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Don’t Celebrate Stressmas

Don’t Celebrate Stressmas

Christmas can be an extremely stressful time. You’re surrounded by sentimentalized marketing messages, based on perfect families having a perfect time together. Peace is everywhere; everyone loves their gifts, the Christmas meal is perfectly cooked and no one suffers indigestion or drinks too much. Children are always good and never become over-excited and uncontrollable.

That’s the problem. Real life is far from perfect. Some families don’t get on well together. This maybe the one time of the year they meet, and still they expect nothing to go wrong. Then people eat or drink too much, voices are raised and tempers flare. Maybe there’s a gap this year: a loved one has died, or is far away. Maybe there are no loved ones. People sometimes have to spend Christmas alone. For many people, Christmas will bring more pain than joy; pain made far worse by feeling everyone else is having a good time.

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Christmas comes but once a year, and when it comes it brings…wildly unrealistic expectations. There’s a strong sense of how things—and people—ought to be. Everyone ought to be happy. They ought to get along. You ought to be enjoying yourself; and there must be something wrong with you if you aren’t. Along with such crazy expectations come guilt and blame. So people quarrel, and because everyone ought not to be quarreling at Christmas, it’s someone’s fault they aren’t happy.


When this happens, don’t ever be tempted to feel guilty about your emotions, let alone accept responsibility for anyone else’s. Even if you don’t show how you feel, you still feel it. “What’s wrong with me?” you ask yourself. “It’s Christmas. I should be happy. I should be thinking how much I love my family, not focussing on how much Uncle Fred’s drinking upsets me; or how much I’d rather be at home than sitting here, trying to eat my mother-in-law’s inedible turkey; or feeling that if Cousin Jane doesn’t stop her revolting children from behaving like animals, I’m going to scream.”

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Here’s the truth. No one can control their emotions. You cannot make yourself feel happy or cheerful by an act of willpower, any more than you can stop yourself from feeling angry or resentful or sad. Emotions simply arise by a natural process. They come as and when they wish, just as thoughts come into our minds unbidden and sometimes unwanted. All you can control is whether or not you act on those emotions. If someone irritates you, but you hold back from showing it to avoid spoiling everyone’s evening, that’s a praiseworthy act. It’s not your fault you felt irritated. It just happened. There’s neither cause for guilt nor blame.

Christmas is a wonderful time of year to practice forgiveness, and especially to forgive yourself. The old year is coming to an end. As it dies, forgive yourself for all the times in this year you destroyed your own hopes and expectations; for the ways you let yourself down; for behaving badly; for messing up. Forgive others for all the ways they disappointed you. Forgive life itself for whatever bad things it brought. Let it all go with the year that is passing. And when the New Year comes, let your first resolution be to stop setting yourself and others so many unreal goals and expectations based on perfection.

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Whatever the marketing guys and the media try to tell you, life is messy, unpredictable and frequently unpleasant. That’s just how it is. No one is to blame, least of all you. Buying products won’t change it. Nor will the time of year, however many carols are sung and Santas appear in the stores. Christmas lights aren’t magic talismans against pain, upset or hurt. Just because it’s a holiday season doesn’t mean you ought to feel happy. There’s no reason you should ever feel some particular way; and no way to try to make it happen if it doesn’t come about naturally.

Walk into the New Year with an open mind and a hopeful attitude. Let go of all the baggage you’re carrying. Simply drop it and walk away. All the possibilities of the coming twelve months are before you, so pause on the threshold and enjoy a few moments of anticipation. Then step confidently into your future. While you can’t make that future better than it will be, you can always hope for the best. Who knows? This year you may be right. It sure beats facing the future full of grim expectation of misery and disappointment.

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This will be my last posting on this site until January, so I wish you all a calm, relaxed and baggage-free holiday period. And whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or no particular festival at this time, I hope you manage to give Stressmas a miss this year.

Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership, and The Coyote Within.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnancy in life, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help.

Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

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1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths.

Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation.

What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem.

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If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave.

Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future.

These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

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4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’re 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward.

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Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years.

On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

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Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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