Thursday, December 19, 2013

“I can’t go to the party! I’m too fat!”

Welcome to my mind.

It is difficult for me to act all merry and cheery when I don’t feel like it.  Yet, at the same time, I hate being the debbie-downer even more.   So, I usually just pretend like I’m having fun and most people don’t notice.

The small family parties are usually OK.  Each of them knows my struggles and understands to a certain degree.  I feel no pressure to be anybody I’m not, and I feel no pressure to do something I’m not comfortable doing.

It’s the larger extended family things that get me in a tizzy.  The anxiety I experience beforehand is overwhelming.  I get caught up in thinking about what I will say, what I will wear, and what I will eat.  The ceaseless worrying takes over the enjoyable anticipation.

I am so insecure about not working that when it comes to these kinds of events, I am tempted to make up a flashy career just so I will have something to say when people ask, “So, what have you been up to lately?”

I love staying home but I feel guilty when I talk about it with other hard working people.  Sometimes, I don’t think others understand why I need to stay home.  “Are they judging me?”  In the end, even if they aren’t thinking it, I still feel lazy and bum-ish.  Because, deep down inside, I feel like if I try harder I could be more “normal”.

In addition to the work thing, I get so worried about my weight in the days and weeks prior to the parties.  I often focus all my anxious energy on body bashing and negative self-talk.  In the past, this is when my eating disorder would be the worst.  Now, I understand that what I am really worried about is whether or not I will be accepted.  If I am truly honest with myself, I don’t think I am good enough the way I am.  In my mind, if I was skinny and pretty, it would make up for my lack of social skills or interesting talents.

When the party turns to feasting, it is really difficult for me to eat in front of people I don’t know that well.  I feel like I am being judged for everything I put in my mouth.  It’s like I can hear what people are thinking, “You shouldn’t be eating that, it’s bad for you” or “it’s fattening” or “You shouldn’t be eating anything – you should run around the block to try to lose some weight.”

I hear other people’s insecurities or justifications when they say things like, “I guess I can eat more dessert since I ran six miles this morning” or “I better work out tomorrow after all I ate today!”  I know where those words are coming from because I’ve been there myself once upon a time.

When all is said and done, things usually turn out OK.  But needless to say, being at parties with this kind of anxiety is no fun.

So, this year, to make the holiday parties more enjoyable, I’m going to try a different angle.

1) Who cares what other people think?  If they don’t think I’m good enough, then that’s their problem.  By the way, they’re probably not thinking about me anyway – they’re probably thinking about how they look to other people.  If I spend my whole life worrying about what other people will think of me, then I will miss out on the beauty of my own unique individuality.

2) Be a smiling face.  Even if I don’t feel like it, try to smile more than not.  Fake it till you make it.  Not that I am trying to be “fake” or someone I’m not.  Just that if I want to possess a virtue I don’t have, then I must imitate that virtue.  I want to be positive, uplifting, and share the joy of Christ.  There are other times and places to express the sorrow of the soul.

3) Eat what I want.  If I am hungry, or even if I just feel like eating, I must remember that I do NOT have to earn the right to eat food.  I can enjoy a good Christmas meal and seconds and thirds if I want.  I’ll eat slowly and savor all the flavors that only come around once a year.  I’ll be a good example of eating “normally”.  And I won’t regret it after!

4) Embrace the awkwardness.  Every conversation can’t be enlightening and at the epitome of class and grace.  I am not perfect.  Sometimes I say stupid stuff.  Who cares anyway?  Everybody does it from time to time.  Laugh it off and move on.

5) Stay away from mirrors…during the party and beforehand.  Since I am more tempted to beat myself up this time of year, it would be helpful not to put myself in situations where I have the opportunity.  Right now, I’m at once a day while I brush my teeth.  But if that proves too much, then I don’t know, I’ll have to cover it up with a poster or something.  I am amazed at how much stronger my self-esteem is when I am not fighting with the mirror every day.

If I go into the holidays with this kind of attitude, I will be more likely to enjoy myself.  I am also hoping that, by telling myself these things now, I won’t have the debilitating pre-party anxiety.

I hope you found these tips useful as well.

May your Christmas be filled with true joy and authentic peace.  Have a nourishing holiday!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Your Temperament and Your Mental Health, Part 2: The Melancholic and Mental Illness

Click this link here for Part 1.

