It happens every year. The holiday season sneaks up on you. You are minding your own business and enjoying the cool autumn air, the changing of the leaves, and savoring the Halloween candy leftovers. And then overnight things change dramatically. It is Christmas everywhere. It is in all the stores. It is piped in through your car radio. It is in your mailbox full of holiday catalogs. It is blaring from your TV urging you to shop, buy, and spend over your limit. It is all for a good cause you are told.
“Don’t you want to have the perfect holiday?” all the advertisements seem to demand.
This is the Christmas carrot dangled above our noses, this expectation of perfection. For those of us who would rather hide away in a cave than deal with the maddening crowds and forced smiles of holiday cheer, the weeks ahead can make you feel like you are in a pressure cooker.
Here are some tips to keep your sanity intact and decrease your level of stress and anxiety.
• If going out shopping during the holidays gives you the heebie jeebies then opt for shopping on-line. Many times you can get better deals and you don’t have to fight the crowds to find what you are looking for.
• If the thought of sending Christmas cards induces anxiety, then skip this holiday ritual. The whole point of card giving is to keep connected. There are many other ways to do this without having to slave away over writing cute holiday sentiments in mass. Make a list of those people who are truly special to you and with whom you would like to keep that connection going. Reach out to these individuals in ways that you are able such as by phone, email, or snail mail but on your own time table. It is not necessary to contact everyone at once just because it is Christmas.
• If part of your holiday anxiety is due to the fact that you really can’t afford a big Christmas, you are not alone. When times get tough, it is time to get creative. Some of the best gifts are ones which do not cost a lot of money or are even free. The gift of time is one of the best free gifts you can give. Make some coupons for running errands for a friend or relative. Or you can offer to babysit for a friend who has children. Set a date to take a loved one to lunch or better yet, make someone a home cooked meal. There are many ways to show love and care without spending a lot of money.
• Parties, holiday get-togethers, and general holiday socializing may not be your thing especially if you suffer from social anxiety disorder. Prioritize as to which events are most meaningful to you and set time limits on what you are mentally and physically able to do. Instead of doing a big dinner maybe offer to have lunch with a loved one or instead of going to a party, spend one on one time with a friend. This is your holiday. You get to choose how you wish to spend it and with whom.
• Take the time to relax and unwind during this busy time. Your mental health is important. Your family and loved ones want and need you to be happy and healthy more than they want some perfect holiday.
• Develop your own traditions and rituals which make sense for you and your family. Who says you have to have turkey, for example, on Thanksgiving. Maybe it is easier and less stressful to go out for Chinese food. Forget the rules and the shoulds and do what is best for you.
• Most of all, get rid of the notion that there is such a thing as the perfect holiday. It never did and never will exist. You can’t buy it. It isn’t something you can find in a package tied with a bow. Just like the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas discovered in the end, “Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!”
The weeks to come may have the potential for generating stress. But don’t let it happen if you can help it. You do have some control and say so about what kind of holiday you want or do not want. My hope is that you all find peace, meaning, and joy in whatever way you choose to celebrate.
Of course we would love to hear from you. Are there any ways you have found to reduce the anxiety and stress associated with the holidays? Tell us your thoughts. We are listening!
Published On: November 15, 2010