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How to Feel Overwhelmed, Without Having it Ruin Your Holidays

If you are anything like me, you get to this point in December and you start to feel a bit of a panic.  Christmas is just days away and there is still so much to do!

Neighbor gifts, shopping, Christmas cards, party planning and hosting, baking…the list is LONG!

You know that feeling, -the tightness in your chest and throat, the tension in your neck and temples. When overwhelm sets in, it can be immobilizing. And THEN, we stress about feeling overwhelmed and getting behind, and the snowball of negative emotion grows.

We call overwhelm an indulgent emotion because it really serves no purpose. It’s one of those feelings that just gets worse the more we try to push it away.  

But here is the interesting thing, overwhelm is never caused by what’s going on in our lives or our list of things to do, it’s caused by our thoughts about them.


I know many women who would argue that this is just the circumstance of their life. But think about it…how can that be true when someone else might have an even longer list, yet they seem to have it all together, get everything done, and have time and energy to spare? 

(We all have this friend and try not to hate her right???)

If it were a fact, that “to do” lists caused overwhelm, our society would be a much different place. Our progress and advancement would be at a much lower level and a much slower pace.

So what’s the trick? The answer is managing the way that we think about our lists.

Here are some helpful tips:

  1. See it ALL as evidence that your life is amazing.

My dear friend, Heidi Benjaminsen, shared this insight with me and I’d like to share it with you:
  “People without friends or family do not have to do any shopping this weekend.
  People without children do not have any toys scattered on the floor, or long holiday 
      recitals to attend.

  People without money do not have shopping lists. Or have to wait in long lines. Or have
      to return items or wrap presents.

  People without jobs do not have boring work parties.
  People without neighbors do not have yet another cookie exchange.
  You’re busy, and it’s all EVIDENCE of your wonderful life.
  Be grateful for these beautiful blessings that create your busy-ness.”

2. Tell yourself a new story.
Instead of thinking, “There is way too much to do and not enough time.” Try calming your brain by reminding yourself that these things are always true:
   “There is always enough time to get the most important things done.”
“I am totally capable of doing this.”
   “B- work is fine!”
  “It’s not the end of the world if ___ doesn’t get done.”

3.  Stop telling yourself that you HAVE to do anything.
Own that it’s a choice.  YOUR choice.
You do not have to feed the kids… do the laundry… deliver neighbor gifts or even have a Christmas tree etc..   There are people in the world who don’t.

I’m not suggesting that there aren’t natural consequences, but the absolute truth is that you get to choose.

So if you choose to do all the things… acknowledge that you are choosing to do them, because of the way that you want to show up in the world. 

Owning your choices will help you stop blaming everyone and everything else around you, and let you enjoy your amazing capabilities.  Find gratitude for your talents.

And finally…

  4.  Just take one small step. 

If you find yourself immobilized or really dreading a particular task, decide to take just one small step.  Waiting for the motivation to start is a mistake.  Taking a small action is the key to finding motivation.

For example, let’s say you “need” to get the neighbor gifts done.  Instead of saying, “I’m doing this today!”  Tell yourself, “I’m just going to get dressed.” Make the tiny step your goal. Once you’re dressed take the next step, “I’m just going to drive to the store.  I don’t have to get out of the car,- I’m just going to get there and then I’ll see how I feel.”  etc…

The hardest part is getting going, so get started in a way that feels doable, and then the motivation and momentum will increase!

I hope these tips are helpful for you. Overwhelm doesn’t have to be a problem for you during the holidays, and FOR SURE you don’t want it to drive a wedge between you and your spouse!

Rather than letting overwhelm shut us down and put strain on our relationships, let’s manage our thinking to create more peace and love… after all, that’s the reason for this beautiful season.