I read the book “The Temperament God Gave You” in college, yet I did not know it’s value until these past few years.  The most interesting discovery I made while reading about temperaments was that Melancholics are more prone to depression and anxiety than those with any other temperament.

Because the Melancholic values the “ideal”, things of this world often fall short of their expectations.  Their perfectionist tendencies drive them to keep rigorous routines or unrealistic standards.  And when they can’t maintain even one small portion of this lifestyle, they view themselves as weak failures.

The Melancholic’s heart is restless on earth and is often caught contemplating eternal life or, at least, caught with a book in their nose.  They have a difficult time “living in the moment” because the moment falls short of want they long for.

Small imperfections or failures are seen as catastrophes.  Melancholics are prone to illness, but they are also hypochondriacs because they are expecting bad things to happen to them at any moment.  A minor setback is seen as “the end of the world”.  This is why they can become self-absorbed and throw themselves “pity parties”.

Because of their sensitivity to suffering, Melancholics carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.  It is difficult to “lighten up” because injustices never leave their mind.  They feel personally responsible for solving problems like aiding the relief of world hunger or finding a cure for cancer.  Or considering the realm of faith, Melancholics feel personally responsible for evangelizing every human being on the face of the earth.

The surmounting tasks that the Melancholic feels he must do often becomes too overwhelming, for obvious reasons.  His lists are unrealistic.  However, it is difficult for him to prioritize and make decisions because everything feels important and urgent.

Getting started on any task is very challenging because of the imposed standard of perfection his places on himself.  Melancholics can think of a hundred ways something won’t work before they even begin a project.  They are already a failure before they start.

The Melancholic is extremely in tune with sadness.  He can pick up on others moods very easily which makes him very empathetic.  On the flip-side, they can often take things harder than person with the actual problem.

Melancholics have very low self-esteem.  They don’t feel like they deserve anything good.  Because of their keen awareness of faults and sins, they have a difficult time forgiving themselves, moving on, and learning from the occasion.

Social situations are very draining.  And stressful circumstances require a lot of energy as well.  The Melancholic needs more rest during these specific times, if not all the time.  The mind is always working at top speed which might be the explanation for consistent low energy levels.  The mind interrupts every experience.  Thinking and over-analyzing are constant companions.  But how does one “turn off” his brain?

The combination of perfectionism, pessimism, low energy levels, can often make the Melancholic feel incapable, inadequate, and undeserving.

Is any of this sounding familiar?

It’s no wonder that people with this temperament struggle with maintain good mental health.  Most of these descriptions are classic symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

I know it seems like this temperament has all weaknesses and no strengths.  Like a true Melancholic, I would focus only on the flaws if no one checked me.

On the positive side, Melancholics can be great contemplatives.  Many saints possessed the Melancholic temperament.  They can be incredibly creative because of their deep insight.  Once they finally let someone in, they make for loyal, compassionate friends.  And, Melancholics are very attentive to detail, often being able to work on the most tedious, detailed job without growing weary.  They are determined once they get started, and will see things through till the end.

I know each of the four temperaments has their own set of struggles and obstacles.  I am only picking on the Melancholics because of the link to depression and anxiety.  I think it’s interesting to know that I was prone to despair before I began to experience the symptoms of clinical depression.

Before I end, I’m throwing in a disclaimer; I’m not saying all Melancholics are depressed, just that, because of their nature, they are prone to it.  And I am also not saying that only Melancholics are the one who get depressed.  You could have any type of temperament and suffer from any mental illness.  Often times, mental illness can change your temperament temporarily.  The mental illness can override your natural inclinations and make you act “out of character”.

If you are a loved one of a Melancholic it is important to know that just because the he or she can be pessimistic, grumpy, and complaining most of the time, that does not necessarily mean he or she is unhappy (or has depression).  For the Melancholic, expressing certain feelings looks different than those with other temperaments.

First, encourage trust in your relationship so as to open up the lines of communication.  Once the relationship is grounded and solid, encourage the Melancholic express joy and hope in their daily life.  Finding even the smallest things to be grateful for is an essential habit to form.  And also, prompt them to affirm others often, especially the ones they love.  Gently remind the Melancholic of these things because guilt trips or pressure will only cause them to withdraw inward.

