‘Tis the season for…overwhelm.
At least in my house, and maybe in yours.
I adore this time of year—cozy nights in, Christmas lights, holiday movies, family time, comfort food, the smell of peppermint and pine, and a buzz of familiar anticipation. But, like most things in life, it doesn’t come without its stressors.
What gifts to buy? And from where? And for whom? And will they like them?
Will we regret our budget (or lack thereof) come January 1st?
Where are those decorations we thought we saved last year? And who will help us put them up?
What holiday parties or events are we invited to? And which ones do we actually want to attend?
What needs to be cooked? And when? And is it finally time to eat yet?
When am I supposed to wrap all these gifts? And will there be time to sleep after?
What have we crossed off our daily/weekly/monthly/holiday to-do list? And what have we forgotten?
Wait, Christmas is in how many days?
What do you mean we still need to go to work and clean the house and get in those end-of-the-year appointments?
And speaking of the end of the year, what the hell have we even accomplished???
It seems like there’s never enough time to do what needs to be done while also getting a few moments to savor the things we genuinely want to do.
And so, at least once a day (although it often feels like once an hour), I find myself driving head-first toward overwhelm. The kind of overwhelm that makes me want to shut down and yell, both to myself and to no one in particular, “That’s it—Christmas is cancelled!”
It’s usually at this moment when I realize that what I’m dealing with isn’t just general holiday anxiety. What I’m dealing with is an inability to process anything going on around me. An inability to handle the sights and sounds and tasks that are right in front of me. An inability to do anything but think about all the things I need to do.
When this happens, all the Christmas lights start to feel too bright. The holiday movies feel too loud and chaotic. The peppermint and pine make me want to gag. The thoughts of what to cook and what to buy and when to wrap and where to go all just feel like too much.
I’m not just overwhelmed, I’m overstimulated.
This feeling can last for minutes or for hours, but when it starts to bubble up, I’ve learned to let it serve as a sign that I need to stop whatever I’m doing and allow myself the space to cancel everything, at least for now—even if just in my mind.
While there are tons of tips and tricks to help us manage overstimulation, I find that what helps the most is giving myself a moment of quiet or calm to interrupt the endless busyness of my day. Sometimes that means literally sitting in a dark, quiet room. Other times, that means closing my eyes while cuddling my dog. And sometimes, that means reading words that create more space in and around me.
Here are five quotes that can help quiet our overstimulated minds this holiday season (or any season):
“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.” ~ Fred Rogers
“The universe doesn’t allow perfection.” ~ Stephen Hawking
“Bad things will happen and good things too. Your life will be full of surprises. Miracles happen only where there has been suffering. So taste your grief to the fullest. Don’t try and press it down. Don’t hide from it. Don’t escape. It is life too. It is truth. But it will pass and time will put a strange honey in the bitterness. That’s the way life goes.” ~ Ben Okri
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” ~ Anne Lamott
“Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.” ~ Cheryl Strayed