19th December, 2023

How to Survive the Holiday Season

With Corrina Gordon-Barnes

Photo of Corrina Gordon-Barnes

Listen to this episode

On this episode

The Christmas season can be a time of stress and disappointment, especially when our expectations don’t match up with reality. We can find ourselves dealing with difficult family members, feeling overwhelmed with work and family obligations, or experiencing a general sense of dissatisfaction.But there’s plenty we can do to make the festive period more enjoyable and less overwhelming.

This week, we’re revisiting a previous conversation on the podcast, with Corrina Gordon-Barnes. In her chat with Rachel, you’ll learn how to turn expected disappointments into a game of bingo, set realistic expectations, and exercise some self-compassion.

By taking proactive steps, we can create a more positive and fulfilling Christmas experience.

Show links

About the guests

Corrina Gordon-Barnes photo

Reasons to listen

  • To learn strategies to cope with the expectations and negative experiences that come with the holiday season
  • To discover the concept of playing “Christmas Bingo” to approach disappointments with humour and acceptance
  • To gain insights on how to navigate triggering situations and avoid falling into familiar patterns of conflict

Episode highlights


Christmas disappointments


Christmas Bingo


What you can do to avoid disappointent


Playing out the old dances


Your zone of power


Lowering your expectations


Self-compassion in the face of disappointment


Hunt the Pony


Handling regret


Corrina’s top 3 tips

Episode transcript

[00:00:00] Rachel: You are another year older, but are you any wiser? As we’re coming up to the holiday season, I’m reflecting on last year and how I coped with all the expectations of Christmas, including some of the more negative expectations of irritation with certain members of my family.

[00:00:15] Last year I had a convenient gout jail free card as I broken my ankle and was able to sneak off to the gym for some rehab while the rest of the family trudged around the lake in the cold and rain. But this year, I’m going to have to find a different escape route.

[00:00:30] But the holidays don’t always have to feel like something to get through in one piece. How we think about things can make a difference. Planning in advance for how you’ll deal with that difficult relative, or how to take little oases of time for yourself in the midst of juggling work with hectic family celebrations can make all the difference.

[00:00:51] Last year I chatted with podcast favorite executive coach and trainer Corrina Gordon-Barnes about how to make the holiday season better for everyone by changing our own reactions and expectations.

[00:01:03] As I take some time off over Christmas, I thought it would be good to remind ourselves of some helpful tips and strategies to make it as painless as possible. And who knows? By playing Christmas Bingo, we might even manage to bring some fun back.

[00:01:17] Welcome to You Are Not a Frog, the podcast for doctors and other busy professionals in high stress, high stakes jobs. I’m Dr. Rachel Morris, a former GP now working as a coach, trainer, and speaker like frogs in the pan of slowly boiling water. Many of us don’t notice how bad the stress and exhaustion have become until it’s too late.

[00:01:42] But you are not a frog. Burning out or getting out are not your only options. In this podcast, I’ll be talking to friends, colleagues, and experts, and inviting you to make a deliberate choice about how you live and work so that you can beat stress and work happier.

[00:02:01] It’s wonderful to welcome back with me onto the podcast today, Corrina Gordon-Barnes. Welcome back Corrina.

[00:02:07] Corrina: Hello. I feel like I’m becoming part of the furniture. Like a nice, saggy, saggy old sofa.

[00:02:13] Rachel: Oh, it’s, well, I wouldn’t describe you as a saggy old sofa. Maybe a beautiful armchair.

[00:02:19] Corrina: Thank you. I’ll take that.

[00:02:21] Rachel: Now you are one of our regulars, and we’re hoping to get you on a lot more. Carina, why don’t you just introduce yourself for people that have not met you before?

[00:02:28] Corrina: I have been coaching for many years, so since I was 25 years old, I was a precocious 25-year-old, started coaching, and I’ve been coaching ever since.

[00:02:36] Rachel: What do you specialize in, in particular?

[00:02:39] Corrina: I, I would sum it down to relationships. What makes a relationship work? Whether it’s at work, at home, how do we deal with the disappointments of relationships, the resentments of relationships, ’cause relationships can really make or break our working life and our home life too.

[00:02:56] Rachel: And they’re one of the sort of threefold things in life that’s important. I was listening to a podcast the other day with a sort of uber coach and they were saying, really, life boils down to three things that you need to be happy. One is a, a sense of purpose in your life. Two is your health and three is good relationships. Would you agree with those three?

[00:03:15] Corrina: Yeah, I would.

[00:03:17] Rachel: So relationships, quite, quite a big field there, and I know that you’ve done a couple of really popular podcasts. The one on, Should I Stay or Should I Go, I would recommend that people check out if you are wondering about staying in a relationship or staying in a job or staying in a friendship that was, that that has been particularly impactful, I think .

[00:03:34] Corrina: Absolutely. That real limbo place where you’re not really in or out and it’s that horrible half-hearted place. You’re not. Whatever it is, the job, the relationship isn’t good enough to be fully in, but you are not quite able to leave. So you’re just, yeah, yeah, you’re in limbo.

[00:03:52] Rachel: And I think this podcast is a really good follow up to that because today we are talking about dun dun disappointment.

[00:03:58] Corrina: Mm-Hmm.

[00:03:59] Rachel: Um, all sorts of disappointments. But as it is our Christmas special, we’re gonna start off with talking about disappointment around Christmas or whichever holiday you celebrate. And I’m hoping that even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you’re gonna have a little bit of time off over the holiday season to spend with family. So yeah, Corrina, what sorts of disappointments have you noticed tend to happen in particular around Christmas?

[00:04:26] Corrina: There can be so much hype and the Christmas movies play into that hype. All the glossiness of Instagram or Facebook or whatever platform you’re on. We, I think we all have in mind what a perfect Christmas or seasonal holiday might look like, where everyone’s just harmonious and getting on and there’s joy and laughter and the, the songs will say it, don’t they, don’t they? They tell us what kind of. Magical time of year. It’s the most magical time of the year.

[00:04:54] Rachel: Mm-Hmm.