The tendency to depression will always be present in the Melancholic.  However, with good habits and a solid support system, mental illness will stay far away.

I hope that by better understanding these inherit reactions of mine as a Melancholic, I can better understand how to overcome the depression and the anxiety and any other obstacles associated with this temperament.  It is kind of like going to the source, instead of just treating the symptoms.

It may also help me to be kind to myself and cut myself some slack.  After all, God gave me this temperament.  Not that I need to use that as an excuse to stop bettering myself, but that I may use His grace to build upon this nature.

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil 4:8)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Your Temperament and Your Mental Health, Part 1: What’s Your Temperament?

Going off my last post “It’s OK to have emotions; it’s how you deal with them that matters.”, your temperament has a lot to do with how you deal with your emotions.

If you don’t already know, your temperament is your natural inclinations, behaviors, and responses to life.  It is not your personality, your character, or your fate.  Who you are is not limited to your temperament; your character is made up of your education, environment, free will, family of origin, habits, health, etc.  Your temperament is, however, a general set of guidelines to help you better understand yourself and others.

There are four categories: Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Choleric, and Melancholic.  These four distinctions of human reactions date all the way back to the time of Socrates, Plato, and even Hippocrates.

Some people are skeptical of categorizing because they feel put in a box.  The temperaments are not an excuse to sin or act in an uncharitable way.  On the contrary, knowing your primary and secondary temperaments can help you develop your strengths and work toward overcoming your weaknesses.  “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:3)  Knowing yourself can help you make changes for the better and become the best version of yourself.

It is difficult to pinpoint a specific temperament in the saintly man.  On our journey toward holiness, we become more and more “centered” or “balanced”, living life in the intersection of the four.  It is not about “changing” who you are, but more so about building on your nature.  As St. Thomas Aquinas says, “Grace builds upon nature”.

There is much to say about the four temperaments.  If you want an in-depth look, check out the book, “The Temperament God Gave You” by Art and Laraine Bennett.  This book will help you figure out what temperament you have, and, in addition, by understanding all the different temperaments, you can learn how to better relate to your spouse, your children, and to God.  For example, if you are a laid-back Phlegmatic and your spouse is a go-getter Choleric, or if you have a pensive Melancholic son and you are a fun-loving Sanguine.  My favorite part is, probably because I’m a Melancholic, the practice advice given to deepen your spiritual life corresponding with the temperament you have.

For the sake of this post, I am going to simplify the four categories (speaking in terms of reactions) to fall under the main descriptions of either: quickly or slowly, and shallowly or deeply (if those are even real words).  See my high-tech chart below. J

        Quick/Active/Extroverted         Slow/Passive/Introverted

Shallow/Factual                               Sanguine                             Phlegmatic

Deep/Personal                                 Choleric                                Melancholic

Simplified, the Sanguine reacts quickly, has glass-half-full optimism, makes decisions easily, everybody’s friend, and loves to be the center of attention.  Large crowds energize them and nothing seems to bother them.  Sanguines are quick to forgive and forget, generous, self-giving, friendly, attentive, and communicative.  Some possible weakness include: superficiality, easily distracted, and speaks before he thinks.  People with the temperament of Sanguine need to understand Jesus is his truest friend and that love is the basis for rules and discipline.

The Phlegmatic reacts slowly and, most often, without a whim, reserved, sensible, tolerant, and dependable.  Peace is their source of energy and they will do anything to avoid conflict.  They are harmonious and peacekeepers, yet they are not strong leaders.  In the midst of crisis, they stay calm and rational.  The Phlegmatic can be dispassionate, detached, and overly scientific.  They will aim to please to the point of fault, falling into peer pressure or sacrifice their values.  What the Phlegmatic needs most is encouragement, especially to personalize the faith and realize that he has an important role in the Church.

The Choleric reacts quickly and intensely, is strong-willed, rational, highly energetic, enthusiastic, and very productive.  Activity energizes the Choleric and wasting time is the most annoying thing.  The Choleric’s strengths are: leadership, decisiveness, efficiency, and ability to grasp the big picture.  The Choleric’s weaknesses are: quick to judge, domineering, overly ambitious, fear of intimacy, and prone to pride and anger.  This temperament needs obedience, humility, and understanding, yet first needs to realize that he “needs” these things.

