How to glide through the festive season stress-free

Have you been looking forward to the festive season for months or are you dreading it quite a bit?
This time of year presents a lot of potential stressful events, but do you react to them, which may lead to undesirable outcomes, or do you respond effectively and achieve outcomes that are beneficial for you and others?
Many of us struggle to stay aligned with our own needs and manage the expectations of others around us with ease and grace, especially during the festive season. Some of us have sleepless nights even before it starts. The chances are that the holidays themselves do not run smoothly either. If we don’t manage it properly, we can easily get stressed, frustrated and very overwhelmed.

Are you juggling through?

You want to get prepared for all the dinners and celebrations with friends and family but you keep postponing things because you are too busy getting your work done to make sure you can really take some time off. But when the time comes, how do you make sure that everyone is having a good time, that the brunch or dinner arrives on schedule, and any mutual quarrels don't lead to heated arguments? How do you pay for it all? How do you ensure that you don’t end up doing everything yourself, running around for all the shopping, and spending hours alone in the kitchen cooking and cleaning and missing out on all the fun?
Perhaps you don't fancy New Year's Eve with that bunch of friends or dinner with family at all. How do you tell them?
’Of course,' you hear yourself saying. ’Come to my place on Christmas Eve. I'll make you something’, yet in your mind, you already see yourself rushing feverishly around town in search of the rare ingredients for the complicated dinner you decided to prepare.
Maybe you just don't feel like it this year and would rather have a pizza and watch a movie. Or maybe you just want to get away from all the fuss and go to a place where you can be on your own. But hey, you also want to be seen as the social butterfly and not the grinch!

Energy drain or energy gain?

Why is it so hard to stay true to our own needs when others appeal to you?
As humans, we have a kind of pre-programmed desire to belong, and we often find ourselves behaving in a compliant way, leading us to do everything we can not to disappoint anyone. We either take on and/or tolerate too much. When we do 'everything' to be accepted, or out of fear of hurting someone’s feelings it can drain quite a lot of energy, both in the short and the long run. Time and time again you push aside your own needs (self-denying) for rest, or for activities that recharge you to satisfy others. Eventually we can get so used to this behaviour that we don't even remember what our own needs are.

Connecting with our own needs through Accounting

Accounting allows you to act in an emotionally intelligent way. You can be at your most effective, when you take account of the various aspects of yourself, other people and what is happening in the world around you, and then decide what to do next. That is why it is important to put energy into the Accounting mode which is central in the Functional Fluency model.

Important accounting functions include: assessing what is relevant in a situation, working out what is significant in the circumstances, imagining possible implications and considering what needs to be decided. After this comes the choosing of options and necessary conditions for action to take place. All of this uses energy internally, ‘head, heart and gut’, and it is definitely worth putting energy into when you are feeling unrest or discontent or if you feel rushed, irritated, frustrated, or annoyed.
Accounting allows you to act in an emotionally intelligent way, and to be effective in your relationships with others. When you fail to do this in challenging situations, difficulties are likely to arise.

How to put Accounting into practice

The best way to find out how Accounting works is by putting it into practice in the here and now. If you feel you are juggling, try doing this exercise below:
Step one
Distance yourself from the hectic pace of the day. Turn off the stimuli around you. Deepen your breathing and ground yourself. Place both of your feet flat on the ground and acknowledge all of your senses, literally and figuratively calm and slow down to get more in touch with your internal and external world.
Step two
Notice the reality externally and internally as it is presenting itself to you. Do this without labelling or judging – as we tend to want to label everything as “good” or “bad” or “right” or “wrong”. Be present, in the here and now, without ruminating on the past or worrying about the future.
What is going on around you? What is the situation? Who is involved? What are you doing? Are you setting clear boundaries (Structuring) and expressing what you need (Spontaneous)? Or are you placating or behaving in a submissive or rebellious way (Complaint/Resistant). Maybe you are taking on or doing too much for others (Marshmallowing)? Are you at the same time perhaps putting energy into blaming others and/or yourself (Dominating) because you are going over your own limits? What kind of feelings are emerging? What are you feeling in your body and in which part? Breathe towards this bodily sensation. Is this a familiar bodily response for you? Do you notice any emerging emotions? What is the significance of what is emerging? What is it all telling you?
Step three
What is important to you and what do you value?  Which of your key values are at stake? What about connection, loyalty, freedom, friendship, relaxation, depth, togetherness, spontaneity, health, creativity, modesty, caring, independence, or being social? Choose your top five values. Which values might be in conflict with each other? Bring each value to mind separately, breathe and make a connection with each value. What values make you feel peaceful?
Step four
Now think of behaviours that fit these values. Do you need to set clear boundaries (Structuring) and say yes to yourself (Nurturing)? Do you need to clarify expectations and express what you are thinking and feeling (Spontaneous)? Do you need to be assertive and ask for help (Cooperative)? Do you need to structure your days (Structuring) and make sure that you have enough time to recharge yourself (Nurturing). Relax, breathe, and give space to whatever comes up for you.
Step five
What (small) steps could you start taking now to put some of what has come up for you into practice already? Keep in mind what your needs are and what is important to you.
Finally, It takes a lot of guts to break out of ineffective recuring patterns in your life. It won’t happen overnight, and it is important that you are kind towards yourself if you catch yourself slipping back into ineffective behaviour. Don’t give up. It simply needs a lot of practice to learn new habits and the more you practice, the easier it will get.
Wishing you a smooth, stress-free and functionally fluent festive period!

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