The Holiday Obligation Bill of Rights

christmas catIt’s that time of year again. It’s only the first week of December but the flames on your holiday stress fire have been getting hotter since mid November. I’m prone to seasonal affective disorder, which starts as soon as the time change happens and the clocks roll back an hour. Suddenly it’s pitch black when I’m driving home from work, everything is gray and overcast, and the deadlines are rushing at me like something out of a Final Destination movie.

Personally, I’ve got a book deadline, three blog commitments (I have a new website and I’ve started publishing on Medium, though I may adjust the frequency so I’m not tripling my workload with a weekly piece on each platform), and social plans all vying for my attention. Luckily, the whimsy of the season and the thrill of shopping for the perfect gifts for my loved ones gets me through the first couple months of fall/winter, but after the new year starts, it’s just three more months of slush and snow and darkness and existential angst.

As I’ve been working toward a lower impact life (both physically and mentally), I’ve found that I naturally have created guidelines for how to spend my time. Ever the minimalist at heart, it’s important for me to remember that minimalism isn’t just about physical stuff and clutter. It’s also about a healthy schedule and mental clutter so that I make time for the priorities.

Since the holiday season is usually stuffed to the brim like an overfilled stocking with social and family obligations, I want to remind everyone that boundaries and taking care of yourself are still important and valid, even when it feels like your time is more necessary elsewhere.

Here are ten rights you have this holiday season.

  1. You have the right to stay home. Seriously. Even if it’s Christmas at your mom’s house. Even if you haven’t seen your second cousins in fifteen years. Only accept plans you WANT to do and have the ABILITY to do.
  2. You have the right to limit your budget. While “gift giving” is one of the five major love languages, the price tag is not a defining characteristic. Don’t go broke (or into debt) in an attempt to show people how much you care. If you’re close to your budget limits and still want to give more, consider handmade gifts or writing heartfelt notes, especially if the recipient is a “words of affirmation” love language person.
  3. You have the right to leave early. If you’re at a holiday party or family gathering and you’re tired, uncomfortable, or otherwise just don’t want to be there, it’s okay to say your goodbyes and head home early.
  4. You have the right to eat what you want. Love your body, eat a cookie, don’t punish yourself.
  5. You have the right to ask for what you really want. Nobody has to give it to you, but you have the right to create a wish list and be clear about what you want. One year, my sister asked for cash to help fund an alternative break trip she was taking with a group in college, and family members deemed it inappropriate to ask for cash. Unless it hurts somebody, it’s okay to ask for what you want.
  6. You have the right to reschedule social plans. Some of my closest humans probably won’t be able to get together until after Yule and Christmas have actually passed. It’ll still be a great time. You can literally reschedule your holiday festivities to a later date, or celebrate early!
  7. You have the right to call it whatever you want. Celebrate Yule, Christmas, Hannukah, or any other of the myriad winter holidays happening within this timeframe? Rock on and celebrate it your way. Pay no attention to the grumps arguing about the war on Christmas. That’s not a thing.
  8. You have the right to not call people you don’t want to talk to. I am estranged from my parents, and the holidays are one of the toughest times to be estranged. I still feel a little tug that says I should call or reach out. Nope. I do not have to open myself up to emotional abuse, and neither do you.
  9. You have the right to return or re-gift. If you receive a gift that isn’t up your alley for any reason, you are under no obligation to keep it. Don’t stress out by finding a place for it or worrying about what Great Aunt Edna will think if she never sees that sweater in your selfies.
  10. You have the right to not hug people. Neither children nor adults are obligated to hug or otherwise show affection to anyone if they don’t want to. This is especially important to impart to children, who are learning about bodily autonomy. If a little kid doesn’t want to hug and kiss grandma, make it clear to everyone that it’s not okay to force it.
  11. BONUS: You have the right to decorate as much or as little as you want. I hung my favorite ornaments on a potted palm tree. You make the rules!
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I’m tired of being tired

I’m tired, y’all.

stress photo

I’m the type of person who will hold it when I need to use the restroom so that I can start a load of laundry in the washer and get my dirty dishes out of my lunchbox so that my time in the bathroom is not wasted. As if taking care of something as basic as peeing is a waste of time if I’m not also doing something productive. I’m the type of person who can’t read a book anymore. I have to be taking a bath and reading, or driving and listening to an audiobook, for me to feel like I’m not wasting time by doing something as indulgent as reading a book without accomplishing anything else at the same time.

When I scroll through my Facebook memories, I see that I have been tired for years. When I was in elementary, middle, and high school, I was tired. During college, I was tired. I got married, entered grad school, had a part-time job, and was tired. I got divorced and I was tired. I moved into my own place and had my first full-time job, and I was tired. I moved again and got a new job and had a freelance side business and I was tired. I worked on my exercise and diet habits, lost a bunch of weight, got married, tried to have a baby for 18 months, gained weight, stopped talking to my mom, got on antidepressants, realized I was in an abusive and controlling relationship, moved out, got divorced, stopped talking to my dad, and I WAS TIRED.

September 28-29, 2018 I completed a Ragnar Relay race and I was tired. Like, really really tired. I got 3 hours of sleep on Thursday night, 2 hours of sleep on Friday night, and various naps in a van during a two day 200-ish-mile race. Also my book was due to the publisher on October 1. And I was tired.

Now, the race is over, I have an extension to finish the book so I feel confident in what I hand in to my publisher, and I am looking forward to finally not being so tired.

But there’s one problem: I don’t know how to not be tired.

Overworking myself is not a temporary season of my life. It’s habit I’ve developed since childhood. It’s instinct. I’m always going, going, going, taking on new projects, trying to creatively solve problems, and looking ahead to the next to-do.

It’s exhausting.

I keep hearing stories of people in their 30s and 40s having strokes or heart attacks brought on by stress and I know without a doubt, that could be me. I know I need to slow down, to rest, to be still, to stop being so damn tired. So I’m going to learn.

Decision fatigue

One of the reasons it’s so taxing and exhausting to have so much going on all the time is because of a little thing called decision fatigue. Just having a bunch of stuff to think and make decisions about is a mental stressor. Something as seemingly simple as choosing what to wear in the morning can throw your whole day off if you open your closet to face a bunch of options. We get paralyzed by the decision. It’s one more thing to do.

Gina from This Family’s Journey writes about decision fatigue and how simplifying your life can help reduce stress and boost overall productivity since your brain doesn’t have to have so many tabs open just to make the basic decisions of the day anymore. I recommend you check out her post! (Her email to me was in my inbox for nearly a month, marked unread five different times, while I waited for the motivation to write a post about this topic.)

Reducing my stress impact

I am dedicating the next 6 months toward learning new “lower impact” habits to reduce the stress in my life, focusing on the following areas:

  1. Rest
  2. Food
  3. Movement
  4. Schedule
  5. Creativity
  6. Home
  7. Finances
  8. Work
  9. Social media

If you are also tired of being tired, stay tuned. I’ll be blogging my way through this process as I start over from scratch to learn the basics of human existence. How to eat things that make me feel good, how to get enough sleep to feel good, how to create a home that makes me feel good, and how to do work that makes me (you guessed it) feel good. I want to feel good.

PS. I’m on Facebook hiatus, so follow me on Instagram @caitlinfisherauthor for social media updates.