The Melancholic reacts slowly and deeply, values the “ideal”, is empathetic, introverted, and loyal.  Reflection and solitude energizes the Melancholic and chaos is overwhelming.  Strengths: precision, detail, organization, and consistency.  They are the writers, poets, musicians, and artists of the world.  However, those with this temperament can fall into scrupulosity, perfectionism, pessimism, and despair.  Melancholics need supernatural hope, joy, prudent realistic goals, and not to forget to take care of their human needs.

If you're still unsure of what temperament you have, check out this assessment by Sophia Institute.
The point of all this is to help you determine what type of temperament you and your loved ones have.  The more you can understand each other, the more you can avoid miscommunications and grow your relationships.  The more you can understand yourself, the more you can grow in virtue and deepen your relationship with God.

Aaaaaaaaand.....Knowing your temperament can help you recover from mental illness.

I provided this brief analysis as a foundation because wanted to go into a little more depth discussing the Melancholic temperament (well, probably because that is my primary temperament).  Also, I learned about some interesting things about possible links between Melancholics and mental health that deserved some attention.

But in order to create some suspense, you’ll have to stay tuned until next time for Part 2 of this post! J

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It’s OK to have emotions; it’s how you deal with them that matters.

Emotions are not bad in and of themselves; they are a part of life.

Most of the time, you cannot control the emotions or the feelings you experience.  In the past, I’ve written about how feelings are like the weather.  They come and they go.  And just like the weather, sometimes, strong feelings are unwanted.

Even though we can’t control the weather, or our emotions, we can still adapt to the environment in which we live.  The defining factor between good and poor mental health is how you deal with your emotions.

(It is in that sense that people talk about “controlling their emotions”.  In actuality, one controls his/her emotions by responding in a positive and productive way – not, however, by stopping them from occurring altogether.)

A major part of mental health recovery is focused on dealing with your emotions in a healthy way.

Everyone has unwelcome emotions.  Those who have mental health problems are prone to dealing with their emotions in a self-destructive way.  So, in order to get better, those habits need to be changed for the good.

For example, drink excessive amounts of alcohol to deal with the pain of losing a loved one is not a good way to deal with emotions of sadness and grief.  There is nothing wrong with feeling sadness and grief; those are natural emotions that occur in life.  What is harmful is how one deals with those strong feelings.  Long-term, self-destructive behaviors left unaddressed can result in more problems like alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicide.  All the while, the sadness and grief are not given space but buried deep down inside a person.

Healthy ways to deal with strong emotions must be determined by the person experiencing the feelings.  Some things work well from some but not for others.

Still, even today, I am trying to figure out what works for me and what doesn’t work for me.  It is tricky because it even varies from day to day.

I have a default setting that, when things get bad, when I am experiencing strong emotions, I want to restrict my eating or not eat at all.  Or, I want to exercise until I get dizzy from exhaustion.  Obviously, these are not healthy coping skills.  It has been a struggle to over-ride those default settings.

Years and years ago, I developed those self-destructive methods to cope with my emotions because I thought that my emotions we the result of something bad inside of me.  I thought that I was to blame for what I was feeling.  And I thought that I “shouldn’t” be feeling that way.

I had to learn that it is OK to have feelings.  Having emotions means you are human.

Instead of the self-destructive behaviors, I try to deal by:
Talking about how I feel – whether or not I feel like I “deserve” to feel that way or not.
Taking a walk – fresh air and light exercise helps me think clearly and efficiently in order to make better decisions.  Sometimes, I need to listen to my iPod while I walk because I need to allow myself not to think anymore.
Doing the dishes – sometimes mindless activity is needed to distract from the relentless thoughts.  It is a small accomplishment that doesn’t take much effort but is still satisfying.
Scheduling a time to cry – I don’t want to cry all the time, but sometimes I need to.  So I tell myself that I can cry later when the time is right.
Taking a nap – sometimes, being over-tired triggers unwanted emotions.  Taking a nap or going to bed early can rejuvenate and refresh the mind.  I always feel better after a good rest.
Remembering who I am – I am a child of God.  He wants what is best for me.  He will only give me what He knows I can handle.  He only allows bad things to happen because a greater good will come from it.  If I can pray, then that is also a good coping skill.  If not, then I repeat to myself “I am loved. I am enough.”