[00:04:54] Corrina: And just for context, I am married to somebody who loves Christmas more than Is, is really quite sane. Um, we, we traditionally have put our Christmas tree up the day after Halloween. We we’re not doing that at the moment with, with two small children who are, um, potential wrecking balls and just wanting to learn to crawl. But as someone who is married to someone who adores Christmas, there is that image of the perfect Christmas. Matching pajamas. We’ve got our matching pajamas ready for this year. We have Christmases sometimes with friendship groups. We have Christmases with our family of origin. We have Christmases with our created family. And each of these we can have an image in our mind of how it should be and how we would long for it to be. And then there’s the reality of what it actually is like on the day.

[00:05:48] And so often people have that anticlimactic feeling after Christmas. It’s like, that wasn’t how the movies presented it to be. That wasn’t how I hoped it would be. We got into this argument. People just sat around watching the telly. This person didn’t show up even so there was maybe someone who wasn’t there around the table who you wanted to be there. Maybe it’s about presence, maybe the presence you got suggested that people don’t really know you. They don’t really understand who you are as a person. Why what? Why did you give me this thing? Why did you give me this blender? Do you think I should be cooking more, more? Why did you give me this jumper? This isn’t my style.

[00:06:29] There can be a lot of expectation that is then crushed by the reality of getting together with other humans, with their own busy lives, so on the actual day itself and in the aftermath, there can be that disappointment.

[00:06:42] Rachel: And I think if you add in as well, the fact that most people get time off at Christmas. I know some of our listeners will be working on Christmas Day, and if you are, then I, we really wish you well on Christmas Day, but you know, you’ve been working as hard as you can, you’ve got all the extra stuff around Christmas that you’ve had to do, and then suddenly you get to think, oh wow, time off a holiday. And then it’s just frigging hard work. But for three days you might spend it with people that you wouldn’t normally spend lots of time with or you wouldn’t normally choose to spend lots of time with. And then you wonder why you get sort of a few days after Boxing Day feeling really narked and hacked off and think, well, well, okay, that was, that was my annual leave. That was.

[00:07:21] Corrina: Mm-hmm.

[00:07:22] Rachel: That was supposed to be this, this wonderful time of year. Now, I have to put a caveat here because, um. I know that my mom listens to this podcast, so I just wanna say that

[00:07:31] Corrina: As does mine.

[00:07:32] Rachel: Yes. Oh, does your mom listen as well?

[00:07:35] Corrina: Yes, so we have to be very careful about what we’re talking about.

[00:07:40] Rachel: Oh, I’m very grateful to my mum because she’s my main quality controller for the podcast. And so she’ll say things like, Rachel, I was messing the other day, and. Did you have a bad cold? Because there were some very funny breath noises. And I was like, what? So I listened to the episode that had gone live. It had been live for about a month and it was awful. But basically our audio editor had done something really weird to the audio. And rather than cutting out weird noises. He had accentuated the breath noises. So every time one of us breathed, it sounded like Darth Vader was on the line. And he had fixed it, but then he’d not uploaded the fixed versions.

[00:08:15] Corrina: Ah,

[00:08:16] Rachel: the one that, and I was like, oh my gosh, why didn’t you tell me? Anyway, so thank you Mum, for all the quality control. It’s very much appreciated. But we’re talking generally here, so any similarity to persons living or dead is. It’s not intended.

[00:08:29] Corrina: Correct. Entirely coincidental. Exactly that.

[00:08:31] Rachel: Entirely coincidental. But yeah, and I’m, I’m really, really lucky. I have a, a wonderful family and we generally have a lovely time at Christmas, but there always are those disappointments, those things that aren’t quite as you’d expect.

[00:08:44] For me, I always expect to feel much more rested over the holiday season and I’m always quite disappointed when I don’t, I don’t know why I’m disappointed ’cause I really just should learn. But do you think that’s the issue? That we’re expecting too much and if we expected much less, we wouldn’t be disappointed, or is it a bit more nuanced than that?

[00:09:02] Corrina: Well, one of my absolute favorite games to play, and I might have mentioned this on a previous podcast, but I’ll people listening for the first time, it’s worth saying again, is to play Christmas Bingo. Any event or any occasion bingo. Which is about imagining you have a bingo board in front of you, and on each of the squares you are putting something that you expect might happen that would be disappointing, but would be kind of reality.

[00:09:30] So it might be, again, no connection to anyone living or dead. Coincidental. It might be my sister will drink too much alcohol and will say something offensive to my partner. And you would, you would literally make, I would actually encourage people to make this as a bingo board. So you would have that in one of the squares, then maybe it’s my children will eat too much sugar and will just run around tearing through the house and be a bit of a nightmare. That goes on one of the other bingo.

[00:10:00] And so you have this, this bingo board of all the things that you actually do in reality, expect might not be great about Christmas. Because what this does is it takes us out of that kind of. Rose colored. I am completely a rose colored glasses person. I’m an optimist. I will always look for the I, ideal version of what’s gonna happen. So I’ve really trained myself to try to look for, well, actually, in reality, I. What are all the worst things that might happen? Not in a pessimistic way, but just in a kind of eyes wide open reality way. Okay, so the, this is my finger board of all the things that might happen.

[00:10:38] And I’m going to get a trusted friend that I can message on the day, and that friend can do the same as well. Each time one of these things will happen. I’ll actually smile to myself because I get to cross off that item on my bingo board. And I get to message my friend and say, yeah, I’m one down, two down, three down. And it becomes a game. It becomes something that I can smile about, that I can feel lighthearted about. None of it’s as serious anymore.

[00:11:04] Because it everything can just get so serious when we’ve got our. I’ll kind of dream expectations of how it’s gonna be and then it’s all crushed and it feels dramatic and it feels serious, rather than that kind of rolling your eyes, oh yeah. Christmas with the family, or Christmas with this particular group of friends again. And then it becomes a fun, a fun competition with your friend who you’re messaging, uh, in quiet moments to say, which one of you is gonna fill your, fill your bingo board first.

[00:11:29] Rachel: I love that. And what, what prize do you have when you’ve filled it?

[00:11:33] Corrina: Just the joy of knowing, knowing your people. It’s like, yeah, you know, I know these people, these are, you know, these people. And not just other people but yourself. You know, I, I might put on mine, like, I know that for me, when I go into stress, I’ll, I’ll go to food, I’ll use food as a kind of numbing agent. So I could put on my bingo board, I will eat way too many roast potatoes and I will feel sick, or I will start that conversation that I know is gonna cause an argument with my brother. I know it, but I’m gonna do that. And if I put it on my bingo board, then it’s like I, I know myself.

