friends: Do you have any friends or family members who don’t just know you really well, but who are insightful and wise, and also brave enough to be straight with you? (In a compassionate, emotionally safe way?) If so, and if you’re ready for honest answers, it might be time to have a sit-down with them.

Challenge yourself to be vulnerable, and say, “You know, I’m not feeling good about this specific part of my life, and I wonder what you see that I might be doing here that are contributing to this situation?” If your friend is brave enough to say it (emotionally mature enough to make you feel safe and cared for while they do) and you’re open enough to receive it, these can be life-changing conversations.

[Caveat: This one only works with someone whose judgment you trust, who knows you well, and who cares about you. Don’t try this with just anyone!]

Counseling or Life Coaching: If you want to dig deeper, you might also establish a relationship with a good counselor or life coach who can help you see yourself more clearly. We are professional versions of the wise, caring, trustworthy and brave friends who will be straight with you, in an emotionally safe way.

A good counselor or coach will also have ways of helping you crack into your own truth, through knowing what questions to ask you, helping you make connections, and using their knowledge of psychology, development, systems and more to help you understand yourself.

An advantage of this approach is that a good counselor or life coach won’t just stop with the “Aha moment.” Self-awareness and insight is only useful if you have a follow-up, “Okay so now what do I do about this” conversation.

For example, my just knowing that my memory doesn’t work well is not particularly helpful to me. My strategies and workarounds are. You deserve the same type of action-oriented roadmap that will lead you forward, and enable you to take positive action to get better results.

Group Therapy: You’d be amazed at the speed and depth of information you can get about yourself from a good group therapy experience. There are different kinds of groups, and not all of them lead to the type of self-awareness we’re talking about here.

For example, support groups (the most common kind of group) are for people who are all having a similar experience and give them a chance to give and receive compassion and advice from each other. Some support groups are run by a therapist, and also offer an educational component as well as compassion and camaraderie.

Other groups are peer-led (meaning they don’t have a professional therapist mediating them) and are simply opportunities to share with caring others, who “get it.” [Side note: We do have an online breakup support group here at Growing Self, that is totally free. It’s a private peer-to-peer Facebook group — get in touch through Facebook to be added to the online breakup support group].

However, a process group is a type of group therapy that’s all about getting feedback, as well as support and encouragement from the group.

A good process group is led by a therapist who is able to ask you the kinds of questions that help you get clarity about yourself, and you’ll also be with other people who are talking about themselves in a similarly honest and authentic way. You’ll have the opportunity to share your feedback of others, for the purpose of their growth, and also receive honest, empowering feedback in an emotionally safe environment.

Especially if you are feeling frustrated by the results you’re getting in your relationships, a good group can be a marvelous way to shine a bright light on the blind spots that you may have. We do have a great process-oriented therapy group here at our practice in Denver. Click here to learn more about our Denver group therapy.

Assessments: Finally, an interesting, fun and often low-cost way to cultivate self-awareness is through assessments. These may take the form of online quizzes or tests. Or if you’re working with a professional therapist, they may have a variety of questionnaires and activities that you can do in order to “get under the hood,” and discover new things about yourself, your strengths, your growth opportunities, and your personality.

One assessment I really like is the VIA “Strengths and Virtues” Inventory. It was born from the strength-based Positive Psychology movement, which places emphasis on growth and change on what’s right about you, as opposed to what’s wrong. This assessment is free, and will show you what your top strengths are so that you can build on them.

Another assessment that might be useful for you is my “What’s Holding You Back” Quiz. This is a free tool that I have developed for you as part of my Happiness Class, and is available on this site. If you want to take it, start by watching the short video to learn about the domains it assesses, (towards the bottom of the page), and then you can take the quiz. Then come back to the video, and l’ll talk you through what your results mean about you.

I sincerely hope that the ideas I’ve shared today resonated with you, and gave you some direction for next steps on YOUR personal journey of growth and change. Do you have questions or comments about anything I’ve shared? Let me know in the comments below — I read them all!