Learning to deal with your emotions starts at a very young age.  Most of the time, we learn how to deal from our parents or caregivers.  If they have unhealthy habits, their children will most likely develop unhealthy habits.

There is nothing wrong with showing emotion.  This article from does a fantastic job explaining why it is important to show your children that you are experiencing strong emotions, like anger and so on.  But, as expressed in the article, equally important is that you continue the process and also show how you deal with your emotions in a healthy, non-self-destructive way.

Remember, emotions are not bad; you are not a bad person if you feel strong feelings.  How you respond to your emotions is what really matters.  Suppressing your feelings will only result in bigger issues.  So, it is important to find beneficial ways to express your emotions and allow them to have a proper place in your life.  Eventually, your emotions won’t seem so scary if you have healthy habits ready to deal with them when it is needed.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Having an Ego Can Help in Eating Disorder Recovery

As of late, I’ve felt redundant in my blog.  I’ve written about a lot of topics and I’ve pretty much said everything I want to say.  But, I recognize that I need to be reminded over and over and over again in order to stay on the straight and narrow.  So, I’m thinking that maybe you will continue reading as well, even though I am repeating myself, because you need to be reminded too.

Healing from mental illness takes a lot of time.  Continuing to learn and re-learn information will set you up for success.  I think the statistic goes you have to read or hear something seven times before you actually learn it (???).  That is why I take time every day to work on my mental health; whether it’s reading helpful information, implementing new skills, or practicing healthy habits.  Ev. Er. Y. Day.

I recently read a good critique about maintaining eating disorder recovery during the holidays.  In the article, the author writes about how making progress toward mental health is counter-cultural:

“Recovering from an eating disorder while living in such an environment can be a maddeningly frustrating experience. A clinician I know explains it this way: ‘A person recovering from an eating disorder is recovering into a very disturbed world.’ To recover means to land above and beyond where the vast majority of people are in terms of food and body.”

As an eating disorder survivor, one needs to recognize this reality.  The sociological standards and cultural norms will not help you live a life of recovery.  This phenomenon is similar to a recovering alcoholic living his whole life in one gigantic bar.  There is no escape from the constant temptation to relapse.

The author goes on to say:

“Although it can be satisfying to have such an evolved perspective, it also can be challenging. It's hard to feel forced out of all the bonding that happens over discussions about exercise routines, and it can be daunting to try to practice "normal eating" when you are surrounded by people eating diet foods.”

In order to say true to the mission of recovery, personally, I must view my relationship with food as superior to others’ perspectives.  For me, I have to believe that what I am doing is the right thing for me and what you are doing is the wrong thing.  I know it sounds egotistical, but it is essential that I believe my eating habits are more advanced than yours.  If not, if I don’t believe my way is the right way, then I will cave in my convictions and fall into an eating disorder relapse.

It is a tricky thing to live, let alone to write about.  Bottom line: if you want to recover from an eating disorder, you’ve got to have some sort of an ego.  More often than not, those who struggle with E.D.’s have no ego at all and very low self-esteem to boot.  I grapple with feelings of worthlessness on a day to day basis; so, needless to say, this part of recovery is very difficult for me.

I can very much relate to the authors words when she talks about living it out, “Even though I know I should be proud of myself for doing what is healthy and supportive of a life in recovery, I sometimes experience shame around not complying with the prevailing cultural expectations.”  Shame.  It keeps me from making new friends, it causes me extreme anxiety before social events, and it keeps me from being who I am meant to be.  Shame plays the biggest role in keeping me from full recovery.

Carry on my wayward son...  Why do I take time everyday to intentionally get better?  Because if I don’t, then I will forget where I’ve come from and what it took to get to where I am today.  I don’t want to go back to the way I was before.

In conclusion (from the article), “In those moments when I feel like I will scream if one more person comments on how she supposes she can afford to eat dessert because she worked out that morning, I have to dig deep and remind myself that I actually don't want to fit into that cultural norm--I've worked too hard to raise myself above it.”

Monday, December 2, 2013

7 Ways to Make the Holidays More Enjoyable

{Photo credit here}
On the one hand, I love the Holidays: being able to see family and friends, celebrating gratitude and the birth of Jesus, and switching up the routine for a while.  It can be a time of great blessing and renewal.