[00:12:08] Rachel: Maybe you’ve got an excuse, right? So you can say, well, sorry, sorry, Bert, I just had to get my bingo board. That’s why we’re talking about this.

[00:12:17] Corrina: Yeah, no offense, it was just a win thingo. But there’s, there’s, you know, and, and for each, each listener there’s a, a different version of how you just might make the whole thing more playful. Because if you’re talking about rest, another way of thinking about rest and relaxation is to think about play. How can you have things be more playful? So having a bingo board, having it be light. Maybe even en en engaging the other friends and family at your event with this. Guys, what are all the things that in past Christmases haven’t gone that well and having a game with that?

[00:12:48] Rachel: Oh, I love that. That’s really helpful ’cause I guess if you’re predicting something’s gonna happen, and I think that’s very much accepting that it’s gonna happen.

[00:12:57] Corrina: Yes.

[00:12:58] Rachel: And so I know a lot of your work you do is about acceptance and that is something that I’m getting quite obsessed with is how do we just accept stuff that we can’t change?

[00:13:07] Corrina: Yes.

[00:13:07] Rachel: And that is a great way of doing it. ‘Cause it actually becomes great when it happens ’cause you, you get to cross it off. Is there anything to be said around predicting those behaviors and trying your best to avoid them or doing something a different way to avoid them? Or will that just lead to more disappointment when you’ve, I don’t know, desperately tried to hide the sherry, but still Auntie Margerie found it?

[00:13:30] Corrina: I think it’s always worth trying, right? Without the pressure to like, I’m gonna, I’m gonna have this amazing Christmas, I’m gonna be so much better and so much different from last time, and everyone’s going to be. So actually knowing now, I look at my bingo board and knowing what’s on here, what could I do if I, if I start that conversation with my brother, could I get my wife to give me a kick under the table? Could I even tell my brother, look, I’m probably gonna wanna talk about this element of politics with you. It’s never gone that well before. Why don’t we have a truce for this Christmas? If either of us starts talking about it, either of us can go stop, or anyone at the table can go, whoa, whoa, whoa, guys, you’re on that topic.

[00:14:06] So you can let other people in. ‘Cause everybody wants to have a good occasion. So let people in on what might go not so great so that you can collectively, um, make it better for sure.

[00:14:18] Rachel: Hmm. I think the whole kicking under the table thing can, can be quite helpful. Just comes with a bit of health warning though, because my side note, my husband started doing this for me ’cause I’m like, okay, I can be quite impulsive and sometimes say stuff I don’t want to say to people, particularly when I’m out in a social situation and got my guard down.

[00:14:35] So, can you just, you know, give me signal, kick me on the table if I. If I’m doing that, and yeah, it’s got the point where I’m getting, coming home with black and blue legs

[00:14:46] Corrina: And you’ve got a broke right now, so.

[00:14:49] Rachel: I know, we’ll talk about that in a minute. I’m like Can you stop kicking me? Why are you kicking me? And he’s like rachel, it’s supposed to be a subtle sign.

[00:14:58] Corrina: I love that. And, you know, and it, and it, and it could be more subtle. It could be just like a, a gentle, gentle squeeze of the hand or a, or a knowing look in the eyes, or, oh, could you, you know, Rachel, could you just come and help me with something out here for a moment

[00:15:10] ? I’m a really big fan of setting alarms on your phone that are gonna just flash up. So it might be that I know that, I don’t know. Lunch is gonna be at one o’clock. I know that probably I’m gonna go to that fourth helping of jacket, uh, of roast potatoes at around one 15. But I could just set an alarm on my phone at one 15 just to say something like space in your tummy or. Feeling lighter in your tummy.

[00:15:33] And that’s gonna flash up on my phone so that I go in that moment. It’s like leaving little breadcrumbs for myself or potato crumbs for myself at one 15. Probably a good time to just check in with whether I really want to have that potato, that extra roast potato or not.

[00:15:48] Rachel: Yeah, I love that. And I think we’re being a bit silly about Christmas and stuff, but there are social occasions that, that you’re looking forward to, but you know that sometimes things trigger you, they’ll set you off, et cetera, et cetera. And I think, like you say, giving yourself alarms, giving yourself little cues, actually thinking about things beforehand that actually it would be better not to talk about that, and just change the subject rather than it just happening will help you feel a little bit less disappointed about stuff.

[00:16:19] I, I think there are also, when you know people really well, like family, there are triggers aren’t there, and there are scripts that keep going round your head and there are dances that you get into that’s exactly the same as you always get into. It could be someone saying, oh, lemme help you, and you go, no, no, it’s all right. You just sit down and then you end up being really pissed off. At the end of the day, I just done everything. It’s like, well, they could’ve helped you.

[00:16:43] So how do you escape? Getting really triggered by, by someone who, who’s really not doing anything much, but just because of the past. Every time they, I don’t know, mention your brother’s career, you get really triggered thinking, oh, well, okay, I know you don’t think I’m doing well enough, blah, blah, blah, when that’s absolutely not what they’re talking about. How would you suggest people deal with that?

[00:17:04] Corrina: Yeah, I think it’s great that you talk about the dance moves. I talk about this a lot and actually making those dance moves visible and knowing this is a dance that we always do, and in advance, just playing that dance move out in your mind. Okay, so she says that about my brother’s career. I’ll feel tight inside. It’s useful to look at your body. What does my body do? I get tight inside. My shoulders go up, or I wanna scream, I wanna run. I wanna argue back. Okay, that’s my dance. I know that dance. So that when that dance starts to occur in your body, you can hopefully catch it. Oh, this is that dance move. This is the Defend my career choices dance move. You could give it a name so that then when it starts to occur, it feels familiar to you because you’ve rehearsed it almost in your mind. That’s what’s likely to happen.

[00:17:53] Oh, I’m in that dance move. Okay. What is a different dance move? And again, to rehearse that in advance when that happens, I’m going to excuse myself just so that I can go take a few breaths in the bathroom or maybe I quickly offer to go make a cup of tea or anything that’s gonna get me out of that intense dance so that I can recalibrate, I can reset, I can come out of that amygdala response that is that very fast triggered response. I can come back into my more rational mind, my prefrontal cortex can take over again, and I could do a different move back if even that conversation is still happening. Maybe that’s enough just to stop that conversation.

