It’s December and once again, I am here in the middle of the holidays feeling completely overwhelmed. I have a busy job, a busy family and a tendency to be busy all the time. I usually like things that way, but it never seems to fail me that I get to feeling really stressed out and frustrated during this time of year. It always sets me up for a New Year’s resolution about “making space for peace” (words from my therapist), but nothing ever lasts. My husband is fed up with my complaining, and so am I. Do I just thrive on stress? Should I embrace that? Is there anything I can do to make things better?
— Seasonal Stress
I think we all might feel some of your pain right now. Agonizing about holiday busy-ness seems to be a national pastime, particularly for those of us who acknowledge we have a “tendency” (read: preference or addiction) toward being busy all the time. But you really do sound like you are truly pained by this, and that’s the litmus test that shows us when stress stops being a motivator and, instead, becomes a physiological and psychological problem.
While I am a total fan of your therapist — making space for peace sounds awesome — I can see that you are not turning her words into a usable mantra, at least not at this time of year. So let’s invoke another tried-and-true stress-relief trick: taking things one day at a time. I know this may not be the sexy answer you might have been hoping for, but it works. Sometimes patience with self is the only thing that does.
Make that to-do list and work it. Crossing small things off is still crossing things off. Give yourself credit for taking out the garbage as well as finishing your handmade Advent calendar (ahem…they do sell these online with free shipping). Prioritize, even if that means you might disappoint someone. Take small bites and celebrate them. Be gentle with yourself when you aren’t as productive as you thought you might be. Remember: you’re raising kids who will share your tendencies — toward being stressed out or, with some thoughtful choreography, toward being kind to themselves before, during and after the holidays.
Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor in Georgetown. Visit her on the web at stacymurphyLPC.com. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to stacymurphyLPC@gmail.com.