On the other hand, I hate the busyness and the expectations the Holidays can bring.  Parties are crammed into a few days.  Meals take so much preparation and planning.  There are expectations to make sure everything turns out perfect – having the right amount of food, civil interactions with family members, finding the perfect gifts, and having to appear a certain way.

Everybody handles the holiday season differently.  For me, I have an introverted personality.  Large crowds, parties, and socializing drains me, like a battery having the life sucked out of it.  Some people, however, thrive in social environments.  Being in crowds and socializing at parties recharges their batteries and actually gives them energy.  I have a difficult time understanding this, but I know it is true because my husband is this way.

It is good to know which type of person you are.

If you are an introvert like me, or an extroverted perfectionist, you might need these tips to help you have a more enjoyable December.  Or maybe you are an extrovert but the holidays still stress you out.  Regardless, here are some hints to help you thrive during the holiday season, instead of just surviving it.

1.  Unplug from Pinterest.  There are so many ideas on Pinterest, it can be overwhelming.  The “cuteness” and “cleverness” is never ending.  In addition, it is full of unrealistic, perfect pictures.  In no way does the internet portray real life.  If you need a recipe or an idea and you MUST look at Pinterest, then set a timer for 10 minutes.  Look it up and move on with your day.  If you can’t handle that, then look something up in an old fashioned cook book.

2.  Slow down.  Nothing is worth doing, if it is taking away your peace and stressing you out.  Work at a pace that is enjoyable to you.  If you don’t get everything done, it’s not the end of the world.  In order to make the actually day of the holiday enjoyable, the journey must also be enjoyable.

Don’t let the stress of the preparation carry over into the holiday.  This past Thanksgiving, I made sure to make the preparation as fun as the actual day.  In turn, doing so made Thanksgiving Day (and all the other parties that weekend) more fun.

3.  Adjust the settings on your “expectation meter” to ZERO.  Tell yourself right now, “It’s not going to be perfect” and “it’s not going to turn out how I want”.  But that’s OK.  Don’t imagine the worst – just accept the events as they come.  Lowering your expectations will automatically ease your stress.

4.  Don’t consume yourself with what other people might be thinking of you.  The truth is, they’re not thinking about YOU, they are thinking about themselves.  So don’t beat yourself up about something you said or didn’t say.  Don’t analyze what you did in certain situations.  No one is thinking about you – if they do, it will only be for a moment and they will move on.  Embrace the awkwardness.

5.  Don’t participate in gossip.  You might understand how harmful it is to other people.  Yet, gossip is just as harmful to the person speaking it.  If you spend your time talking about others, even if it is good things, you will begin to worry about what other people are saying about you.  Gossip feeds a low self-esteem whether you are degrading someone else to feel better about yourself, or whether you are comparing someone’s strengths to your weaknesses.

If you find that you are surrounded by toxic people, people who gossip a lot or make you feel bad about yourself, it is OK to walk away.  As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  So don’t consent to be a part of toxic conversations, even if you are just trying to be polite.  We, as a society, do so many ridiculous things in the name of “politeness”.  Don’t sacrifice your self-worth in order to be polite to someone you barely know.

6.  Quiet your inner critic.  Think of your inner critic, or the voice of anxiety, as a toddler throwing a temper tantrum.  Just like a toddler, if you respond to the crying, you are adding more fuel to the fire.  Ignore the voices in your head that put you down, degrade your self-worth, or make you feel like you’re not good enough.  Ignore the voices that cause anxiety, perfectionist tendencies, or obsessive behaviors.  Tell yourself, “Remember, I am not going to do that anymore!”  And try to move on.  Lead with your body (engage in health routines) even if your head isn’t there yet.  If you lead with your actions, your mind will eventually follow.

7.  Remember, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.  Yet, remember, if it is worth doing, then it is worth a little pain and suffering.  Sometimes during the Christmas season, we get so busy with events that we forget to take care of ourselves.  It is OK to pick and choose which events to attend.  If something is causing you too much anxiety, whether you are too busy or you just need to take care of yourself, it is OK to say no.
All in all, we want the Holidays to be an enjoyable time, right?  So, instead of focusing on other people’s standards, focus on what you need.  If you are having a good time, more often than not, others around will have a good time as well.