[00:18:37] Maybe we get so fast that we don’t even need to go to the bathroom or go make a cup of tea. We just catch Oh, I’m in that triggered state. Okay, take a deep breath. Maybe I can ask a question back to give myself a bit of breathing time. Okay, got another breath there. Okay. Everything’s calming down in my body. Okay, and then I can say something very different from what would’ve been my traditional dance move.

[00:19:04] Rachel: I was listening to a podcast with Rob Bell, who’s obviously one of my favorite podcasters. He’s on, uh, one of our previous episodes, how to Ditch the Savior Complex and Feel More, more Alive, which if people have got any time over the holidays, I suggest you listen to. It’s amazing. He was talking about these, these conversations, these circular conversations that you get into with people and you just know how it’s gonna turn out. ’cause you’ve had the same conversation a hundred times before.

[00:19:32] Corrina: Yeah.

[00:19:32] Rachel: And it’s just the same old. So do you recommend you just go with that conversation, you know how it’s gonna turn out or you just try and head it off and Because it, it’s quite hard to head off someone when they’ve, when they get into their groove and you just know that they’re gonna do it, or do you just sort of go somewhere in your head and just try and be a bit detached?

[00:19:53] Corrina: Yeah, so it depends who that person is. You could either, if, if it’s someone that you have a, a relatively strong relationship with, you can, you can address it in advance and say, you know, look, remember last year we did this thing, it, it kind of led to us feeling a bit grumpy, a bit stressed, we, everyone was a bit touchy. There was a bit of tension in the room. Why don’t we collectively agree not, not to do that this time?

[00:20:15] Rachel: Mm.

[00:20:16] Corrina: Or yeah, in that moment, can you deescalate your own reaction so that you could do something different? Um, there are definite options, and the other option is to, is to make requests either in advance or, or in the moment. I’m a huge fan of making requests. I think we, we massively underestimate our power to make a request.

[00:20:36] I’ll give you an example of this. For my, my 40th birthday when it was coming up, and it had been quite the year we had, um, lost our female, our first son that was stillborn that year before I turned 40. And I’d also, um, I think broke, I think I broken my wrist as well. So there was, there was a lot going on. And I thought, do you know what? I don’t. Feel disappointed that this 40th birthday is not, you know, I’m not where I want to be in my life right now. Um, I’m going to make requests and I put a post on Facebook saying, for my 40th birthday, this is what I would like. And I made a really, really clear request of the presents that I wanted. I mean, this is on Facebook, right? This is people, some people who are not my closest friends and family. I just said, this is what I would like.

[00:21:18] And I was amazed by how many people, people who, again, weren’t really so, so close to me, but were just people I knew or had known in the past who sent me really generous gifts because I had asked for what I wanted.

[00:21:33] And you and I with, with the Shapes Toolkit, we talk about the zone of power. Within our zone of power is the capacity to ask for what we want. Whether other people give us what we want is entirely out of our zone of power.

[00:21:46] Rachel: Mm-Hmm.

[00:21:47] Corrina: But from within our zone of power, we can ask for what we want. So I could say, let’s say back to the Christmas dinner, I could say to my brother, please don’t bring up this topic. It doesn’t go well for us when we talk about this. Please, if I start talking about this, could you please help me and change the topic? I could say to whoever’s serving dinner, please, could you not let me have more than five roast potatoes? Um, please could you, if you see me going to put that sick phone on my plate, take it away from me. Be really, really specific.

[00:22:21] I, I have seen that you, Rachel, have broken your ankle and I saw you making a really clear request in a group that we’re on, you know, asking for the specific help that would be great right now for you. And so that we don’t, don’t, we then don’t need to feel disappointed that other people haven’t read our mind, other people haven’t given us what we need. We just ask for what we want and what we need.

[00:22:46] Rachel: Yeah, it’s interesting you say that, ’cause actually that, that was a real joke that I put on WhatsApp, but it is request that it was, I’ve broken my ankle and the lovely group was saying, oh, what can we do to help? And I said, well, if you could pop over into my dishwasher, hang my washing outs, yeah, that would be brilliant. But you know, I’m asking my children to do that at the moment. And to be fair, they’re not really responding in the way I would like them to respond. Let’s just say. And I’m getting quite, hmm, let’s say, I’m, I’m trying not to moan. I’ve made this decision when I broke my ankle. I’m not going to moan and I’m not gonna criticize people and I’m not gonna whinge at them or nag at them, but I’m feeling a little bit disappointed by the response.

[00:23:23] Now. It, it’s entirely, it’s an entirely normal child response. You know, when I say, can you go and get me hot water bottle and they’re two flights up, they don’t want to go and do it.

[00:23:32] Corrina: Yeah.

[00:23:33] Rachel: But I’m feeling a bit disappointed by my family’s reaction to my request. So what, what do I do about that?

[00:23:39] Corrina: Yes. Yes. Well, you know that if you have done what is in your power, then it is back to what you were saying at the beginning, it’s about acceptance and which is so hard, right? It’s such a small word. For such a big, huge, philosophical, spiritual endeavor.

[00:23:56] Rachel: Yeah.

[00:23:56] Corrina: Isn’t everyone’s life’s work somehow to find acceptance with reality being disappointing, but have you made really clear requests, as you say, without the winge, without the complaint, without the demand, without the poor me, without any of that, just, hey, this would be really supportive if. And if your family aren’t responding, then you have options like this lovely WhatsApp group that we’re on, for example, there are adults who are not your family on that group who you can genuinely make that request, you know, without any shame. Please, could someone come and, and empty my dishwasher? Please could someone come and do some shopping for me? I think we, we often hold back from asking because we feel like, oh, we shouldn’t, we shouldn’t need help or we shouldn’t. Um, but actually people like to help.

[00:24:41] I remember really well, Rachel, when I, I had a hospital appointment coming up and you just so kindly said, do you need someone to go with you? You know, it hadn’t even occurred to me that I could ask someone to go with me. I think as, as caring adults, as I imagine all of the listeners of this podcast are, we know that we like to help people when they make requests if we can, if it’s within our capacity and our our time and everything. So we can do the same. We can actually make really clear, clean requests of people.

