The month of December can become very busy with holidays and year end duties no matter what/if any holidays you observe. Whether you have parties or gifts or family gatherings as part of your traditions, it can become a lot of pressure and we can fall into “shoulding” on ourselves far too easily.

Add having a child with serious mental health issues and the “shoulds” can quickly accelerate into massive overwhelm without being conscious of what our values are and what we really want to accomplish.

Last week you may have noticed if you’re a regular reader that you didn’t receive a weekly newsletter from me. I was busy last week celebrating my 60th birthday with my family and friends and decided to not make that a “should” and chose to let it go for last week. 🙂 Instead I relaxed, tried to process how 60 years has gone by so quickly (well mostly quickly – junior high seemed to drag on forever as did the toddler years and the eating disorder years), had fun (again – mostly…) going on a hot air balloon ride which I’d never done. Being up in the air was such fun, landing not so much…I still have a sore backside from bouncing on the desert while the basket was on it’s side…it’s like life, you take the good with the bad. Fortunately one of my gifts was a spa day and that helped the soreness. 🙂

Whether you’re feeling you “should” send out holiday cards or do baking or gift buying or holiday decorating or entertaining it can be especially daunting when you’re trying to help keep a loved one safe and alive. Something’s gotta give.

So what will you let go of so that you don’t burn yourself out? How can you resist the urge to do the things you feel you “should” do? What will happen if you don’t do something that you usually do in December?

A few tips that may help you with these questions:

  1. Ask, “What depletes me? And What fills me up?”
  2. Check in with your values and ponder if the activity aligns with your values..
  3. Consider taking a break from the activity for just this year.
  4. Explore what really gives you joy.
  5. Ponder what you know to be true.
  6. Explore what difference it might make in 5-10 years. 
  7. Ask yourself, “Is there an easier or simpler way to accomplish this?”

There is nothing quite like a major illness in one’s family to help clarify what really matters to us. I used to spend December: shopping, decorating, writing out holiday cards, entertaining, cooking, baking, wrapping gifts and stressing out. Now, I shop local or online, don’t decorate except for a few battery operated lights, buy pre-cooked and pre-baked foods, entertaining is very low key (no more big fancy dinners with perfectly folded napkins and all the glassware) and gift bags are such a great invention I cannot even begin to say what a relief they are. No more holiday cards, I just call or text or see the people I want to send wishes to. It’s much more customized and honors the traditions of each person.

I believe we can create a December that fits with our values and energy levels. It’s okay. It’s preserving of our bandwidth so we have something left to give our loved ones.