How to “Should” Less Over The Holidays

Health Coaching, Life Coaching, Mindset & Mindfulness
12/13/21 - Sara Dawson

I love this time of year! From Thanksgiving until New Year’s, time seems to speed up in a lot of ways while also slowing down. I love the different pace and feel that work and play has, along with the different activities like tree hunting, decorating, lights-watching, gingerbread making, feasting, zoo lights, and family and friend time. While it can be an exciting time, it can also be a stressful time. It can bring about that feeling of “shoulds”. I “should” do this and I “should” do that. So today, we are talking about how to “should” less over the holidays!

The Holiday Shoulds

Oftentimes, these stressors are described as “shoulds”. Here are a few for example’s sake:

  • I should eat healthy.
  • I should stop eating sweets.
  • I should exercise more.
  • I should eat less.
  • I should spend more time with my family/friends.
  • I should have done x/y/z already.
  • I should be more productive .
  • I should want to do more.
  • I should be happier.
  • I should feel grateful.

What’s Wrong With “Shoulds”?

Do you relate to any of the above “shoulds”? No matter the “should”, they all imply some sort of judgment. According to the Oxford Languages Definition, should is a verb “used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions.” The challenge with judgment is that it can stop us from taking action. Should keeps us focused on what we feel like we’re supposed to do, not necessarily what we want (or need) to do. These feelings of guilt, pressure, stress, and lack of control often keeps us stuck, instead of helping us take the actions that would ultimately make us feel better. So how can we effectively manage our “shoulds”? By exploring and breaking them down into 4 key steps, we can shift our focus to a more empowered mindset and help us prioritize what we really want and need over the holidays. 

The 4 Steps to Quit “Shoulding”:

  1. Identify your “shoulds”. Noticing what your own pattern of thinking looks like is the first step in the right direction. Take note of when you are saying them and what they are about. Reflect on what you are saying from a space of curiosity (vs. judgment.) 
  2. Question your “shoulds”. Asking yourself the following will help determine if this “should” is worth investing your time and energy in:
    • Why do I believe I should do this? 
    • Is this belief really true? 
    • Is this something I think I should do, or is it actually something I want to do? 
  3. Shift your focus. If the “should” is truly something you want to do, then replace it with a more actionable phrase, such as “I want, I can, I will or I get.” This removes the judgment and instead creates a more empowered mindset. An empowered mindset is the foundation needed to take action. 
  4. Get detailed. If your original “should” is vague, it makes it hard to take action even when you remove the judgement from it. For example, if you feel like “I should eat healthier”, unless you know what healthy means to you it makes it difficult to follow through. Ask yourself “What specifically do I want, and how will I know I reached this goal?” to make your original “should” statement more actionable. 
A hand holding a sparkler near the evening sky

What’s Next?

Are you ready to explore your shoulds and start taking action? If so, I invite you to explore and reflect on the following:

  • Identify one big “should” that is coming up for you right now. (When does it come up for you? How does it make you feel?)
  • Then ask yourself: “Is this something I think I should do, or do I actually want to do?”
  • Now shift your “should” into a judgement-free statement (using “I want, I can, I will, or I get.)
  • Make your statement more actionable by asking “What specifically do I want, and how will I know I accomplished it?”
  • ***Bonus – In addition to taking action on your big “should”, I encourage you to take note of how many “shoulds” come up for you in a day! The number may surprise you. I challenge you to reduce that number by intentionally shifting your focus in the following days by continually putting these 4 steps into action. 

In Conclusion

While the holidays bring more joy they often bring more stress into our days as well. So as you look to the month ahead, I encourage you to take note of the pressure your “shoulds” are creating for you and take intentional action towards shifting these statements. Stop “shoulding yourself” to death. Whatever your ideal holiday season looks like, here’s to much happiness, health, and fun ahead for you! Take care and I look forward to what’s next for you. 

~Coach Sara

Related Articles
Woman talking to another woman near a window

“What I’d really love to do is X, but to do so I’d have to take a pay cut…so forget it” If I had $1 for every time I’ve heard that statement from a client, friend, or family member, I’d be typing this from a yacht in the South of France. Yes, there might be […]

Read More
woman researching

So, you got the job. Hooray! Now you just need to do that job well and all your career dreams will come true. Right? Or maybe you’ve been in your role for a while, working hard and doing all the “right” things. It’s only a matter of time before you’re whisked away to the management […]

Read More