[00:25:10] Rachel: That’s really interesting because I think, yes, a lot of disappointment is probably a little bit self-inflicted. So just reflecting on what you just said about my family, I’m asking them, in the, I just come home from school and I say, oh, can you make me a cup of tea? And they’re like, oh, do I have to? Or they’re really tired, whereas you are right. I haven’t been really, really clear in my requests. I haven’t said to them, you know, at the beginning of the day, actually guys, it’d be really helpful if you could enter the dishwasher, if you could hang out the washing ’cause my other half’s away at the moment. So, and asking them a time where they’re actually gonna be receptive to it. Because I think when you ask people in the moment, you do often get a bit of whinging and, and, and pushback. But when they sort of stop and think about it, then they do do it.

[00:25:54] And I think, yeah, reflecting on life’s other disappointments, maybe the, the bigger disappointments, maybe relationship breakdown or, or bereavement or something like that. We, we layer. Pain on top of our original disappointment by not expressing what we need. And then when people don’t give us what we need, we get really upset and even more disappointed when often people just can’t, can’t read our minds, can they?

[00:26:24] Corrina: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a, i, I do believe that we as humans, we do like to help other people. We just need to sometimes have a pathway to do that that’s really clear.

[00:26:33] Rachel: Yeah. And it, I think helping people out is a total gift. You know, I had to go to fracture clinic on Tuesday morning and everyone was out. And I knew all the taxis would be booked up and I thought, oh, and I felt really bad about doing it. Put a request on our neighbors WhatsApp, just, can someone drive me? You know, it’s only five minutes drive to fracture clinic. And of course. Course I’ll drive you to fracture clinic. I’ll only be too pleased. And it was really lovely ’cause we got to catch up in the car.

[00:26:55] And I’d felt really bad about even asking for that. I mean, that, that’s a really, really small thing. But, but it is a joy to be able to give to someone in a way that is significant. And if you look at the waste to wellbeing, giving is one of the ways to wellbeing. And so if you are giving somebody an opportunity to give to you, that’s actually really good.

[00:27:15] And I must say, I think, um, healthcare professionals, we are really bad at asking people to give stuff to us, asking for that help because we are so stuck in the rescue world. We’re, we are all the, always the people that are, are strong and we are always the people that are helping other people.

[00:27:31] Corrina: Mm-Hmm.

[00:27:32] Rachel: That it’s, it’s, it’s quite alien, but, but it doesn’t stop us getting hacked off when people don’t offer the help. So it’s this just mm-Hmm. Thing we sort of, our, we really are our own worst enemies.

[00:27:43] Corrina: And this might go back as well to that w why Christmas cannot feel like a very restful period for many of us if we are in rescuer mode. If we are doing all the, it’s all on my shoulders and No, you go and sit down. I’ll do it. If we go into that martyr role. Whereas could we find more chance for rest? Could we ask really clearly? Could we assign roles more clearly? Could we become more coach-like maybe of our friendship group, our family, in, in, in delegating or asking or having other people step up so that it’s less on us so that we can have a bit more rest.

[00:28:21] Rachel: And where does expectations plow into this? ‘Cause I always think with, with Christmas that you know, when we’re organizing who’s gonna do what at Christmas? And you know, James and I have always said, oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just go skiing at Christmas? You know.

[00:28:36] Corrina: Yeah.

[00:28:37] Rachel: Let’s stuff everybody else. Let’s just go ski or go somewhere really exotic. And then we think there are people who have time off that we’d like to see. There are family members that might not have anyone else to go to. And we think, no, actually for Christmas, we’ll make sure that we can be available for those people. And we always end up saying, why do people have such expectations of Christmas Day? ’cause we can do that other stuff with each other any, any time.

[00:29:04] Corrina: Yes.

[00:29:06] Rachel: But what’s the role of actually lowering your expectations of, well, firstly Christmas, but then I’m gonna broaden out to relationships and to life. Does that help with the acceptance, or is that just a very sort of nihilistic way to live?

[00:29:21] Corrina: No, I think we absolutely want to look at our expectations. I, I like to say the expectations are premeditated resentments. I also think they’re, they’re premeditated disappointments as well.

[00:29:30] Rachel: Hmm.

[00:29:31] Corrina: I’ve, I’ve learnt to, to, um, radically switch my expectations. Um, again, because I am a natural optimist, idealist, I’ll always envisage things being the best and then all I’ve got to go from there is really to be disappointed. Um, whereas my wife is very, very handy as a partner because she will tend to see the perceived problems. That’s just how her mind works. It’s a different way of looking at things. Where she’ll. Automatically see all the things that could go wrong or could be bad about a situation. So we’re, we’re a great match for this.

[00:30:04] And I’ll give you one example of where we’ve used this a lot recently, uh, and helpfully is our daughter, who’s now six months, she had a lot of medical needs in the beginning. We had a hospital stay and we had various appointments with pediatricians. They’re still ongoing even, and before a medical appointment, because I would go into, oh, it’s gonna be wonderful. The pediatrician’s gonna be on time, she’s gonna be really helpful. We’re gonna leave with some really useful, you know, whatever it is, remedies, and Sam has trained me to instead look at all the things which could not be great about that appointment

[00:30:39] . So literally as we are walking to the hospital, as we’re sitting in the waiting room, we are talking about, okay, probably the pediatrician’s gonna be late. Um, she’s probably gonna be distracted. She’s not gonna really feel like she has read our notes. She’s not gonna have time for us. And so we’re, we are setting up all the things that could possibly go wrong. And then when the pediatrician comes out on time, I’m like, oh my gosh, this is amazing. I’m so pleasantly surprised. She then actually listens to us. I’m like, oh my gosh, this is so much better than I thought.

[00:31:11] And, and this is actually a, I didn’t realize it when we started doing this, but this is actually a concept in psychology called counterfactual thinking.

[00:31:20] Rachel: Ooh.

[00:31:20] Corrina: And what, what many of us will do is we’ll tend towards upward counterfactual thinking. So, so counterfactual thinking is our, our ability, our desire to create alternative realities in our minds, to think that things could have gone differently. And we tend towards upward counterfactual thinking, which is that things, um, should have been better, would have been better. And actually, it’s really, really lovely to imagine that actually the alternative to what is happening could have been worse, because then everything seems to be a, a pleasant surprise.

[00:31:53] And to, to bring this to a, a, a kind of more, like a more serious level, after Alfie died, you know, a lot of my grief, a lot of my, the tragedy of it was comparing reality with what I think should have happened, which would have been better, which was he would have lived, he would now be three, and to have imagined a better reality different from the current one.

