by Ashley Logsdon

Holiday Stress and Obligation, Yay! (Episode 228)

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  • Holiday Stress and Obligation, Yay! (Episode 228)

Let's talk holidays. Specifically, the agenda of "should" and obligation vs. what a holiday is truly about. The actual definition says it is "a day of festivity or recreation when no work is done." If you are simply seeing holiday stress and obligation...then are you truly experiencing a holiday?

When you're creating a life you don't want to escape from, like we referenced in episode 226, maybe a biggie is shifting your perspective on how you even view work. And celebrating. And Santa - and more. 

Maybe, the holidays aren't about one-upping each other, holiday stress and obligation, or running on fumes. Maybe the holidays aren't intended to be a time of push-button entertainment from your kids - or by your kids. Maybe it's time to have a little grace. 

What is your focus on this holiday season? 

Listen to this episode on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, TuneIn, YouTube, iHeartRadio or your RSS Feed

The Pressure of Performance

As we dig into what the holidays used to be like for us in the podcast episode above, Nathan and I really had our big ah-has when our oldest daughter was two, and had finally fallen asleep after the most epic of all bedtime battles...on Christmas Eve. As we sat in tears of helplessness trying to figure out how in the world we could bring Santa into our house in the morning, it just really hit us how much we were forcing this one moment to be perfect. And oh what a mountain of expectation we had on our introverted little daughter to not only maintain our high level of energy, but to be "on" with others and "perform" her delight with every holiday festivity. In our pressure to show up everywhere for everything, we created anything but a holiday experience for her. 

How much weight do we put on a day to dictate our happiness? How much are you focused in on making that one day perfect vs. recognizing those sweet moments that happen organically?

I don't know about you, but scheduling out my happiness to occur perfectly on December 25, February 14, or June 2 (my birthday) seems a little forced and arbitrary, if you ask me. Yes, I can choose to enter those days with happiness - and the holidays are a great time for everyone to choose a mindset of togetherness and connection. Yet that's not the only time.

December Isn't A Rollover Month

Be careful about the holiday stress and obligation - are you taking on everything - so much so that your family is running on fumes and starting to react to one another? Are you feeling the pressure for the perfect meal so that it's not even enjoyable to create it? 

Faking it is hard to make sustainable. It's exhausting to put on a different mask for every occasion. Remember those commercials we used to have about rollover minutes on our phones? Well, there are no rollover minutes in life. You think you are going to be able to show up for every obligation, be "on" for every event...and then magically have this space to breathe in January, when the big goals and clean slate pressure to make this your best year is going to make it easier? 

If you're living in holiday stress and obligation now, chances are that will be your rollover into the next year. Chances are, you're more likely to continue stepping into obligation and performance. And, if you want to argue with me on that, then why in the world would you choose to keep doing it from this moment to the new year? What makes that date magical?

The Little Moments Truly Count

I'm not trying to negate the holidays as horrible and we shouldn't celebrate it. What I am trying to shed light on is the fact that we have opportunities for joy, connection, gratitude, love and togetherness all the other days of the year as well. And sometimes, in the hustle and bustle, holiday stress and obligation, you're so focused on making that one morning count that you miss the bursts of awesome that happen along the way.

Looking at the graphic I made above, what I wanted to point out wasn't that it's a beautiful picture, but that there are Christmas lights all over the ground. Clearly this Christmas living room isn't complete, as no mama is likely to leave lights all over the floor to be stomped on by children! But what is this mama doing, in the midst of setting it all up "just right"? She's talking with her child - I imagine about what special secret gift might be in that present...maybe something even for a person beyond the two sitting there. 

Are you taking in the little moments to just appreciate the wonder and delight of a child - not on Christmas morning, but their joy when they finally got the present wrapped without running out of wrapping paper. Or when they persevered when their gingerbread collapsed five times while their sisters' looked like masterpieces. Have you stopped to just let the food soak in and sit in the feeling of satiated - not over-stuffed - fullness? Have you by any chance taken a few minutes in nature just to observe how the birds are responding on this beautiful day during the holiday season? They are chirping and celebrating every day - because it's one more day alive in their book, and a reason to celebrate. 

Get Real with Your Family

Get realistic about what your family really can handle. Are you asking to much of a toddler? Of your introverted partner? Are you taking into account nap-times, how everyone handles late nights, food issues? Think about how many balls you want to have in the air in hopes they all land perfectly. 

The younger our children were, the more we realized we needed to simplify. Throw three variables in - a fancy restaurant, a child who didn't nap that day, and a picky eater, and that's recipe for an absolute nightmare. There was a time we flat didn't go out to eat with our toddler - it was more stress than what it was worth. Yet we willingly turned down this "opportunity" for eating out with our young children because it flat negated the whole joy of the moment. And, we recognized it was for a season.  

If someone in your family absolutely hates Christmas caroling, maybe it's better to not force them to show up and be the downer for everyone else anyway. Permission to stay home. If someone in your family truly gets overwhelmed at the Christmas parade, and it stresses you out trying to keep track of your crazy littles, stay home and watch it online! 

