Holiday anxiety is a relatively common experience, though it is not always frequently discussed. There are so many reasons for folks to feel stressed at the end of the year, and let’s be honest – not everyone is necessarily looking forward to the end-of-year celebrations. For some people anxiety arises due to the expectations the season brings including financial worries, gift expectations, and increased tensions due to increased proximity to potentially problematic family members. For others, the holidays are hard because they are missing loved ones either due to distance or loss, or because relationships are complicated. Many people choose to simply suffer in silence or repress their anxiety, but that can evolve over time into a dislike towards the holiday season itself and even burn out!
One of the easiest ways to address feelings of anxiousness about the holiday season is to simply talk to those you trust about it, and explain your feelings directly. There is healing in simply naming the feelings we are experiencing and it is highly unlikely that you are the only one feeling a little bit of stress. Talking to trusted others helps to remind us that we aren’t alone and can help us to feel understood.
#2 Make a Plan!
If you are worried about what presents you should get your family and friends, and how they will feel about it, consider taking a few minutes to plan things out! You don't have to establish a very complicated plan, but start by examining how much you want to spend, and then prioritize the people in your life you want to get gifts for. Planning isn’t limited to gifts though! You can also make a plan to help you organize meal planning if you are planning to cook for friends & family this holiday season. Making a list can help with organization as well as making it easier to delegate!!
All healthy relationships have boundaries. Unfortunately, the holidays can sometimes be a time when it can be difficult to enforce boundaries with loved ones. When we set a boundary, we are prioritizing our comfort and needs over others and that can feel super scary if you’ve not practiced it before! Other folks are not mind readers and can’t be expected to know how you feel or what you need if you don’t tell them. Boundaries are concise, clear statements about what we want, need, and/or expect from others in their interactions with us. We can also express what we will do if those boundaries are not respected. It takes a lot of practice to get good at setting appropriate boundaries and enforcing them. (A great resource on boundaries is Nedra Tawwab and her book Set Boundaries, Find Peace and her associated workbook The Set Boundaries Workbook. I absolutely can’t recommend her enough).
#4 An Escape Plan
Preplan your exit strategy before you go to that holiday event or get-together. If you are going with a partner, friend, or others, discuss in advance how you will let each other know when you want to leave, and how you will exit the event together. Making up a code phrase to use in front of others to communicate your wish to leave might also be a handy way to express your intentions without drawing a lot of attention to yourself.
#5 Opt Out
Another important attribute that can induce stress and anxiety on the holidays is the general pressure of participation. You might feel obligated to participate but it's important to acknowledge that this obligation, no matter how real it feels, is not an actual requirement. You are completely within your rights to simply not participate in holiday celebrations! You can just say no!!
#6 Self Care
Additionally, be sure you're getting a sufficient amount of rest; while it's not uncommon to make a point to go to sleep earlier the night before an upcoming event, anxiety can make it hard to sleep. Equally important, but often understated, is the importance of retaining the healthy habits you've already established for yourself during the holiday season. It's easy to get caught up in all of the excitement of everything that is going on and needs to be prepared for! For that reason, it might be easy to lose track and slip up in maintaining daily routines. This is one of the most important times of year where the habits you've built up for yourself should help with managing your feelings of anxiety and feeling overwhelmed, so it can be particularly disastrous if you let things fall apart right now.
There is often a lot to do in a short amount of time around the holidays, so make sure to take breathers when you need them! Even five or ten minutes can be enough to clear your head, but if it gets too much - especially to the point of it causing anxiety - consider taking a couple hours or even the whole day off. There's thirty-one days in December; no harm in reserving a few for your peace of mind!