 

xoxo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

 

 

Schedule Your Free Consultation Session

Meet in Person

Colorado • California • Texas

Meet Online

Across the US and Internationally

Five Holistic Ways To Get Out Of A Funk

Five Holistic Ways To Get Out Of A Funk

Holistic Wellness: A Multi-dimensional, “Whole Life” Approach

Today I saw someone post a meme on social media that said, “It literally feels like January 74th.” Can you relate? Why does it always feel like the month of January lasts so long? Yes, it literally is a longer month because it has 31 days in it, but it seriously feels like a lot longer than that to me. After reflecting on that, I thought of a host of various reasons including it being really dark this time of year which can make people tired and unmotivated and feel like hibernating. Also, the rush of the holidays is over, and we are now weeks into getting “back to the grind.”

Perhaps you’re in the group of people who were feeling super-motivated at the beginning of the year with a list of resolutions and hoping for a fresh start? And now the reality of it all is settling in and you’re feeling bad because you’ve gotten off track. [Want help with that? Read “How to stop sabotaging your goals.”] Whatever the reason, I’ve been hearing in my counseling and coaching sessions lately that people are really “in a funk” this time of year. So what can you do about it?

Holistic Therapy For Your Body, Mind and Spirit

I consider myself a holistic therapist. A lot of clients have asked me, “but what does ‘holistic therapy’ mean?” It means that I think that humans are very complex and that there are a variety of factors that contribute to our overall feelings of well-being. When my clients report to me that they’re feeling “stuck” or “unhappy” or “in a funk,” I think it’s important to explore all of the areas of his/her life that could be contributing.

Five Domains of Holistic Health

I organize these factors into 5 different categories of health: Mental, physical, spiritual, emotional and financial. I used to only consider the “mind-body-spirit” connection, but I’ve found that there’s plenty to explore in the realms of emotional health and financial health to warrant their own categories. Here’s an “inventory” of sorts; some questions to ponder to see where your life might be feeling out of balance, and possible areas for growth. Of course, there are several questions that could apply to several different categories, so taking care of one area of your life could greatly affect other areas. This inventory is not meant to be all-inclusive, but just a good start to figuring out where you might want to be focusing your energy to start feeling better.

Five Facets of Your Health to Explore When You’re Stuck in A Slump

  1. Mental Health – Am I stuck in negative thinking? Are my thoughts intrusive or overwhelming? Are there difficult things I’ve lived through that are unresolved, or keeping me stuck and unable to move forward? Am I depressed or anxious?
  2. Physical Health – When was my last physical? How is my nutrition? Do I get enough exercise? How is my sleep schedule? Are my sexual and physical needs getting met? Do I have an illness that is impacting things?
  3. Spiritual Health – Do I have a purpose? What are my values, and how much am I living a life that incorporates what I value? How much am I living a life in line with what my “soul” needs and wants? Do I feel like I have a way to access my soul or higher self?
  4. Emotional Health – How much time am I putting aside to tune into my own needs, wants, and emotions? When I have an emotion, do I connect with it or do I push it away? How are my relationships with others?
  5. Financial Health – How do I feel about the state of my finances? Do I feel like I’m in control of my money, or do I feel like my money is in control of me? (Note: Many times when I talk about financial issues with clients, it’s more about the emotional needs and values behind money versus managing the logistics themselves).

Next Steps: Regaining Your Forward Momentum

Ok, so now what to do if you go through this inventory and you find that some things are “out of whack?” What would you do if there was something that was off in your car? You’d do something to get it fixed! So depending on which area of your life needs attention, why not consider taking action to create positive changes in that area? You might consider reading some self-help books for guidance in creating an “action plan” for yourself. But in my experience, the best (and easiest) way to get going is to reach out for support.

Connection: The Last “Secret Ingredient” For Empowered Positive Change

For example, if your “five questions” answers revealed that you have some unfinished business with the past, a trusted therapist could help you move past the past. Maybe you’re having trouble accessing what you really want or value, or struggling to follow through with things. In that case, a supportive, motivating life coach could be helpful. If you’re needing direction with the optimal nutrition for your body, consider hiring a dietician. Want to be held more accountable for exercise? A good personal trainer, or making exercise plans with a reliable friend might help you. I think you get the picture.

A holistic approach like the one I’ve described helps you not just gain self-awareness about the parts of your life in which you could use some extra support, but provides an inspirational road-map towards change and growth. While the domains of health and wellness seem different, they’re connected together like the spokes of a wheel. And at the center of the wheel — and the center of a holistic life — is often connection. Humans are wired for connection, and we are meant to pool our resources. In my experience, finding strength in connection can help you do the things that seem overwhelming or unattainable on your own.