[00:32:18] What has helped me over the years, so, so much is the opposite, is downward counterfactual thinking, which is that the alternative to reality was that we were never pregnant in the first place.

[00:32:32] Rachel: Mm-hmm.

[00:32:32] Corrina: Was that that pregnancy test was negative. And so all that we actually got with him was a bonus, actually. Isn’t that amazing That we got to have him in the womb? We got to meet him. We got to hold him. We got to name him. We got to. Have his existence versus the alternative reality where we didn’t. And so that, that is like the most absolute powerful thing I’ve ever come across is to imagine that what is happening is actually a pleasant surprise, a bonus versus what it could have been.

[00:33:03] Rachel: Is that similar to gratitude? ’cause that’s the word that floated through my head then when you were talking about actually we got to meet him, we got to have him in the wombs even though it had such a bittersweet ending.

[00:33:15] Corrina: Yes.

[00:33:15] Rachel: What you’ve done is flip that disappointment into, into grati gratitude for what was, rather than resentment for what wasn’t. Or is that too simplistic?

[00:33:25] Corrina: Exactly. No, exactly that. Exactly that. It’s What are you comparing with? ’cause we’re always comparing with something, I think. So if we’re comparing with, oh, the Christmases of the movies, the relationship of the movies, or of our imagination, then yeah, how can we feel gratitude because the reality looks less good than that?

[00:33:45] But if we are comparing with what would’ve been much worse, then the gap between that worse alternate reality and our present reality, it’s so much to be grateful for because we actually have something better than we could have had.

[00:34:00] Rachel: How does this play out in things like relationship rate breakdown? Because I, I’ve noticed that it does seem to be incredibly hard to feel grateful even for the time that you were with that person when it’s all gone really horribly wrong.

[00:34:17] Corrina: Yeah.

[00:34:17] Rachel: But I guess there are always good things that did come out of it mostly.

[00:34:22] Corrina: Yeah, and I think what I don’t want to suggest here is that we are bypassing any of the, the sadness, the loss, the grief of a relationship, a person. That’s so important that we start there, I believe, is that we start by honoring, gosh, like this is loss. This is grief, this is bereavement. My heart is broken. We honor that. We lean into our support networks, our trusted people. We cry, we grieve, we mourn. We do all of that.

[00:34:55] And once the energy of that, it feels like we have, we have expressed that, we’ve honored it, we’ve embraced that, then there is that opportunity for gratitude by looking at, I could have not had that relationship at all, and then where would I have been? But I think if we go to that, if we go to, if we tried to go to gratitude or that, that counterfactual thinking too quickly. it’s bypass and I feel like that’s only then gonna come out later to bite us.

[00:35:25] Rachel: And that turns out to be toxic positivity, doesn’t it then? I think.

[00:35:28] Corrina: Absolutely, which I am not an advocate of.

[00:35:32] Rachel: Yeah. And how does this apply to other disappointments in life? Obviously we started to talk about disappointing Christmas. Now we’ve talked about bereavement and relationship breakdown. I think for a lot of us, a lot of us listening to this podcast, there might be a bit of disappointment about careers and jobs because either we’ve had to give stuff up because of family commitments and work less than full-time, which has meant that our careers have had to take a back burner and we got overtaken by everybody who didn’t have to work less than full-time. Or we’ve ended up in roles that we thought we would re really enjoying, but maybe not quite as good. Or there’s been family stuff going on, maybe children with special needs. It’s taken up a lot of time, so we haven’t been able to give what we wanted to our career or we’ve been overlooked for promotion or roles that we really wanted to. Where does that sort of leave us with handling the disappointment?

[00:36:28] Corrina: Yeah, I think it’s really helpful just to normalize it to say human experience, life, has so much potential disappointment and therefore it’s okay to be disappointed about this. Not trying to get outta that, not to think, oh, if only I had done this. No. Do you know what? This is my reality. I wish it were other. It’s not. I am disappointed. Can I be with that disappointment?

[00:36:55] And then can I look at, okay, well how? How could this actually potentially be opening other doors? Are there any benefits that might be coming out of this? Is there anything I can be grateful for? But again, when, if it comes to the career side of things as well, exactly the same things that apply. Don’t bypass the experience of disappointment. The experience, the feeling of disappointment, we can sit in it. My son is two and a half and I’m really teaching him at the moment, which is teaching myself as well, how to be sad, how to be angry, how to be frustrated, disappointment. These aren’t feelings to try to get over. They are feelings to sit with.

[00:37:39] So we have a little, a little ditty each evening as we cuddle before bed, I say. When you feel sad, I love you. When you feel disappointed, I love you. There’s no feeling that he can have that’s not acceptable, that’s not wanted and cherished, and it’s okay to be that You can be disappointed. Accepting and acknowledging that feeling, acknowledging doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t set certain boundaries, right? If he’s disappointed and he’s throwing toys, I’m gonna stop him from throwing those toys if it’s gonna hurt him, or, or, or something. But you can feel disappointed.

[00:38:16] And I, I think many of my generation, and I know people listening will be in different generations, we weren’t really shown how to just sit in disappointment. It wasn’t somewhere to escape. It wasn’t some something to get over. Oh, come on, cheer up. Be feel better. You’re disappointed right now. That’s okay. It’s okay to feel disappointed right now.

[00:38:38] So I think that’s, that is the kind of re-parenting certainly that I am doing at the moment through parenting a child, and for anyone listening is. Can we sit in that disappointment?

[00:38:49] Rachel: And that takes a lot of self-compassion, doesn’t it? Because I think,

[00:38:52] Corrina: Yeah.

[00:38:53] Rachel: One thing I’ve noticed in healthcare professionals, doctors and my myself, is that we take that, I think. But it’s called the second arrow. So we feel disappointed. And then we have the emotions like anger and sadness and frustration.

[00:39:08] Corrina: Yeah.

[00:39:08] Rachel: And then we beat ourselves up ’cause we shouldn’t be feeling like that. We should just be getting on with it. Or we look back and blame ourselves for what happens. And there’s a lot of self-flagellation going on.

