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  • Writer's pictureMeredith Waller

Holiday Pressure

Family is asking when you'll be able to connect for the holidays, friends want to make festive plans, the clock is ticking on buying gifts, and suddenly you're feeling the pressure.

You've been trying to take better care of yourself and set healthy boundaries, but your weeks still feel hectic and overwhelming, and it just doesn't feel like you have your usual reserves of energy and positivity to start navigating the holiday season. Maybe the thought of back-to-back social gatherings makes you cringe a tiny bit.

Release that self-judgement.

This 2 month whirlwind is a lot to tackle in a good year, and when you are dealing with anxiety, stress, depression, grief, and/or burnout- it can be an overwhelming list of check-boxes:

☑ Make plans with family

☑ Make plans with friends

☑ Buy gifts

☑ Be conversational

☑ Try to workout

☑ Decorate

☑ Get a new outfit

☑ Watch what you eat

☑ And on and on and onnnnn

But, here's the thing about pressure- there are 2 very distinct kinds, external and internal.

External pressure is what we feel when other people are making demands, requests, or expressing their wants/ needs, which may not align with our own. Internal pressure is what we feel when out internal dialogue, negative thoughts, and worries are setting expectations for us that we aren't sure if we can handle.

Now, I know that you are probably getting a fair amount of external pressure in the form of invitations, gift requests, and reminders of previous obligations, but I'd bet that a lot of the pressure you are feeling is coming from the one and only, you.

If you think back on your thoughts about all that is approaching, how often have you used the words "I should..." or "People expect me to..." or "I must..."?

Now is the time where I really kindly and warmly ask that you to knock that off, and give you 3 things to focus on when your mind starts wandering down that internal pressure path:

  1. If you are dreading an event or regretting a commitment, re-evaluate. In my experience, there are not iron-clad contracts around work holiday parties, time with friends, or secret santa exchanges. If your time would be better spent doing something that is restful or rejuvenating, do that.

  2. Remember that feeling like you're running on empty does not mean that you are failing. It means that you need to take a really serious look at what your mind/body are needing and allow time and space for that.

  3. Be aware of the difference between taking time to rest and isolating. If you're avoiding things that you think you would enjoy, that is not prioritizing your healing.

And, when that external pressure is flowing, here are 3 great ways to say "no" without giving an explanation:

  1. "What a fun idea, I can't this year but I hope that you have a great time."

  2. "I have too much on my plate right now but appreciate the offer and hope it goes well."

  3. "I know I mentioned that I was planning to make it, but I won't be able to, I truly appreciate the invitation."

This period of time will pass. You won't feel like this forever.

Taking steps towards honoring your needs is a great first step towards healing, my friend.


Meredith Waller MSW, LCSW

Based in Boulder, CO and offering online counseling throughout Colorado

-Certified Shame-Informed Treatment Specialist

-Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional


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