Turn down sea­sonal obli­ga­tions with­out feel­ing guilty.

If you nd it di cult to say no at Christ­mas, it’s time to fac­tor your­self into the fes­ti­val of giv­ing

In the Moment - - Contents - Words: Natalie Lue

“Can you help out with the Christ­mas fair?”; “Have you done your Christ­mas shop­ping?” For some peo­ple, these ques­tions help to stoke their ex­cite­ment about the im­pend­ing fes­tive sea­son, but for oth­ers, they trig­ger anx­i­ety, guilt and dread. Be­tween the fes­tiv­i­ties, an­nual ‘obli­ga­tions’, gift-buy­ing and an ex­pec­ta­tion that we should all be up­beat, we’re of­ten worn out in ad­vance. So let us hon­our and re­spect our band­width, as well as pro­tect­ing and nour­ish­ing our close re­la­tion­ships – ’tis the sea­son to be… mind­ful.

If we look at where the bulk of our dis­com­fort springs from, it’s our ex­pec­ta­tions of our­selves. In our e orts to be a good child/si­b­ling/part­ner/co-worker/boss/friend, we burn out due to for­get­ting our needs and try­ing to make life live up to the pic­ture we’ve painted in our mind.

For ex­am­ple, even if we adore our fam­ily, it’s not a given that we want to spend every Christ­mas with them. Maybe we want to get away, sleep, or sim­ply cre­ate some of our own tra­di­tions and mix things up a bit. Guilt, how­ever, of­ten pushes our de­sires aside and we grap­ple with the dis­com­fort of hav­ing ig­nored our in­ner voice.

On the ip side, it might be that we ex­pect to have a Brady Bunch-like fam­ily that we look for­ward to see­ing, but in­stead ours spe­cialises in soap opera-style showdowns that in­duce anx­i­ety and em­bar­rass­ment. Be­rat­ing our­selves for not hav­ing a Getty Im­ages fam­ily leaves us con icted. Part of us wants to run for the hills, but an­other wants the fan­tasy of things be­ing di er­ent ‘this time’.

And maybe we don’t want al­ways to be the friend or col­league that vol­un­teers to host or or­gan­ise, nor do we want to spend money try­ing to keep up with The Jone­ses. Your band­width is per­sonal to you, so it doesn’t mat­ter that who­ever it is you com­pare your­self with seems to squeeze in ev­ery­thing (they don’t) – that’s not you. If you don’t ex­press your band­width through your choices, oth­ers, in­clud­ing peo­ple you love, might only be­come aware of your needs when you’re melt­ing down or dis­tant.

If you are spend­ing yeses as if they’re burn­ing a hole in your pocket, or feel­ing re­sent­ful, small, over­whelmed, guilty for say­ing no, help­less, pow­er­less, vic­timised, over­loaded and even lonely, these are all clues that you need you more than you need to say yes to oth­ers.

The truth is, the peo­ple you gen­uinely love and care about, even if they drive you batty at times, don’t want you spend­ing time with them or agree­ing to do things un­der duress. They don’t want your e orts com­ing back at them in a tirade of re­sent­ment one day. Yes, it does mean that they’re go­ing to be dis­ap­pointed on oc­ca­sion when you can’t meet their ex­pec­ta­tions, but peo­ple pre­fer to know where they stand and you can al­ways o er al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tions. “I won’t be able to make it on the 25th, but I’ll come down for a few days on the 28th.” “How about we do Se­cret Santa this year and set a bud­get of a ten­ner?”

Lis­ten to your­self as you con­sider do­ing or agree­ing to some­thing. If none of your in­ter­nal chat­ter is about want­ing to do it, it’s a clear sign that you ei­ther need to say no or tune in to what you re­ally de­sire. If you’re say­ing yes be­cause you’re hop­ing that ‘this time things will be di er­ent’, then this is a good time to nally cut your­self some slack by ac­cept­ing peo­ple for who they are. Recog­nis­ing your feel­ings paves the way for more hon­est con­ver­sa­tions and in­ter­ac­tions. It’s amaz­ing how many things we end up pil­ing our­selves up with in an e ort to try to make things look a cer­tain way.

When we can be present in our lives and show up to our re­la­tion­ships au­then­ti­cally, even if it’s not how we en­vi­sioned things should be, we ac­tu­ally have more en­ergy to be, do and have the things that mat­ter to us.

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