Mothers daughters Christmas overfunctioning

To all the women who are overfunctioners at Christmas, take back control from the overwhelming hold of your Christmas to-do list. This blog is for women, for mothers, for daughters and the expectations and the mental and emotional load that often falls on women.

Unspoken Pressure for the Perfect Christmas Experience

Christmas time can become a whirlwind of parties, hasty reunions with friends, and tasks and planning that become overwhelming just to think about.

There’s this unspoken pressure, mostly on women, to create the perfect Christmas experience – decorating the house flawlessly, cooking elaborate meals, finding the ideal gifts for everyone, and attending gatherings for family, friends and work, as well as the required school and pre-school concerts. It’s enough to want to cocoon myself away from all the stress and expectations, wanting to hibernate for the month of December.

For many women, the desire to make Christmas magical can tip into overfunctioning. Overfunctioning during the Christmas season refers to taking on more tasks and responsibilities than necessary, leading to increased stress and burnout. In many families, mothers and daughters often take on a significant role in organising Christmas functions. They may feel a sense of responsibility or it’s been imposed on women to handle these duties rather than distributed evenly among family members.

Unfortunately, this can lead to feeling overburdened and underappreciated.

Overfunctioning and Responsibility

Some overfunctioning tendencies that many of us, myself included, will do during this ‘silly season’:

  • Striving for an unrealistic, flawless celebration can lead to stress and exhaustion
  • Saying “yes” to every holiday event, task, or request can be overwhelming
  • Neglecting Self-Care. Ignoring your physical and mental health in pursuit of meeting holiday expectations
  • Taking on more responsibilities than necessary or manageable
  • Difficulty delegating tasks and feeling the need to control outcomes
  • Feeling responsible for others’ emotions or actions
  • Micromanaging situations or people
  • The need to seek validation or approval from others
  • Difficulty setting boundaries and saying no
  • Feeling anxious or stressed when not in control
  • Experiencing burnout or exhaustion due to excessive workload

Priya Parker, author and community builder, writes:

“Making a decision about how you want to spend your time is very much a mind-body evaluation, and it’s especially important when stress and emotions are high. When you receive an invitation, pause and notice in your body how it feels.

Am I feeling dread looking at this invitation? Am I feeling joy? Am I tired but open to where this will go? Then ask yourself who you want to be around – whether it’s for comfort or delight or whatever you might need – and who you want to connect with at a later time.”

Overfunctioner and Underfunctioner

The overfunctioner becomes the go-to, the reliable one, for family and friends due to their adept organisational skills. They take on the responsibility, often assuming others aren’t as capable. The underfunctioners are those who hold back, shoulder fewer responsibilities, might lack organisation, and have become accustomed to letting others make choices for them.

If you want to change things around, the onus of responsibility will be on you, the overfunctioner. As I wrote in more detail in a previous blog on Overfunctioning and Underfunctioning In Relationships, “Changing patterns of behaviour is not an easy task. It will mean taking small steps at a time so that others get used to the new patterns being introduced. There will be difficult days when it seems like you are ‘hitting your head against a brick wall’.”

Communicate with Loved Ones

Plan to set aside a specific time to chat with your partner, family or friends (yes, you will need to organise a time to make this happen) about the reasons for these upcoming changes. Change can be tough for most, yet having this conversation will be crucial for you to find balance in the midst of the Christmas season and to ease your anxiety.

Communication plays a pivotal role here. It might be helpful for you to have open discussions about how tasks and responsibilities can be shared more equitably among all family members. Acknowledging and appreciating each other’s efforts can also make a significant difference in how these responsibilities are perceived and managed.

Tips to Manage Overfunctioning During Christmas

  • Set Boundaries: Learn to say “no” graciously. Prioritise activities and commitments that bring happiness.
  • Prioritise: Identify the most important tasks and focus on those. Delegate or eliminate non-essential tasks to reduce your load.
  • Set realistic expectations: Don’t feel pressured to take on more than you can handle. Communicate your limits to others and ask for help when needed.
  • Embrace imperfection: Not everything needs to be picture-perfect.
  • Send A Card: Instead of feeling duty-bound to attend an activity, send a card instead.
  • Simplify Traditions: Focus on meaningful traditions, simplify your decorations, meal plans, or gift-giving and let go of the ones causing unnecessary stress.
  • Practice self-care: Schedule time for yourself. Think of the 3 R’s – rest, relax, and recharge. Engage in activities that bring you joy and help you manage stress, such as meditation, exercise, or spending time with loved ones.
  • Use a Phrase: If you feel you are being pulled into doing a task, a phrase such as “I’ll have to think about that”, can be helpful. Or if you feel pressured to attend a function, a phrase such as “Thanks for the invite but I have other plans”.
  • Take a Break: If feeling overburdened, go for a walk to stretch and breathe. Or go to the bathroom and read a book or listen to music or your favourite podcast for 15 minutes to have a ‘breather’.
  • Seek Support: Talk to friends, family, or a counsellor if feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes sharing can ease the burden.

Christmas isn’t found in perfectly wrapped gifts or flawlessly decorated houses. It’s about love, connection, and sharing moments with those who matter to us. Overfunctioning can cause you to lose that connection, be unable to share those precious moments and make it difficult to show true love to family and friends. By recognising and managing overfunctioning tendencies, you can reclaim the joy of this time of Christmas.

For additional advice and techniques in handling anxiety or improving mother-daughter relationships, feel free to reach out to me by phone or email.


Image: Nicole Michalou, Pexels

Mother-daughter counsellor


Janice Williams is the only Certified Mother-Daughter Relationship Specialist in Australia and the South Pacific region.

Sessions are available across Australia and worldwide.

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