Do you have trouble saying no? I know I do, and it often leads me to feeling overwhelmed. During the holidays, it’s really easy to volunteer for more than you intended. When it gets to be too much, it can lead to feelings of overwhelm and resentment.
It is easy to simply say don’t take on so much. When you like things done a certain way, it’s often easier to do them yourself. But delegating and feeling appreciated can make all of your hard work easier.
The Awesome Muse turned to Dr. Rachel Hershenberg for her suggestions about how to keep resentment at bay. Dr. Hershenberg is a licensed clinical psychologist and professor at Emory University. Her tips can help you pivot away from feeling overwhelmed. She’s written a great book called Activating Happiness.
Let’s turn it over to Dr. Hershenberg.
Why the Resentment? When You Take on Lion Share of Holiday Prep
A Guest Post by Rachel Hershenberg, Ph. D
The winter holidays provide an annual context to gather with family. This dedicated time to spend together fosters connection and provides shared memories to carry in the years to come. Unfortunately, alongside feelings of closeness, feelings of resentment can also be engendered.
It can be especially difficult for the person taking on the bulk of the responsibility for the gathering. No matter whose house it will be in — resentment often simmers, bubbles, and sometimes even explodes. Feeling resentful because you are giving more than you’re getting can impinge on your ability to be in the moment; it can tarnish the feelings of warmth and closeness you much prefer to cultivate.
Let’s take a quintessential pattern many people fall into: the tradition in which you are the one to handle “everything.” In other words, you take control of the holiday preparations so well that it’s easier for the rest of the family to steer clear.
They may assume that you love this [lack of] division of labor, or they may be concerned that if they pitch in, they won’t do it “right.” In any case, through the years the family has gotten used to you doing the lion’s share of the work.
What can you do to minimize these feelings of resentment?
1. Ask for help, and be willing to tolerate the less-than-perfect help you receive.
If you allow yourself to acknowledge vulnerability, then you can honestly tell others that you are feeling a bit overwhelmed and would love help from respective family members. Think about what you’d like help with, and make these requests calmly, earnestly, and in advance.
To conquer holiday overwhelm and resentment, make specific requests of those helping you in advance.Click to tweet
Perhaps most importantly, try to make each request as concrete and specific as possible. Request a side dish that: serves 20, can be eaten cold, and delivered to the house by 4 p.m.
For this suggestion to be helpful, you must be willing to tolerate that the contributions will not be perfect. That side dish, the flowers chosen, and the table settings will not be perfect because, simply put, you were not the one to do it.
I encourage you to notice your drive for perfection and come back to the value of the holiday. Is it to come together as a family, for a sense of spiritual connection, or for an opportunity to cultivate gratitude? If the imperfection does not take away from the value of the holiday, then aim for “good enough,” and enjoy that you had one less thing to do.
2. Experiment with not giving 100 percent.
Drop a few details you assume are needed to have everything done “just right.” What if you bought the pie dough pre-made, or you didn’t put out flowers at all? Consider dropping some of the details that habitually push you from “busy” to “stressed and irritated.”
During the holidays, consider dropping some of the details that push you from busy to stressed.Click to tweet
Consider it an experiment, and follow-up during and after the event. Did family and friends still enjoy themselves? Did the room still look warm and inviting nevertheless? Was there actually enough food on the table?
Experiment with giving just a little bit less, and see if it leads you to feeling freer and able to enjoy the process of the preparation a little more.
3. Embrace your inner holiday perfectionist, and simply ask to be acknowledged.
If the first two suggestions make your heartbeat quicken, then it is likely time to embrace your inner holiday perfectionist. Rather than stew in resentment, understand that you prefer to be the one in the driver’s seat of the holiday.
Embrace your inner holiday perfectionist and ask to be acknowledged for your hard work. You deserve it!Click to tweet
If that is the case, maybe what you are actually looking for is some acknowledgement. Perhaps you feel like it is just assumed you’ll do all you do, and what’s more, perhaps you’re feeling taken for granted.
If that is the case, tell one or two trusted family members how you feel in advance of the holiday. Tell them from a place of honesty — rather than heat of the moment anger — that you “love to bring everyone together and do all you do, but it would feel really nice to be appreciated for it.”
Moreover, consider expressing what would feel good to you — perhaps you even ask the family to chip in to get you a massage after the holidays as a big thank you. Take a moment and ask yourself, “Do I just want to be acknowledged?” If yes, think about the more responsive family members who might help the rest of the team set that very valid request into action.
Maximize your holiday enjoyment
The holidays bring with them an uncanny desire to put on your best effort. Though this desire can be admirable, it can also cross-over into that land of overcontrol, a desire for perfection, and resentment because you’re the one responsible for so much.
This holiday season, ask yourself what would help you feel less resentful of others, and consider either asking for help, lessening the load, or owning up to the truth that you do love to work this hard — but maybe it might be nice to be recognized for it.
Do you do all of the work during the holidays? You deserve recognition for your efforts.Click to tweet
However you feel about all of this preparation is likely valid — I just encourage you to take a few minutes to reflect on your needs and how best to meet them, so that you can maximize your enjoyment this holiday season.
About Dr. Rachel Hershenberg
Rachel Hershenberg, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in the research and treatment of depression. She is assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and director of psychotherapy in Emory’s Treatment Resistant Depression program.
Dr. Hershenberg serves as co-chair of the American Psychological Association’s Committee on Science and Practice in the Society of Clinical Psychology and received a 2016 Career Development Leadership Award in Clinical Research from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
She has published over twenty-five peer-reviewed publications and has appeared as a guest specialist on local radio. She lives in the Atlanta area. Her new book, Activating Happiness, is available for purchase on Amazon and Indiebound.
You may also enjoy reading:
The holidays can really stir up the feels, and sometimes it can also bring on the blues. If you need some help getting through some tough times, these tips from Dr. Sanam Hafeez may help you with the holiday blues.
If you deal with chronic pain, the holidays can also bring on a flare up. These tips from Dr. Tom Macek can help you enjoy the holidays despite chronic pain.
And if you’re on the road this holiday season, maybe you’ll venture over to the Florida Keys. One of our favorite places to visit during the holidays is Key West. Spending Christmas in Key West is a true delight.