[00:39:20] When I broke my ankle a week ago, ice skating, my predominant emotion was anger at myself. I. I just so crossed I slightly lost it when the radiographer took my X-ray, she went, oh yeah, I definitely broke it, and I just started weeping. She said, oh, are you okay? Is it painful? I was like, no, I’m so myself. Why did I do it? It’s like, she’s like, you had an accident, you fell. And I was like, but I was trying to show someone, I was showing off, I didn’t need to have done it. You know, and she was like, this is ridiculous. Think she thought, there’s woman who’s losing the plot in front of me and I can’t quite out why. And then after about five minutes I thought, well this is, this is absolutely ridiculous. I then got crossed to myself for being ridiculous, so I think I obviously need quite a lot of therapy, but yeah, my, my predominant thing was not, oh, I’m disappointed, let me sit in the sadness. It’s getting crossed myself for doing it in the first place, and then for being annoyed with myself for being upset.

[00:40:19] Corrina: Yeah, sounds like the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth arrow that just got, oh, jammed in your heart then afterwards.

[00:40:25] Rachel: Yeah.

[00:40:26] Corrina: I think you’re so right that self-compassion is a huge part of this compassion that you are having an experience that you did not want to have, that you did not plan to have. You didn’t plan to end up on the floor in the ice rink or in the hospital. Um, and for some of us, we need, we need to think about how other loved ones might treat us. If we can’t quite give ourselves the compassion, because that can be really hard to be self-compassionate. We can imagine. Who’s the kindest person in my life that I can think of and how would they talk to me right now? You know, I don’t know who that person is for you, rachel, but you know, what would that person say when they saw you sat on the ice?

[00:41:08] Rachel: Know they would say, oh, silly, you, come on. Um, yeah, no, they’d be like, oh, you know, you were just being, you were just being playful like you are and that’s why people love you and

[00:41:23] Corrina: Mm-Hmm.

[00:41:23] Rachel: Yeah, you weren’t showing off because you were just having fun yet.

[00:41:27] Corrina: Yes.

[00:41:28] Rachel: Absolutely. But we find it so hard to do this for ourself, and I think, what I think we do, which stops us dealing with this disappointment, is looking back and using the, if only, if only, so I guess relationship if only hadn’t, hadn’t met, if only hadn’t been so stupid. If I only hadn’t made that decision. If, if only.

[00:41:45] Corrina: Yeah.

[00:41:46] Rachel: And that’s pretty, um, toxic. Well, a, because you can’t actually do anything different ’cause it’s in the past, so you can’t change it so well out of your zone of power.

[00:41:56] Corrina: Yeah.

[00:41:56] Rachel: But, but also actually, if you had gone back in the past, would you make a different decision? You, you, you probably wouldn’t, right?

[00:42:03] Corrina: Hmm hmm. Yes. And you know that if only, if it’s used constructively can be great. Like, okay, next time I go ice skating, what would I do differently?

[00:42:13] Rachel: I’ll put them after the teacher after the lesson and go, oh, look at this new move that I just learned and probably break my ankle, yeah.

[00:42:22] Corrina: And it’s, you know, it’s like, okay, so I did, I did that, that’s what I did. What would I do differently? And it, it can be so hard to ask that question because that, that critical voice inside is like, whoa, you know, you were such an idiot. Why did you do that? What would you, it was like, okay, what did you do? What would you do differently next time? And you just become a learner then. You become a learner. And, and this goes back to again, if we go right back to the, the Christmases discussion, okay, that’s what happened last year. These are all the things which I was disappointed with or when it came to that relationship, or when it came to that work. Okay? With a really clear head and asking the question is a genuine question, what would I do differently next time? And what would support me to do that different thing on the ice rink? What would actually support you?

[00:43:08] Because your natural inclination was to show people the move. So what would be different next time? What would you need to think differently in order to do something differently next time on the ice rink?

[00:43:20] Rachel: Is that a question?

[00:43:22] Corrina: Yeah.

[00:43:23] Rachel: That’s a good question. Yes, I think I would go to the side and show the move next to the side of the rink so I can actually cling on. When I fall backwards.

[00:43:31] Corrina: Yeah.

[00:43:32] Rachel: I think that’s really good ’cause that stays in your zone of power, doesn’t it? It’s okay. So I am in control of what I do next time.

[00:43:38] Corrina: Yes.

[00:43:39] Rachel: I think for me as well, there is something, now I have to tread carefully about how I say this because it really is unhelpful and it really bugs me when people say, oh, something good will come of it. Every cloud has a silver lining and you know, or people start quoting you faith-based stuff of you things work together for good and all this sort of stuff when actually if there’s been a tragedy, that’s really hard to hear. But I think there’s been a couple of ways of thinking about things that have helped me. The first one is about playing Hunt the Pony. I don’t know if you’ve heard about Hunt the Pony.

[00:44:14] Corrina: I haven’t. I’m so excited to hear it.

[00:44:17] Rachel: I was getting very frustrated with a particular situation. I’d go every week to this particular thing and I’d just not enjoy it. It’d be so annoying. And someone said, why don’t you play Hand the Pony? I’m like, what do you mean? And they said, if there’s a pile of poo sitting in the middle of the room, then there’s probably a pony somewhere around.

[00:44:37] Corrina: I love that. I was like, oh, that’s good.

[00:44:39] Rachel: Okay, so I’m not enjoying this bit, but actually when I come here, I get to see that person and that person, and they’re doing a lot of good around here so that, that’s the pony. So maybe I can put up with that pile of poo there. So that’s one thing that helps.

[00:44:51] The other thing that helps me is I was listening to a podcast with Daniel Pink, who’s just written a book about regret, which I have bought I haven’t yet read, so I’m sure there’ll be a podcast coming out about regret. Wouldn’t it be good if you get Daniel Pink on You Are Not a frog? So Daniel Pink, if you’re listening, please when you come on? I don’t think he’s listening. Anyway, he was talking about regret and how regret can actually be quite powerful motivator.

[00:45:16] But one thing he said really struck me and that was that if you could go back to edit to, to that thing that you’ve regretted, and you could take an eraser and completely wipe it out of history, but everything that happened as a result of that thing would also be erased from history, would you do it? That’s quite an interesting question.

[00:45:38] And I think for some people, of course, they would do it because there are some utterly awful things that happened. But he was saying actually nine times out of 10, or maybe it was more than that, you wouldn’t because of either what you’ve learned or the other stuff. That’s come from it. What was your response to that be Corrina?

