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Coaching Myself on Holiday Stress: Do Your Best

Here's what's real for me. The kids are on break from school. I'm trying to put together a special meal but I'm the only one that likes traditional Thanksgiving food. All the while I'm working, training for a 20 mile run in a few weeks, and trying to inspire teenage kids to find something to do other than electronics at least part of the day - without inciting a tantrum.

I have my moments where impatience or hurry gets the better of me and I try to cut to the chase (generally with the word "No.") while steam rollering over the feelings and enthusiasm of my family. It's so much fun.

While Thanksgiving and Christmas are for family closeness, they are also for family tension. If you're like me, you may be wondering, well, what does the philosophy and tools of coaching have to offer for those of us who are currently more stressed than normal. Glad you asked.

Letting Go Of Control

The first is to let go of control, expectations, the need to be right, and the need for things to go the way we plan. This is easier said than done. And here comes the brain stuff. As a human with a primal brain, we crave easy. In fact we demand easy because easy conserves our precious resources which are critical for primal creatures to stay alive (not as much for a modern human however...) When the need for "easy" gets a hold of us, it says just do it my way and right now. Easy believes it's other people's fault if they mess up our plans - they should know better! With "easy" as the driving force, we become self focused.

For example, when you have conversations with family members, ever think they "should" see it differently - like you see it? When kids are trying to help but are making a big mess, ever think they "should" be more careful and considerate? When you're multitasking with cleaning and cooking and someone demands your attention, ever get frustrated and lose your composure? Of course you do. Because we believe the world should meet us where we are at: people should believe what we believe, they should not interrupt when we are busy, they should not add extra burden on us... But none of that is actually true.

Coaching would say, let's look at our assumptions about what "should" happen and see how realistic they are. Why "should" things go the way you assume? It's not like we are CEOs of the universe. When you take a step back and realize there is some self-serving, some arrogance involved in our insistence that the world meet us where we are at, it becomes easier to let go of our expectations, find some humility, and welcome the unplanned and unexpected.

Meeting Loved Ones Where They Are At

If we give up the idea that other people should meet us where we're at, then we have the opportunity to choose to meet them where they are at. In coaching, we call this acceptance. What that means is welcoming people just as they are without trying to change them. It means dropping the judgement that who someone is or what they say or do is wrong, and you are right.

Practically speaking, acceptance means listening to what others want to talk about without agenda and asking curious questions so you can learn more about them. It means having fun with the kids even if you make a mess or delay dinner a few minutes. It means being able to stop what you are doing and welcome the unexpected, without frustration or resentment. It means being present and enjoying each moment as it comes, rather than rushing to a "goal" or being a slave to a plan.

Giving Ourselves Grace

Coaching would also say give yourself grace - a form of self-acceptance. And this too is hard. We like to beat ourselves up for not being perfect, because obtaining perfect feels safe. Rather than aim for unrealistic perfection, lets try a different route.

We have the choice to adopt the attitude of "good enough", an 8 out of 10, or the Cub Scout Motto: Do Your Best. Why not take the pressure off? Expecting anything more than "Do Your Best" is unkind to you and those who have to deal with you. Let's admit it, we aren't very nice people when we are hard on ourselves.

And for those who need to hear this (meaning me), do your best may mean get frustrated, share some sharply worded retorts, then self correct, apologize, and try again. Or it may mean meeting each moment with joy no matter how it unfolds. When it comes to dealing with the instincts in our heads, we are all bulls in a china shop trying to live life as ballerinas. Sometimes things break. Sometimes we flawlessly dance around the tea cups. Both are part of the human experience.

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