I hope exploring your empowerment in all these domains — Mind, Body, Soul, Emotions, Finances and Connection help you get unstuck, and start moving forward again.

Advice From a Life Coach: Holiday Stress Management Tips

Advice From a Life Coach: Holiday Stress Management Tips

Have Less Frazzle, and More Dazzle This Holiday Season.

Holidays. The annual, breathless whirl of go-go socializing, shopping, cooking, decorating, wrapping — all building up to the gleeful spree of giving and receiving. It’s the time of year when we come together, and try to make special, memorable moments with the most cherished people in our lives.

For many of us, it’s the most important time of the year. Special outfits are bought. Pictures are taken. Gatherings are organized. People are paying huge amounts of money to fly around through precarious weather, just to be together. If we’re lucky, we can also use this season as an opportunity to reconnect with the sacred heart of our spirituality. We don’t just want it to be pretty and fun, we want it to be meaningful.

Getting ready for the season of special togetherness is kind of a big deal. In order to orchestrate magical moments that echo in memory years after the event, we need to prepare. Because you know what your children don’t: Magical elves are not coming to your rescue. Making the holidays special is a lot of hard damn work.

So we decorate, we bake, we craft, we shop. We plan outings, and blow up air mattresses for the overflow of guests. We attempt to create meaningful moments. We take a deep breath and throw open our doors to family members who may ordinarily be held at arm’s length, (and for a good reason.)

We go into the season hopeful that we can make this holiday a good one. Maybe the best ever.

But with all the joy and fun comes unique challenges that need to be dealt with. How do you deal with family members that make you crazy? How do you manage all the flood of things that must be done? How do you make this time of year meaningful, and special, while not becoming a stressed-out wreck in the process?

Here are some tips to help make your holidays meaningful, less stressful, and more fun:

1) Choose Experiences Over Stuff.

Are visions of Pinterest-inspired sugarplums dancing in your head? Are you getting excited about ideas for interesting table settings as you flip through the Martha Stewart Magazine at the grocery check out? It’s hard not to — there are SO many fun, cute, special things that you could do for your friends and family.

Things to make. Things to buy. Things to give. Things, things, things.

Remember that, at the end of the day, no one remembers the things. It’s not about the decor. It’s not about the perfectly decorated cookies or the handmade ornaments. This isn’t a crafting contest. It’s about having the opportunity to show the people you care most about that you love them, in a way they can feel.

Memories are seared into our brains through emotionally heightened experiences, not stuff. People remember experiences, and the way that they feel while they’re having them. And that’s what you really want, right?

So instead of putting so much of your time and energy into physical objects, put your energy into doing things with people with the emphasis being on having a good time. The details don’t matter. Just laugh and be happy with people you love.

So put the glue gun down, abandon the idea that you’re going to make 36 hand-painted tins in which to gift your homemade peanut brittle, and get some sleep. When you wake up refreshed in the morning, start thinking about something fun you can do with your family that you will all enjoy. (Including you).

2. Tame Your Inner Perfectionist By Getting Clear About Your Priorities.

Here’s the deal: You only have so much energy, and it’s not like life stops during the holidays. We still have to show up to work on time, appropriately dressed and with mascara on. We have to write contracts, meet with clients, feed children and interact civilly with our spouses. Showers still need to be taken, and gas tanks filled. Holiday activities are an addition, not an exception. No one gets a pass to stop going to work just because they want to bake cookies.

Unless you were one of those people who had the holiday-crafty glue gun fired up by mid-October, you simply cannot take care of all of your usual responsibilities, your kids, yourself, and still make everything look like a photo spread in a magazine.

Perfectionism can distort our expectations, and make things that we would like to have feel like something we need to do. Remember that you don’t.  My life-coaching clients find amazing amounts of relief when they can achieve the perspective that what “must be done” is almost entirely subjective and arbitrary. We get to decide what we “need” to do, and what we would like to do. In my experience, people who have extreme stress over the holidays are often getting tricked into believing that the things they want to do are actually things they must do, and this can create near frantic levels of stress.

