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  • Writer's pictureSophia Dunkin-Hubby

Holiday Self Care #2

Mostly blank, lined notebook page that says "Note to self".

The holidays are a frantic time for most of us. Although it's supposed to be joyful it's also often filled with stress, guilt, and anger. Self care is always important, but especially so at this time of year. This five part series will look at various ways we can take care of ourselves over the next five weeks. Today's post is about recognition of patterns, unrealistic expectations, and some antidotes. Patterns

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You make plans to co-host a holiday celebration with someone you love. You make the lists of things to buy and things to be done, and divide them up. You take care of your items early so you can be relaxed on the day of the event, but a few days before the event your co-host hasn't done anything. They're laid back and tend to do things at the last minute. But it bothers you. You can't relax until everything's done. So, you take on some of their tasks too. Most of them in fact. By the time the event starts you are stressed out and angry. You did everything yourself and your co-host doesn't even care. They never do. In fact, this exact same thing happened last time. And the time before that. How about this one? You really want to take it easy this holiday season and not schedule too much so you tell yourself you're going to skip the usual parties and enjoy quality you time on your couch. Except that everyone at work is talking about holiday happy hour at that cute restaurant that you like and how much fun it's going to be. They're really going to miss you if you don't show up. You feel guilty, and it actually sounds like fun. So you decide to go. You pick out a special outfit to wear to work that day, and even though you're tired by the end of the day you suck it up and go to the event. When you get there it's louder than you remember, and hot, and crowded. You try to make the best of it, but you hate crowds. You get a drink, squeeze into a corner with your co-workers, and listen to them talk because you don't feel like talking yourself. You spend the whole time looking at your watch, counting the minutes until you can leave, and by the time you get home you're angry, exhausted, and drained. Whose idea was it to have this on a weeknight? Getting up and going to work the next day is the last thing you feel like doing. It's always like this. We know ourselves, what we like and dislike, but somehow we have amnesia when it comes to signing up for things. If you can recognize your patterns you can take action to keep yourself from treading the same paths time after time. Remembering what happened last year is difficult, especially since unpleasant experiences tend to fade from our memories, but see if you can recall something that you didn't enjoy. Sometimes this is easier to do by talking to someone who knows you well, so they can help you recall. You might not remember how annoyed you got when you threw a holiday dinner for 10 people with your partner, but they probably will. And they can probably tell you why.

What it usually boils down to is an expectation that isn't met. You expect something to be or feel one way but the reality is very different.

Reality Check

I have gotten caught in this trap so many times recently. It's the holidays! I'm so excited and have a ton of things that I want to do. Baking! Crafting! Writing! Tea drinking! So I make lists of all the things I want to do and plan to tackle all of them. In one weekend. It'll be fun. Except that I don't actually have time to do all of those things in two days. And when I try I come up both short and exhausted. What happened to my visions of sitting on the couch under a blanket with a cup of tea and a book? I've got four books I want to read.

It's not about figuring out how to cram more into a day. It's about facing the reality of the amount of time I have and the projects I want to do. When I think about those projects, I imagine really enjoying them. But in order to really enjoy them I have to pick and choose, allow myself time to enjoy what I'm doing instead of racing through my list.

If it drives you crazy enough to have things done at the last minute that you'll do everything yourself, you'll be too exhausted and resentful to enjoy the party. If crowded, noisy environments drain you, you aren't going to enjoy joining colleagues for Happy Hour. Recognizing and accepting these things as facts will help you step out of your patterns.


I'm not suggesting that you try to change how you react to or feel about things. Instead take these things into account and set yourself up for success.

If you need things done ahead of time, as well as not having to do everything, in order to enjoy yourself consider whether or not your partner is able to help you. Be honest about what you need from them. If they aren't able to help you on the timeline you need consider ordering things for delivery. Simplify the menu for your party so there's less prep. Or get someone else to help you.

If big crowds aren't your thing for social gatherings see if you can schedule a more intimate gathering. Suggest a group order for the office, or a nearby restaurant you can all go to for lunch. If there are only a couple of people that you really want to see, schedule something with just them. And when everyone comes in the day after Happy Hour and talks about how much fun it was, take it with a grain of salt. Some people are energized by big crowds.

If you can't remember any situations from last year that went badly for you keep your eyes open this year. When you find yourself harried, angry, or exhausted ask yourself why. Consider if this might be a pattern of yours. If so make a mental note, or a real note, to remind yourself the next time you encounter a situation that you are likely to react the same way. And when you do, come up with a plan to change your pattern.

Don't expect to be perfect the first time you try to change things. Or even the second. Perfection is not the goal. It's about taking care of yourself to the best of your abilities. Even though I know some of my patterns I know that I will not be able to avoid them completely. But dialing it back a little bit will help me enjoy the holiday season more.

Do you know what one of your patterns is? Drop me a note below to tell me how you deal with it.

Photo by Sophia Dunkin-Hubby

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