The holidays are here, but are you ready to relax and enjoy them? Will you be able to sit around conversing for an hour or two fully engaged with your family and friends? Will you be able to shut off work completely for a period of time? That means no cellphone, no iPad, no TV, no computer and no working on your to-do list of home projects.
Being happy at the holiday’s requires tuning into other people, listening to their stories, sharing their ups and downs, and relaxing as you enjoy a few days of feeling real connection.
Some people become restless after a few minutes if they’re not being productive. A vague uneasiness builds into an internal agitation as they tell themselves that it’s irresponsible to just be sitting around when they have so much to do. On the rare occasions when they’re absolutely stuck in a situation with nothing to do, their discomfort morphs into boredom, irritation or alcohol abuse.
If you recognize any of these signs of distress, you may have become consumed by the demands of your job:
Do you have a hard time getting work out of your head because “wasting time” makes you feel guilty?
Do you fear something will go wrong if you’re not personally on top of what’s going on at work?
Do you have a hard time trusting that anyone else will manage work issues as well as you?
Is being successful in your job what gives you the most satisfaction?
Your job obsession may be creating a work-life imbalance. As successful as you undoubtedly are at work, your relationships at home might be suffering. You’ve been besieged by people’s demands at work, and hearing what your spouse needs from you puts your stress level over the top. You could find that you’re too tired at the end of the day to have enough energy to pay attention to your family’s problems.
As work becomes more consuming, you may have become even more disengaged at home. Emotional intimacy with your spouse can become nearly non-existent. Same with your sex life. To avoid being annoyed by the issues at home, it’s been easier to keep your distance.
When you’re forced to deal with a problem, you find yourself being very critical of your “loved ones.” Have the frustrations ever built up to the point that you’ve exploded into a fit of rage?
Now you’re facing a few days of downtime over the holidays surrounded by people from whom you’ve become distant and disconnected. You’re conflicted. You want to be able to relax and enjoy their company.
In fact, you’ve been thinking that work isn’t so much fun anymore. You’re increasingly unhappy at work as well as at home. You’re craving some rest and relaxation. It would be nice if someone appreciated you. You’d love to get a little TLC. But you can’t see how to create those good experiences.
The first step is to make the decision that you deserve to be happier. You’ll need to give up your fantasy that you’ll be happy someday in the vague and distant future. To do that means you must come face to face with the fact that what you’re doing to yourself now is destructive and self-defeating.
Your words may be saying that you’re working to give you and your family a good life, but your behavior is saying that you deserve very little for yourself. Actions speak louder than words, and the way you’re acting is making you and your loved ones unhappy. If you really feel that you deserve to have a good life, then decide to make that the main gift you give to you and your family this year.
The second step is to face the discomfort that plagues you when you’re not being productive. You’ll need to force yourself to relax at first, so plan on getting some exercise first thing in the morning. Plan your day around pleasurable activities and engaging in conversations chock-full of curiosity. Ask other people what would make their day terrific, and then do whatever you can to help make it happen. This will be an especially effective strategy with your kids, for whom play is still their favorite activity.
Finally, fight through the anxious thoughts that will arise when you’re trying to engage in holiday festivities. Tell yourself that it’s time to lose your mind and come to your senses. Then pay attention to what you’re seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting and feeling.