We share a few ways we are trying to give ourselves space and grace to feel it all this holiday season – accepting what we can’t do, looking for what we can do, embracing an “all vibes welcome” mindset, and making a “Want To Do” list.
For the Record
It’s going to be a different kind of holiday season this year, and it’s important for us to acknowledge and accept the range of emotions we’re experiencing along the way.
There’s so much pressure to be festive and joyful at all times during the holidays – even in normal years. But the holidays can be tough or emotional for a lot of reasons – grieving for loved ones who are no longer with us, missing people far away, dealing with financial stress, a lost job, a breakup, an illness, a move, the list goes on.
And the expectation that we will be merry all the time can make it worse at the times we’re not feeling that way. If you have young kids, you know that they don’t respect what you think holidays are supposed to be like!
All Vibes Welcome for the Holidays
So our holiday theme this year is not “Good vibes only” – it’s “All vibes welcome.” We are complex humans with complex emotions, and we can give ourselves the space to feel it all – grief, stress, anxiety, loneliness, joy, silliness, celebration, connection.
No emotion is inherently good or bad. Our goal isn’t to stamp out the “bad ones” and only feel the “good ones.” We can let them ebb and flow; they’re just part of being human. As Melia’s ADHD coach Kristen Carder says, “It’s not a problem.” Feeling how you feel is not a problem!
We both grew up loving the holidays and all the celebrations associated with them. But we’ve talked in the past (including way back in Episode 4: Staying Sane During the Holidays) about this time of year has gotten more stressful as we’ve gotten older. Especially as adults, we have many more expectations for giving gifts and coordinating events, and if you have kids, you now have a whole new set of typical commitments to juggle.
How We’re Feeling & What We’re Planning
Three years ago, Melia started a spreadsheet called “Christmas Cheer 2017” (a tongue-in-cheek title because she finds coordinating the details of the holidays stressful). Now she knows that her ADHD brain gets overwhelmed by all the details and expectations.
Melia is proud that, even before her diagnosis, she recognized what she needed to execute these tasks: writing everything down and breaking each task into the smallest steps possible. In her spreadsheet, she has a column for Task, then columns for Step 1, Step 2, etc.
This year, Melia can’t do:
- Santa pics
- Holiday parties
- School dress-up week (at least for Evan)
What she’s planning this year:
- Like last year, transforming the holiday To Do list into a “WANT To Do” list
- Getting an early start
- Family Christmas card
- Carrying on or establishing traditions with the family, like baking our mom’s Christmas cookies and making DIY ornaments with the kids
- Spending quality time as a family:
- Winter wonderland drive-through at a local church
- Watching holiday movies with popcorn
- “Porch camping” with the kids when it’s rainy out, with blankets, books, and hot chocolate
- Puzzles and games
- Gingerbread house kits for the kids
- Small outdoor or virtual gatherings with loved ones, like a Zoom game night with holiday drinks
- May plan a little Airbnb trip with the kids
- This year, Gill can’t do:
- Holiday parties
- Flying to the US to be with family
- Planning anything more than five minutes in advance
She does feel fortunate (beyond the obvious gratitude for health, work, etc.) because she and Brian have spent holidays far from home in the past. They have the luxury of having their own little family wherever they are, which makes it a lot more doable. And she’s really hoping that they can go home and see their families again next year.
- What she’s planning this year:
- Got the tree up already
- Making Christmas cookies, new and old recipes to make and deliver to friends
- Leaning hard into Christmas movies and carols – already watched a bunch of movies and learning to play some songs on the ukulele
- Will likely get a short change of scenery if Brian does some Navy work in a different part of Spain. They’ll still be livin’ that hermit life, but in a different location, which will be very welcome.
- Virtual hangouts with family
3 Ways to Feel It All This Holiday Season
1. Accept what we can’t do this year and look for what we can do.
There’s a lot out of our control this year, and we aren’t able to participate in some of the traditions we love, which can be hard.
Practice radical acceptance – which doesn’t mean “agreement” or “approval” – just accepting, instead of fighting, reality. Melia is fond of saying, “I don’t have to like it – not one bit!” But it will only make you unhappy if you don’t accept that yes, it is happening.
Look for what we still can do. Carry on the traditions you can, like decorating the tree and making cookies. Modify others, like hosting a Zoom holiday cocktail party with Santa hats and spiked eggnog instead of one at your house. Try out new experiences that may become traditions or one-time adventures, like a safe getaway, a bundled-up hike, or a caroling singalong over Zoom.