[00:46:00] Corrina: Yeah, I think two things. One is that you are absolutely right. That kind of silver lining messaging from others is not helpful. It feels really, uh, squashing of your experience. So other people saying, oh, we’ll find the good in it. No.

[00:46:15] Rachel: Mm-Hmm.

[00:46:15] Corrina: But if I can, in a situation that I’m finding disappointing or heartbreaking or whatever it is, if I can ask, huh, I wonder if. Not there is a silver lining, but I wonder, I wonder how this might turn out for my good, or I wonder what other doors this might open, or I wonder what I might learn from this, which currently feels impossible, but I just wonder. And that for me is, is an antidote, but we can only, I think, ask that of ourselves. It feels really harsh when someone else wants us to look in that direction when we are just in the disappointment.

[00:46:55] Rachel: Yeah, absolutely, it can, that can be really annoying, but I think it is quite a powerful question. And then you look at all that research that shows that true resilience is only built by going through crap, by going through difficult stuff. We learn best through failure. We only tend to change when things are going wrong or things are difficult. That’s what builds character. In a way, all these disappointing things are actually honing our characters and turning us into better people. But it still doesn’t mean that you would choose any of it, I guess.

[00:47:32] Corrina: And can we be in that learning, growing mindset with it? I think we’ve then got more of a chance. ’cause I’m just thinking, imagining myself as a listener, thinking, yeah. But every single Christmas, every single time at work, every single, it’s all it, they’re just continuing to be bad. I’m not learning anything, but can we switch it into that curiosity of being a learner?

[00:47:51] Rachel: Yeah. If you’re talking to someone saying just every single Christmas, every single time at work, I would probably go to the quote, if you always do what you’ve always done, you are always gonna get what you’ve always got.

[00:48:04] Corrina: Yeah.

[00:48:04] Rachel: If nothing changes, probably things are gonna carry on. Given that you can only change what you do, the conversations you have, the plans you make, expecting other people to change is just going to lead to disappointment. But doing what you can, asking for what you need, catching yourself, doing all those little things like setting alarms on your phone, doing a bit of work, doing a bit of therapy if if needs be. I think therapy is amazing for uncovering those deep down scripts that we’ve got going on, on doing a bit of. Therapy for a few reasons at the moment. And my goodness, there’s oh, there’s some stuff in my head that you really don’t wanna know about Carina.

[00:48:44] Corrina: Oh, oh. You know, I do.

[00:48:47] Rachel: That’s for, that’s for another episode. We’ll have a, but it’s, it’s all, I mean, it’s, it’s the usual stuff. All these sorts of things that, that we’ve got deeply ingrained in us from childhood, and sometimes it just takes a bit of work and a bit of time to uncover those things. And it’s not very pleasant when we do uncover them. But it is quite healing, isn’t it?

[00:49:06] Corrina: Yeah. And, and just that compassion to bring to all of that, you know, that we are human, we are human beings, having this human life thing, which is just very hard for many, many people.

[00:49:17] Rachel: Mm-Hmm.

[00:49:18] Corrina: Um, so any support we can get to help with that, absolutely.

[00:49:22] Rachel: So Corrina, we’re at the end of our time, sadly. What would your top three tips be for dealing with either Christmas disappointment or bigger disappointments in life?

[00:49:31] Corrina: So I would say it’s that bingo board. That planning for, or expecting, or the things that you could not go well, and then being pleasantly surprised if, if indeed things do go better than expected. It’s that making requests, so being unafraid to actually ask for what you want and need. And then I think number three will have to be that, that compassion. That being with yourself with the disappointment, accepting yourself in that disappointment, knowing that you’re human and that disappointment is part of the human experience.

[00:50:03] Rachel: Yeah, brilliant. I think for me, I would agree with all those three. The ask for what you need. I would add, clearly ask what you need.

[00:50:11] Corrina: Mm-Hmm.

[00:50:11] Rachel: Because I think I’ve asked what I need and often no one really understands what it is I need. So being really clear about it. And the thing about self-compassion, and for me that looks like stop the blame, stop the self blame, the why am I so stupid? I should have known better, et cetera, et cetera. You would never say that to your best friend. So why do you say it to yourself? And finally, I think paying, playing a little bit of Hunt the Pony in some of these situations can be helpful. Uh, so Corrina, right when you come back again, ’cause there’s lots more to talk about,

[00:50:42] Corrina: I certainly will. We’re gonna go into that deep dark Rachel’s therapy. Uh, right, that’s what, that’s what we’re doing next?

[00:50:48] Rachel: May, maybe, maybe in, maybe in time. Maybe we’ll go there eventually. But if anybody has got any dilemmas or anything that you’d like Corrina and I to explore, then please let us know. Just drop us an email at hello@youarenotafrog.com. We would love to hear from you. And I love, love getting emails from people telling me which episodes they particularly enjoy. ’cause then it makes us understand what it would be good to talk about in the future. So please do let us know any dilemmas or any thoughts or any questions or any comments.

[00:51:16] And if people wanted to get a hold of you, how can they do that?

[00:51:20] Corrina: Yep. Corrina Gordon barnes.com is my website. There’s a contact page there and my spelling of my name is C-O-R-R-I-N-A-G-O-R-D-O-N-B-A-R-N-E-S.

[00:51:33] Rachel: That’s fantastic. And we’ll put all those links in the show notes so you’ll be able to get to them. So Corrina, I do hope you have a wonderful Christmas. I’m sure you will ’cause I know that Sam. It’s had it planned for about six months.

[00:51:44] Corrina: Oh. It’s been planned for 364 days.

[00:51:48] Rachel: Oh my gosh. Okay.

[00:51:49] Corrina: It starts on Boxing Day. The planning for the next Christmas begins.

[00:51:52] Rachel: Oh my word. Whereas I will probably start planning second week in December. Wish me well.

[00:51:58] Corrina: I wish you well. I wish everybody well. Happy Christmas or whatever you’re celebrating.

[00:52:03] Rachel: Perfect. We’ll speak soon. Bye-Bye.

[00:52:07] Thanks for listening. Don’t forget, we provide a self-coaching CPD workbook for every episode. You can sign up for it via the link in the show notes, and if this episode was helpful, then please share it with a friend.

[00:52:20] Get in touch with any comments or suggestions. At Hello at you are not a frog.com. I love to hear from you. And finally, if you are enjoying the podcast, please rate it and leave a review wherever you are listening. It really helps. Bye for now.