Stress and the Holidays – Expectations

Thank you for joining me for this week’s blog! Last week we started to focus on why the holidays can be especially stressful and revealed that anticipation and expectations of ourselves could play a significant role in feeling overwhelmed. This week we are focusing on another important contributor: expectations of others

How do our expectations of others cause stress during the holidays?

“Should I invite them over?”
“Why didn’t they invite me to that party?”
“How could they not have thought of me? Not even a card?”
“They can’t just stop by anytime they want!”
“I know I shouldn’t be greedy, but I expected more from them. How could they not think of the kids?”
“They always expect the house to be perfectly clean and the food to be ready, and it’s just not possible.”
“I better wear something new because I know they expect a lot of me and I need to impress.”
“What am I going to cook? I know I can’t match what they do all the time. They are always such good hosts, and I know they will expect the same of me.”

Does that sound familiar? The holidays are full of spending time with people. Lots of them. This causes stress because of the expectation we have on ourselves and also the expectations of those other people. It’s true that we all try to live by the saying, “it’s not about the gifts, it’s about spending time together”, but somehow that causes just as much stress as buying a gift!  

Spending time together with people that we have known for a long time, or people we are just getting to know, creates stress. There is the pressure of wanting everything to go right and seeking the approval of everyone. Factor in social media; we have the influence of others right in the palm of our hands all the time. We see what others are doing, what they are buying, how they are decorating, and we feel the pressure to do the same or better. These factors can be overwhelming and daunting at times.

Why do the expectations of others create stress?

Human beings have an innate need to belong. When we have the pressure of the expectations of others, we are directly interacting with that need to belong. We are seeking approval and feeling a desire to meet the standard. While it can be a coping strategy to say ‘I don’t care what they think’ or ‘I’m not going to follow what others expect’, it is a short-term fix.

How can we address the stress of the expectations of others?

We discussed last week the importance of establishing a balance, and the same answer applies here; it can be used therapeutically.

Taking some time to reflect on the following questions can help you establish a balance in managing the stress that comes with the expectations of others:

  • Who matters the most to you? Think about the people in your life that matter that most to you. These are the people with the most valuable opinions and insights. These people also would not typically impose pressures or expectations on you.
  • What matters the most to you? Is it important to you to have a clean house or to buy expensive gifts? Or is it more important to focus on the experience of being together and buying gifts filled with meaning and symbols?
  • What are you most proud of that you want people to notice? Highlight your best features! This should be associated with who you are as a person. People notice when we are true to ourselves, and the ones that you value will see this right away.
  • Do you need to check your social media? Take a break from social media. This helps to clarify your values and realign what is important to you without the influence or pressure of what everyone else is doing.

If you haven’t had a chance yet, make sure you sign up below to receive our free guide on managing stress – which would be helpful as you’re reviewing the tips we provided above. 

In our next blog, we will take a look at another factor when it comes to holiday stress: family dynamics. 

If you have tried the techniques listed in the guide and still find it challenging to manage the stress, let us support you! It can be difficult to set boundaries and understand how to be realistic when we are already stressed. We encourage you to reach out, and we will provide you with some outside perspective.  

If you are interested in counselling or would like to speak to a member of our team, please contact us, we would be happy to speak with you.