How to Know You’re a Christmas Masochist

You’re not a masochist, and yet, this time of year, you could possibly pass for one. Look at your calendar! Your to-do list! You take on more than you could possibly do, and aspire to even more. You raise your standards, your expectations, and your stress levels—all in the name of good cheer and a happy holiday.

What? Does it have to be like this? Nope. You can change your experience of the holidays—but you have to aware of what you’re doing first. Let’s start with five things you’re doing to yourself that are making things way harder than they have to be.

#1. You think you should make it all from scratch. Yourself. I get it—the homemade candy and cookies, the little handsewn soap pockets (not kidding, someone thinks this is a good idea). Then there’s the handmade hand-stamped wrapping paper with arty kitchen twine, the personalized holiday cards, and on it goes.If you’re a crafty person and love that this is the one time of year you get a good excuse to knit, of course, go for it. But if not, my advice: Pick one thing you’re going to make, and make it for everyone. Something easy, heartfelt, but not something that’s going to leave you sobbing at midnight on Dec 23rd.  Make one thing your thing this year, start early, be consistent, and keep it simple.

#2. You’re expecting people, personalities, and relationships to change, simply because it’s Christmas. Look, I have fallen prey to this myself. And yes, I like to think we can all rise to the occasion and above old petty arguments when the season is upon us. Unless you’re hoping Santa delivers an entirely new family to your door, you’ll find the same cast of characters there: your sister-in-law will ask the nosy questions she always does, your father will let your mother do all the dishes, and your Aunt Edna will ride your last nerve. You know this. Plan for it. The way to keep the peace is to let some things slide.

#3. You’re practicing mind reading on a daily basis (newsflash: you’re not a mindreader). You believe that you know what someone else is thinking right now, and often you expect the very worst. You assume your mother is judging your decision around where to spend the holiday; you are 100 percent sure your husband is thinking you’re spending too much money on gifts. When you believe them, you react to them—in the real world—and create tension where none need be. Make yourself a promise that before you jump to conclusions, about anything, you’ll ask the questions. Invite the conversation. Be honest about your concerns, rather than assume everyone is against you.

#4. You’re translating love into money. I’ve done it—overspent on people because I know I’ve been hard on them, or a straight-up bitch, and I’m sorry about it. When you replace your holiday budget with an emotionally triggered system, whereby you use money to fix problems in a relationship. Doesn’t work. So when you realize you’re stretching yourself thin in an effort to prove, signify, or reinforce an emotional bond, rethink it. Ask yourself if there are things you can do to improve or heal those relationships that have taken a beating this year—ones that don’t require a Visa.

#5. You’re treating your holiday as a marathon. How many times have you thought, I just need to get through this. As if the holidays are one long stretch designed to drain you of energy and joy. In fact, the holidays are meant to buoy and uplift—but they can’t if you see them as something to endure. Yes, it’s an incredibly busy time, and can be physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining. But if you view the time from now through the new year as a series of brief sprints with a whole lot of walking in between, you might actually enjoy it.

This post was written for meQuilibrium, the first-ever customized online stress management program.