If you’re feeling stressed about everything that must be done, a great strategy is to make two columns on a sheet of paper and organize your tasks into “Need To” and “Want To.” The Need To column may include things like: Sleep, feed the children, shower, go to the Christmas Pageant, buy and wrap presents for immediate family.  The Want To column may include things like “Hang 5k feet of Christmas lights, host the neighborhood block party, hand knit 6 scarves to give as gifts, have a children’s Christmas-Craft party for the entire grade, and prepare hand-decorated mason jars of home-made candy for everyone in my office.”

Schedule time to do everything you genuinely need to do first, and then see how much time you actually have left over to take on board “want to’s.” Trimming that “want to” list, based on the reality of how much time and energy you really have, is the path to a peaceful holiday. Because if you sincerely believe that the “want to list” is what you have to do, then just go ahead and stop sleeping in October.

Chasing perfection always results in feelings of guilt and inadequacy. If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed t’s a better strategy to focus on two or three priorities that matter to you the most (organizing a party or buying presents for the children) and be willing to compromise or delegate the rest.

3. Remember That You Can Only Control Yourself.

Holidays bring lots of family togetherness. Sometimes this is happy, but sometimes it’s stressful. This is particularly true if you feel obligated to spend time with people who tend to trigger your negative emotions or bring out the worst in you.

If you’re heading into potentially challenging family situations the most critical thing that you can do to stay sane is to expect people to be who they are, and decide not being shocked / outraged / hurt when they do what they usually do. If your mother-in-law is typically dramatic and manipulative, expect that she’s probably going to be that way over the holidays too. If your brother has substance abuse problems, he is probably going to drink too much. If your sister often side-swipes you with passive aggressive comments, then you’re almost certainly going to have a few poison darts tossed in your direction at some point over the holidays. In short: The things that usually happen are going to happen over the holidays, and you have no control over any of it.

What you CAN control, is you. You get to decide who YOU want to be during these situations, and how you respond to any of the above does have an impact on how things will unfold. Deciding in advance how you are going to manage yourself during difficult moments — in a way that feels both healthy to you, and minimizes the potential for open conflict or disaster — is key to handling potentially stressful family situations.

For example, if you decide in advance that you are going to be patient and gracious, you’ll be much better able to tolerate your father-in-law’s political diatribe or your sister-in-law’s gossip. Remember that this visit is temporary. Nothing is going to get “hashed out” or resolved. You are simply there for the moment, and you will behave well, and then you will leave. You don’t have to react to anything. You get to decide how you feel, and what you do.

Having a positive intention for your own behavior creates a roadmap that you can follow through all kinds of situations — both diffusing negative ones and enhancing positive ones. If your conscious intention is to have a fun holiday with your kids, you are essentially deciding in advance to be more playful, more relaxed and less snappy and critical towards them.

The key is remembering that you can’t control other people, you can only control yourself. And when you decide to handle interpersonal situations positively in advance you are more likely to behave well. Your positivity diffuses conflict, and you’ll have a better experience with the people around you (because they will have more positive reactions toward you).

4. Know Your Limits, and Be Prepared To Set Boundaries.

Our homes often turn chaotic during the holidays, with the influx of presents and decorations and people. That can have a negative impact on your state of mind and emotional well-being, particularly if order and time alone are important to you.

Remember that you don’t have to experience the holidays in the same way that other people do. Everyone has their own truth. Some people are energized by all the hustle and bustle and decorations and stuff. They experience the overflow of presents and decorations and people as the dessert-buffet of a rich and full life. Other people feel anxious and overwhelmed in the same situations, and experience holiday guests as intrusions and decorations as clutter. They may prefer quiet, spiritually-focused solitude.

You have the right to set healthy boundaries, and not force yourself into situations that make you feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed.

The key is to know yourself. Are you a minimalist who is environmentally sensitive? If so, figure out in advance what you’re comfortable with having in your home and what you’re not. This gives you the power to be the gate-keeper of your environment, so you can at least quarantine whatever is “too much” into a pre-designated area so that you don’t feel victimized by it. If your kid is bringing home decorations and toys and crafts from school they might be just as pleased to have them in their room instead of in the main living area.

And of course, if you love the noisy, chaotic, spangled mess of the holidays… throw open the door.

I hope that these tips help you have a happy, less-stressful time this holiday season.

Happy Holidays,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

Growing Self Counseling & Coaching