When you look at the scale from introvert to extrovert, I’m all the way over in the introvert zone nestled up to the ‘I’ and wishing the word ‘introvert’ had more letters so I could climb further in. This means I find the holiday season both deeply beautiful and incredibly difficult. I adore the twinkling lights, the soft mornings with advent inspired reading, the carols and the wonder. I am also easily overwhelmed by the expectations, the ‘festive’ gatherings and constant pace. Even the most extroverted person I know usually cries, “Uncle” over the demands of December.
So, what’s a person to do when she needs a quiet moment?
I long for the holidays to be soft and gentle, but at the same time, I realize simply locking my doors and turning up the Christmas music as loud as it will go isn’t a healthy way to face the season. As an expert overacheiving-perfectionist, I set some boundaries for myself this season. Perhaps you will find them useful too.
I’m underestimating myself for the entire month.
Let me explain, usually for every task, we mentally set a time table: ten minutes to fold the laundry and another ten to put it away. We all do it, even if not consciously. This December I’m assigning everyhing extra minutes of grace. If I think shopping will take two hours, I mentally schedule two and a half.
Stretching time in this way allows me to slow down. It mutes the hurry, hurry, hurry background music I can never seem to escape. It allows time for enjoyment in the moment rather than frustration. I don’t know about you, but giving myself room to experience joy is worth more than any material gift I will receive all year.
I’m limiting my yes.
I want Christmas to be remembered as a happy, family time by my children. I hope they’ll look back, as I do, at family dinners and Christmas mornings as some of their favorite moments. In order to make this desire a reality, I have to limit my yes. I can say yes to good things for the ones who are most important in my life, but only if I say no to whole mess of good things which aren’t best for me. This is certainly no new concept, but it’s one which bears repeating.
It’s even important to limit my yes with my kids. Yes, we can do this fun thing, but it may mean saying no to that thing. Family doesn’t get a blanket yes. If I’m a not a screaming ball of stress from an impossible schedule, I can wisely choose between good and bad, and even between good and best, and we can all enjoy a relaxed and intentional holiday together.
I’m shutting my door.
Remember where I said I’m a hardcore introvert? This means I must (must, must, must, must) have time by myself. Even though my kids are older, they’ll take as much as I will give. So sometimes, I’m not giving. I’m closing the bedroom door and asking to not be interrupted for a set time. I’m reading Christmas books while drinking a cup of coffee. I’m doing what I want while no one talks to me. I’m intentionally guarding the most important factor in my mental health.
True we don’t all recharge the same way. There are a hundred other reasons why closing your door may not work for you, but we can all identify the one thing which most consistently restores us to safe levels of sanity. Whatever our thing is we must guard it fiercely especially when life is demanding more from us. It may seem entirely counter productive, but making room in our schedules for self-care not only boosts productivity, it exponentially improves our mood and our ability to love others.
The world isn’t likely to slow down and meet our needs for a slower, more contemplative season anytime soon, but we don’t have to let a frantic pace control our actions or our attitudes this Christmas. A few intentional changes can leave room in our schedules and in our hearts for the best things life has to offer.
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