By: Emily Roberts, Guest Blogger
A challenge that many people face during the holiday season is putting themselves first. Just the other day, I noticed a guilt trip coming on after I had to say “no” to a holiday gathering. I really wanted to go but I had already committed to something else. I felt bad, “I hope she doesn’t get mad;” “I hope I get invited to another party.” My mind raced with ways that I could be in two places at once. The truth is I couldn’t stretch myself that thin, there was no way I would make two parties in one day, just thinking about it made me anxious. Finding the confidence to say “no” and put yourself first is a challenge in itself, one that only gets more difficult with the holiday hoopla.
It sounds so simple, putting yourself first, but my God it’s hard! We are taught to be good friends and to please others from a young age. When the holidays approach, it can be so easy to say yes, when you really should say no. There are unsaid expectations (or, in my family more passive aggressive comments) about how much time you’re spending at home: “Gosh we just thought you’d be able to stay longer, you really you can’t take off more work? We haven’t seen you in so long.” My mother will say. My response isn’t “Um, you just saw me last week.” But I make a mental note of “spend more time at home,” like many of us do.
Add in other obligations to the packed calendar--friends come back in town or you check in to the airport on Facebook and suddenly your phone is blowing up with more invitations. Don’t forget about academic or career obligations, like finals, and end of the year deadlines that could totally affect your future. Then travel time to and from turkey dinners or taking trips across the country all add up too. Oh, and the things you are already doing on a daily basis, like work, school, and sleep!
Putting your needs last can leave you feeling worn out, tense, and fragile. At least I have found myself feeling this way in the past. Saying no doesn’t have to be as difficult as it sounds. Another thing we were taught growing up, at least on the airplane, is to put your oxygen mask on first. Those flight attendants got it right in the safety presentations. I used to ask myself “Why on earth does the adult put their mask on before helping that innocent baby? If the plane is going down, wouldn’t you want to put them first?” Nope. If you don’t get a breath, you can’t help anyone else. The same is true off the plane, if you don’t put you first, everyone suffers.
Put the odds in your favor of feeling good, not frazzled this holiday season.
1. Stick with your routine. Put your daily activities on a calendar, including physical activity, appointments and obligations. See where you can realistically add time. If you can’t you’ve got say “no.”
2. To lessen the blow of “no” here are some easy ways to say it nicely:
- “I wish I could! I already have plans.”
- “Thank you for thinking of me, I just can’t right now.”
- “If I can find the time, right now it looks like I can’t but I’ll let you know if something changes.”
- “I’ll let you know if I can but right now I’m totally booked up.”
3. When you're faced with challenges, take comfort in good-for-you rituals, such as regular physical activity, mediation, or texting your BFF.
4. Don't skimp on sleep, water, and try to maintain regular meal times. If your body is thrown off by its regular routine your mind will be a mess too.
5. Prioritize. Will your aunt be more upset if you don’t stop by to say hi or will your friends understand if you can’t make the meet up? Which will make you feel less guilt and more satisfaction?
Don’t forget your time is yours. At the end of the day, your friends and family want to see you happy, not feeling crappy. The best way to do this is to put yourself first and see what happens.
Can you relate to feeling the holiday frazzle? Give some of Emily's suggestions a try and tell us about it here!
Emily Roberts is a licensed psychotherapist specializing in working with girls and women. Also known as The Guidance Girl, Emily has made it her career to help others feel confident in the skin they’re in. She and her fluffy dog Milo split their time between the busy streets of New York City and Austin, Texas. You can reach out to Emily on her Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.