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A Slacker's Guide to the Holidays

As the holiday season begins it’s chaos in our lives, we either jump for joy or start stress eating - or both.

Why is it that some people just take it in stride, and others seem so wound up?

We all have that person in our lives

  • the one that might show up for holiday events, or just decides they’re not going to attend.

  • the one that brings gifts, or just flat doesn’t with no shame or guilt.

  • the one that doesn’t even answer group texts (oh - the group texts) about plans…EVER!

  • defies family holiday traditions (like that fifth family Christmas gathering in two days) without a care in the world.

That person can be so frustrating! Seemingly not concerned with our needs and traditions.

And yet, we’re secretly jealous.

Do we start being that slacker too? Hold on before you make that change. There is a balance, and that should always be the goal.

Find the intentional slacker in your brain, just waiting to be let out and take charge.

Pause before the “yes”.

Habits are hard to change, and holiday habits are no different.

If you are automatically saying yes to all those commitments, it’s a reaction - a habit built by the brain. The “yes” is from an emotional reaction, a neuron that has been developed to respond in auto=mode, not intentional thought.

Before committing to any holiday commitments, especially family ones, pause. Tell them you’ll get back to them or will let them know in the next few days. Provide yourself space to think and be intentional instead of reacting out of guilt or other people’s expectations.

Get okay with changing traditions.

There is beauty in traditions, and they fill our brains with happy hormones. Changing traditions can be tricky emotional waters for families, though, but that’s not really your issue - that’s theirs.

When I was in my 20s, with divorced parents and several grandparents still living, I attended four to five Christmas events within 48 hours each Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Christmas Day Eve. Living in rural East Texas with family members in different towns, meant driving for hours on both days. My brother was in tow with me during one of these marathon Christmas’ and I looked at him and said, “why are we doing this?”. He had no answer but we were doing it because it was “tradition” and our families expected it, or so we thought. That was my last marathon Christmas until I got married.

Six years into my marriage, with my own family living in another state, my husband and I were spending a wild 48 hours with four to five family Christmas events. Why? Because people have expectations (or so we thought) and we were just in the habit of doing what was expected. After the birth of my son, I said, “no more” and it was consolidated into two events. Was that change hard for people? Yes. But, it was the best thing our family did, and gave us time to build our own traditions.

Ask yourself “why” a lot this holiday season. Why do you do all these things? Why do you have four Christmas’ in two days? Why do you feel so guilty if you don’t?

Another great tip: write down a list of the holiday events you attend and circle the ones you actually want to attend. Those are your priorities and say “no” to the rest.

Ditch the guilt.

Oh, the guilt!!! That feeling of pressure on your chest and fear that it brings. Or is it shame? Here’s the thing:

Guilt is a positive thing that shapes and changes behavior. Here’s an example: I blurt out something that hurts someone’s feelings. I feel guilty. I apologize and then change the way I communicate.

That’s healthy.

Shame is just flat not healthy and our brain has no space for it. When your mom “guilts” you into coming to that fourth Christmas, that’s shame, not guilt. When you feel “guilt” for not buying a present for someone that gave you a gift, that’s shame, not guilt. Shame says “you’re a bad person”. Guilt says, “Huh, that didn’t work. How will I do it differently?”

So, when you decide to change the traditions and the emotional chaos from the family ensues (because it often will), recognize it for what it is: shame patterns that are passed down in families for generations. Does it mean your family is dysfunctional? Yes, but the majority of families are! Does it mean they’re “bad” people - no because that’s still the shame talking. It’s because they have their own habits that are hard to change, but that doesn’t mean you have to continue the cycle OR allow the shame to take up space in your brain.

Sounds easy? It’s not. But, it can change. These are years of brain habits that have to be changed, rewiring the brain.

How do you change? With practice. And help - consider enrolling in the Stress-Free Holiday community today. Walk through the brain change with the Brain Whisperer (that’s me!) in an on-your-own-time, easy-to-access format with other women who are ready to change just like you?

And, if you’re a faith-focused person, we have a Holiday Stress Free + Faith-Focused event too. Unleash the power of your brain to keep the reason for the season in full view, and release the shame and guilt of this holiday season. <insert landing page>

Regardless of how you roll, you already have the beauty and the power you need to change - so let’s access it and find an intentional, joy-filled, and authentic holiday season.

Mattie is a counselor, coach, and CEO of Cerebrations, LLC. With over 25 years of experience in understanding how the brain affects our emotions, reactions, and our experiences, she is passionate about empowering women to harness the power of their brain and body connection to create intentional action and deeper connections with their families. You can reach her at or by scheduling a free consult chat.


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