As a child, the holidays were always a magical time for me, full of family, food, sparkle lights, Santa, and presents. But as I grew up, and mostly when my parents split up 10 years ago, the holidays became trickier, and new emotions crept in along with the excitement. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the holiday season but certain aspects of it can be overwhelming and stressful at times.
I wrote about how to survive the holidays with divorced parents here, but wanted to touch on holiday anxiety in general because I’ve realized, after many conversations, that almost everyone I know suffers from it to some extent. The tips listed below have helped me a lot during a time that can be difficult for many people, especially those who suffer from anxiety.
Some of the things that stress me out during the holidays, to name a few, are: Pleasing everyone in my family and feeling guilty if I don’t, overcommitting throughout the season, getting off of my regular routine, and spending too much money. These action steps have helped me survive the holidays and enjoy this time of year even more!
1. Don’t overextend yourself. There are so many exciting parties and events and tree trimmings and Friendsgivings happening right now. Why would you want to say no to fun activities that are full of good food, good drinks, and good friends? But too many parties, plans, and late nights, can make you feel burnt out and exhausted during the work week. I know that when I feel that way, my work suffers and I end up eating badly. Remember that it’s ok to say no even if you don’t have an excuse. And it’s ok to need night at home with a cup of tea and a good movie. Even on a (gasp) weekend!
2. Stick to your regular routine… whenever possible. I’m a creature of habit, and I’ve learned in therapy that when I get off of my routines, everything gets thrown out of whack and anxiety creeps in. With all of the travel and events going on during the holidays, I’ve found it to be super important to stick to routines when I can. For example while we’re away for Thanksgiving next week or Christmas next month, I’ll stick to my bedtime routine and try to workout and move my body during the day.
3. Set up a gift-giving budget. Giving people I love presents that they love is one of my favorite things in the whole world, but the financial strain it brings is not. For the last three years, Anel and I have sat down and made a budget for how much we can spend on holiday gifts including how much we spend on each other. While that might not sound very romantic, it helps set ourselves up for success come January when business slows down for both of us every year. And it gives us guidelines that make gift buying less stressful.
To get even more specific, I have a Google Doc spreadsheet where I keep track of everyone we shop for, what we bought, the cost, whether it’s arrived or not, and if it’s wrapped. This spreadsheet is incredible and I love it and yes it’s probably insane but I don’t even care! Also, don’t buy anything full price if you can help it. Everything is on sale pretty much from now until Christmas, with the best sales happening next week for Black Friday.
Speaking of gifts, don’t forget to check out my holiday gift guide if you haven’t yet.
4. Eat and drink in moderation. My 80/20 rule for health usually ends up getting bent during the holiday season and I always regret it because I feel bloated, tired, and generally icky. I’ve already started feeling that so whenever I can, I try to implement my post-travel detox, or just parts of it, even when I’m not traveling.
I never condone depriving yourself, especially with all of the amazing goodies laying around this time of year, but I also know that if you overdo it, you won’t feel so hot. Read my post from last winter on how to stay healthy during the holidays here.
5. Get rid of guilt. This one is easier said than done but I know that I personally feel guilt during the holiday season because I can’t be with everyone for every holiday. With divorced parents and a set of in laws, that’s three different whole groups of people that we want to make sure that Amalia gets to see.
But this year we decided to make our own plan for Thanksgiving. We’re heading to Bermuda as a family of three with no pressure, no cooking, and no real traditions. Making that decision felt very empowering. Anel and I decided to banish our guilt and do something that made us feel happy and excited. We are making an effort to see everyone in our families over Christmas to make up for it.
So those are a few of my tips for combatting holiday anxiety! I hope they’re helpful. Let me know how you handle stress and anxiety around the holiday season below.
Photos by Julia Dags.