Be careful forcing entertainment when it's not even necessary. 

Recharge and down-time are critical in order to keep on going.

Want to look like the Rockstar?

You know those people that sink you in the comparison trap - the ones who seem to make it look so easy, and it comes together beautifully? The Martha Stewart look? Well, there are two types, and with me being the empath that I am, I notice the negative energy pretty quickly. Those who live under holiday stress and obligation may end up a little too "forced" in their happiness hat, or they are constantly fretting over the next thing - it's not truly enjoyable, because you know their minds are not fully there, as they are looking at every imperfection of what has gone wrong or didn't live up to their expectations. 

There is another side. I know what it looks like well. It looks like a well-rested individual who knows how to take a break when needed to recharge. It looks like someone who said no to obligation so they could say yes to more things that brought them joy. And in the joy and space, they are able to create those things that truly are magical, and that truly look like they are living the life. 

A Little Case Study...

One client said no to an obligatory holiday dinner that was hard for her family due to being late at night. Taking the pressure off of heading to that event, along with saying no to some others this year, created space for her to do more creation with her kids. She'd started a garden and gotten chickens as beautiful opportunities to create and play with her children more. As one thing led to another on a day without an agenda of obligation, things would open up - like stopping and baking bread with her son. Or, her daughter wanting to tackle a holiday dish she'd always taken on herself. Letting go of the agenda and allowing things to flow, she ended up hosting a completely rockstar meal with a spontaneous guest - complete with homemade bread, eggs and herbs from her garden. It was truly a magically epic Thanksgiving meal that came about completely organically when the expectations for what it should look like were set aside to be open for what might come. 

How much are you filling the schedule this month vs. allowing things to flow? How much time do you have for spontaneity, or allowing something beautiful to organically happen and unfold in its own time?

Be Opportunistic

Take the good moments when they come - don't push them aside while you prep for when you'll enjoy it. If there is a spontaneous moment to connect with someone this season, what is keeping you from taking it? Is it worth the expense of that connection?

Think about the traditions you're holding onto - are they serving you well? Are you doing it just because you've always done it, or because it truly brings joy this season? 

Maybe this is the year you finally retire that ridiculous Elf on the Shelf. Or, maybe you love that silly thing so much, this is the year you get creative about how the elf shows up all throughout the year, and not just at Christmas. 

And...Let Go

I remember one year that was an especially rough one for us, and I just flat didn't want to go through the hassle of unwrapping and hanging all the ornaments on the tree. And so I simply went with lights. 

And you know what happened? Our daughters saw this wonderful opportunity to make their own decorations! It's funny - letting go of the obligation of putting up our old ornaments made space for a truly magical opportunity. It resulted in a week of our daughters spending literally hours at a time, drawing pictures, using the laminator, cutting them out and hanging them with ribbon on the tree...all on their own.

Oh how magical. With our young children at the time, I truly needed some space to clear my head and focus on what truly needed to get done that week, and my girls not only took the initiative to take some decorating off my plate; they worked together and created something that was way more heartfelt and sweet than I could have dreamed of. If I had thrown my own agenda of decorating in, the tree simply wouldn't have been the delight it was that year.  

Sometimes saying no and stepping back

makes space for others to show up and shine.

So What About Santa?

Get to the root of why you celebrate Santa - what do you really want your children to get out of it? Below you'll find links to learn more about how we shared about Santa in our home - and the crux of it is in the quote below:

Whatever magic you bring in to your home during the holidays and beyond stays magical as long as you believe in the why behind it. Oftentimes the hardest knock is that the magic just ends one day and it's this weird arbitrary thing you believe in for a bit. We're not one for keeping secrets from our kids, so we prefer to share with them along the way while still keeping magic alive. 

Your Weekly Challenge:

Look at your holiday plans for the rest of the year. 

What is your goal in it? Is it to find peace, joy, connection and rest? How are you doing it? Are your actions supporting it?

What are you saying no to that will open up a yes elsewhere that's a higher focus/priority?

Are you leaving space for anything spontaneous? Are you allowing others to step up and take the lead?

Picture of Santa Claus drawn by 13-year-old Clara Logsdon

Simplify this time. How are you bringing joy and peace and allowing for recharge time? How are you giving space for others to shine? Remember your focus, and what you truly want to get out of this holiday season. Stop and really get to know the people around you, and celebrate how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. 

Nathan and Ashley Logsdon

Questions or comments?

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About the author, Ashley Logsdon


Ashley Logsdon is a Family and Personality Styles Coach and Lifelong Learner. She and her husband Nathan are RVing the States and unschooling their 3 girls. Her mission is to shift the mindsets of families from reaction to intention, and guide them in creating the family they love coming home to. Looking deeper than the surface, we assess the strengths, triggers, and simplifying your lifestyle so you truly recognize how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.

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