Holiday Gatherings Need Not Induce Anxiety
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Anxiety, already at high levels because of the Covid-19 pandemic and stress of daily life, can increase during the holiday season. Here are five tips to help you reduce your holiday stress and enjoy the season.
Don’t Invite People Known to Cause Trouble to Your Holiday Gatherings
If you have someone on your holiday guest list who is known to cause trouble—shows up to events high, starts fights, or insists on talking about politics or other difficult topics—don’t invite them to your gathering. Anyone who can’t get along for two hours, or who is going to bring misery to yourself or your guests, isn’t the right person to ask to the event.
Attending holiday gatherings is a privilege. Do what’s right for you by not inviting discord into your event.
The same is true for invitations you receive. You do not need to go to a party or event that makes you uncomfortable.
If you have a business reason to attend an event that you are not looking forward to, make an appearance early and leave as soon as you have said hello to all the people who need to see you. Before and after the gathering, get support by phone or text. Consider taking a good friend as support, if you are allowed to bring a guest.
In all things, do what is right for you, especially to maintain your mental health. You can and should set boundaries that are healthy for you.
Create a Budget and Stick to It
Money, or the lack of it, is a major source of stress during the holiday season. Whether it’s purchasing gifts or spending on decorations and parties, the holidays can get expensive. Set a budget for the holidays and stick to it. Avoid impulse shopping. There’s no need to tempt yourself by browsing items you don’t have the funds to buy.
January is a great time to set an annual holiday budget. You can save each month so that there’s money available at the end of the year for purchases, or purchase items throughout the year so that you’re not overwhelmed at once. If you like to have funds to treat yourself, why not put aside for that? No matter how you choose to budget for the holidays, setting a budget and sticking to it will reduce your holiday stress levels.
Another source of stress during the holidays is doing too much. If you need a vacation from your vacation, it isn’t much of a rest period.
Do you really have to do everything on your list? Are there activities you can decide not to do? Do you print and send holiday cards because you enjoy connecting with family—or because it is expected? Do you decorate every room in the house because you want to—or because others believe you should? If it brings you joy to decorate every room in the house, by all means, do it. But if you are doing tasks out of expectation, consider downsizing.
Remember the Reason for the Season
Your stress might decrease if you keep yourself focused on why we do what we do at this time of year. Perhaps you are a religious person who connects with your holidays as a time of awe or renewal. You may be more secular and experience this as a time to be with family and friends. This may be a time of year that reminds you of difficult experiences, so you may need to reach out and find new, positive meaning for the season. Whatever your beliefs, focus on what’s important to you, rather than tasks and being busy. Doing activities that have meaning will help reduce your anxiety.
Perhaps most important, the holiday season provides an opportunity to spend time thinking about all that we have to be grateful for: family, friends, meaningful work, more. When we are able to see what we have, rather than fixate on what we don’t, some of our anxiety will give way to love, grace, and hope.