The approach to Christmas is SUCH a busy time of year. Many people seem to feel there is so little time and so many things to do before "the holidays." Sometimes I wonder that people don't overextend themselves beyond what the holiday break can heal!
People trying to tidy up all the loose ends at work, around the home, and then doing the extra things like buying gifts for friends and family, sending Christmas cards, preparing travel plans, or shopping and cooking to fill the fridge and pantry with food and drink for visitors.
In our clinic we notice that stress and anxiety levels are at a pretty high level for many clients. One common thread I notice is the high expectations many have of themselves- often people expect so much more of themselves than they ever would of others. People often feel they need to do things out of guilt or obligation. I was reminded of this the other day when a lady told me she had 78 cards to send this year and she was worried she might not get them all sent. As she talked about that, she said many of the cards were to be sent to people she had no contact with- other than the yearly card exchange- no message beyond Christmas wishes. She sounded like it was such a joyless obligation.
It brought to mind when I stopped sending cards of that nature, years ago. I reckon the people I sent those 'obligatory" cards to probably heaved a sigh of relief and crossed me off their card list. It's a belief of mine that acting out of guilt or obligation does no one any service. Since then I've realised this need not just be about the cards, but life in general. It makes life so much more enjoyable. So I send an email, text message, or make a phone call to the people I love and want to keep in touch with, who are far away.
When I'm really busy with lots of demands on my time, I ask myself if I'm doing something because I truly want to, or out of guilt or obligation? And I mostly avoid the "guilt driven" stuff. Guilt is such a futile, damaging emotion because it can lead one to feel obliged to do things that can lead to other negative emotions like resentment and anger, towards others. Yet, I have found that course is so avoidable if I just notice what is directing me. Sometimes time is tight and I feel pressured to get lots of things done, and it's at those times that I take a moment to check on why I am doing each of them; and if I find I am acting only out of obligation/guilt I let those jobs go. If there is time after doing the things that give me joy, a sense of completion, or out of love for another, then I might get back to it- but mostly not.
I did find it was difficult at first- but then............. NOTHING HAPPENED. No one judged me- I think that was my biggest worry, and I think I was my biggest judge anyway! Have you ever noticed you are much tougher and more judgemental on yourself than you are on others. I have observed I am so much more "understanding" of the limitations of others, than my own limitations.
I know it's not just about the demands we place upon ourselves,sometimes I feel obligated when others might ask more of me than I am "sanely" able to acheive. When I'm asked, by another, to do something that that I don't have time for, and that I would only do out of guilt/obligation, I've become better at using phrases like: " I'm sorry I haven't got the time/energy to do that properly for you right now," or "I won't be able to do a good job just at the moment," or even " Let me finish this job I'm doing first, so I can do that well for you." No one gets impatient when I am being that polite( and respectful of wanting to do a good job for them). Even my children accepted these responses when they were young, and at their most demanding. And I find using those phrases it's calming for me in the midst of busy times. Often the "asker" will do the job themselves or find another person to ask, or decide it's not that important. But they won't be dissapointed in YOUR work or your speed to do the task.
Be kinder to yourself.