Navigating the Holidays with Anxiety
When you picture the holidays, what do you picture? Do you think about gentle snowfall on a quiet morning? Or gathering with friends and family to exchange gifts? How about holiday traditions you have with others, like baking, religious rituals, or movie marathons?
Or – are the holidays more anxiety-inducing for you? Do you picture tight budgeting to buy presents? Do you think about crowds as you brave stores to buy gifts for others? Or do you think about hosting your family who inevitably will fight with each other during their stay?
If your picture of the holidays sounds closer to the latter than the former, you’re not alone. In fact, 69% of Americans feel stressed out during the holidays. Almost half of Americans – 45% – report they’d rather skip the holidays altogether.
For those with anxiety, navigating the holidays can feel even more stressful. Anxious thoughts can be stirred up by forced together-ness with family and friends. You may feel anxiety over picking presents and spending excess money. Hosting can feel anxiety-inducing as you want your holiday to be as perfect as a Hallmark movie.
Trash Your Expectations
You heard us right – drop any expectations you have during the holiday season! This includes good expectations, like expecting things to go smoothly, for all your presents to be bought on sale, and for everybody to get along. It also includes bad expectations, like expecting your family to fight, for thinking your presents won’t be a hit, and for wondering if anyone will like the casserole you’re planning on making for dinner.
Expectations play a large part in perpetuating our anxiety. One step in keeping your anxiety low during the holiday season is to adjust your expectations. Today, try a release exercise – write down how you expect the holiday season to go on a piece of paper, then either safely burn the paper or rip it in pieces and throw it away to symbolize you dumping your expectations.
Set Boundaries Early
Boundaries are our friend when it comes to anxiety. During the holiday time, practice setting boundaries around your common anxiety triggers. For example, if you know your social anxiety flares up during shopping due to crowds, do your shopping online (set a physical boundary regarding storefront shopping). If hosting your family makes you feel stressed, ask your family if they can stay in a hotel, or consider staying in a hotel yourself. If finances induce anxiety for you, see if your family is willing to do a modified gift exchange (for example, each person draws a name from a hat and only has to shop for one person) or if everyone is willing to stick to a budget.
Keep Normalcy in Your Day
The major disruption in your daily schedule can be anxiety-inducing for some folx. To combat this, try to maintain a schedule even in times of change. For example, if you typically eat lunch at noon, consider trying to keep up your regular lunch schedule. If you do daily yoga and are missing your studio due to traveling, find some YouTube videos and do yoga where you can. Even if this just looks like ten minutes of a gratitude meditation in the morning, it’s worth doing!
We hope this blog post helps you to reduce your anxiety around the holidays! If you need a support system during December (and the rest of the year!), we’d love to be a part of your team. At Straight Up Treatment, we specialize in helping folx overcome anxiety and live according to their values. Reach out today to schedule an appointment with one of our counselors. We look forward to hearing from you!