2. Embrace an “all vibes welcome” mindset.
“Good vibes only” may be well-intentioned, but it’s not realistic or helpful! We can’t be happy and positive at all times – and trying to force ourselves to be can actually make us miserable. Instead of dodging or denying uncomfortable emotions like sadness, fear, or anger, aim to acknowledge and accept them as real and valid. Remember there are no “good” emotions and “bad” emotions. They’re all just a part of being human.
Lately Gill has been thinking about emotions in terms of the Pixar movie, Inside Out. The movie takes place inside the head of Riley, an 11-year-old girl going through a tough time when her family moves across the country. Five characters personifying the emotions Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust help Riley make sense of her world.
While Joy – voiced by Amy Poehler – is in control for most of the movie, Sadness becomes the hero of the story. Joy is focused on making Riley happy all the time, but Sadness offers empathy and understanding, helping Riley grieve over what she’s lost, connect with her parents more deeply, and develop new parts of her identity.
Dacher Keltner, the founding director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley and host of the podcast The Science of Happiness, was a consultant on the film, and Gill came across a wonderful article from the Greater Good Science Center from when it came out in 2015.
It talks about how research shows that people who “experience ‘emodiversity,’ or a rich array of both positive and negative emotions, have better mental health” and that mindfully embracing all our emotions, instead of suppressing them, is healthier than trying to be happy all the time. It also emphasizes that sadness is vital to our well-being:
With great sensitivity, Inside Out shows how tough emotions like sadness, fear, and anger, can be extremely uncomfortable for people to experience—which is why many of us go to great lengths to avoid them… But in the film, as in real life, all of these emotions serve an important purpose by providing insight into our inner and outer environments in ways that can help us connect with others, avoid danger, or recover from loss.
So mindfully embrace that “all vibes welcome” mindset. Feel all the feels, for your own well-being and that of people you care about.
3. Transform your “To Do List” into a “Want To Do” List.
Since we talked about “Stop Shoulding” in Episode 13, we’ve both been more aware of the “shoulds” and “have to’s” we put on ourselves that don’t actually exist.
Melia’s ADHD coach, Kristen Carder, has a great podcast episode on this reminding us that we don’t really have to do anything. Sure, there are consequences for your actions or inactions, but you really can choose not to buy presents for anyone, not to do anything at all on Christmas, not see your family.
Doing that thought exercise helps you surface the parts that are important to you and the sacrifices you’re willing to make to make those happen. And if some are things that you don’t naturally want to do – like school dress-up weeks, but your kid is excited about them – try to “build the desire,” as Kristen says.
One of the silver linings of this year is that we can opt out of so many things we don’t want to do – without feeling guilty or coming up with an excuse. Simplify by necessity. Cut the list down, and then don’t bring anything back that you don’t want to do. It’s tradition not to do it now!
To recap, those three ways to give yourself grace and space during the holidays are:
- Accept what we can’t do this year and look for what we can do.
- Embrace an “all vibes welcome” mindset.
- Transform your “To Do List” into a “Want to Do” List — and make that a tradition!
Get It Together / Got It Together
We each share something that we’d like to work on and something that’s going well for us right now.
Gill’s Get It Together: Going through extremes of frantic busyness and feeling stuck and not getting anything done
Gill’s Got It Together: Doing a couple good things for her physical and mental health this past week
Melia Get It Together: Letting clutter accumulate so it’s a big lift on weekends
Melia’s Got It Together: Working every day on her self-talk
Get In Touch
How are you feeling going into the holidays, and how are you planning to adjust your traditions or try out new ones?Email us at podcast[at]semitogether.com or send us a voice memo.
If you haven’t already, take a moment to subscribe to Semi-Together or leave us a rating or review. You can also support the podcast through Patreon at patreon.com/semitogether.
- Throw Throw Burrito game (a new gift to Melia’s family from her siblings-in-law)
- Episode 4: Staying Sane During the Holidays
- Episode 39: Dodging the Second Arrow
- Episode 13: Stop Shoulding
- Episode 8: The Dudes
- Greater Good Magazine: Four Lessons from “Inside Out” to Discuss With Kids
- I Have ADHD podcast: Stop Shoulding On Yourself
- What to Say When You Talk to Yourself by Shad Helmstetter, Ph.D.
- Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, M.D.