Unwrapping Holiday Anxiety: A Therapist’s Perspective on Navigating Festive Stress

GoodTherapy | Unwrapping Holiday Anxiety: A Therapist's Perspective on Navigating Festive StressThe holiday season, often synonymous with joy and celebration, can paradoxically bring about heightened anxiety. Let’s delve into some common holiday stressors and provide insights into managing and alleviating this seasonal tension so that we can enjoy the holiday season for what it is meant to be: a time to spread cheer, joy, and love.

Things we do that may unintentionally increase our holiday anxiety:

Neglecting a budget: Overspending is an easy slippery slope to find yourself on. Between Black Friday Deals, Cyber Monday, and every other advertisement and sale thrown your way, it can be easy to get sucked in by these alluring offers. Online shopping makes this even easier with constant “friendly” reminders about the sale items that have limited quantities left that are sitting in your cart, just waiting for you to click “confirm purchase.” This slippery slope eventually leads to buyer’s remorse, financial stress, and anxiety when the bills arrive.

Overcommitting

You love your family. You want to be a good parent, spouse, and child and show up for everyone. Unfortunately, scheduling too many activities while trying to accommodate everyone’s plans can lead to burnout and stress, which can lead to resentment and the failure to be present in the moment.

Perfection Expectations

America excels at selling the idea of perfection. Before most of us know it, we find ourselves striving for that unattainable “perfect” holiday experience. Ultimately, these unrealistic expectations set us up for subsequent disappointment.

Why holiday-related anxiety is common:

Expectations vs. Reality:

As a society, we are constantly being sold on extravagance and perfection, which inevitably lead to stress and disappointment.

Social Comparisons:

With the increased presence of social media, it is easier than ever to compare your holiday experience to the curated and filtered snapshots of others’ holiday experiences. This can contribute to feelings of inadequacy and disappointment.

Increased Responsibilities:

Most of us are already juggling a million things daily. Now add in hosting, gift-giving, cooking, and socializing; it’s not surprising that one finds oneself overwhelmed with heightened stress levels.

Tips for preventing holiday anxiety:

Set a Realistic Budget:

While gifts can be a way to show our love, it is important to remember the adage, “It’s the thought that counts.” Establishing a budget for gifts, decorations, and activities helps avoid financial strain, which can lead to additional stress and resentment. Remember, gifts don’t always have to cost money; spending time with someone or creating a homemade gift can be just as special, if not more meaningful. If you’re concerned about budgeting for gifts, don’t be afraid to have conversations with your loved ones; consider setting gift limits as a family or agreeing to spend quality time together doing something you love instead.

Prioritize Self-Care:

It is easy to get caught up in the idea that the holidays are a time of “self-care.” Yes, you often socialize with loved ones and indulge in sweets and delicious holiday meals. Still, you are also probably pushing your social battery more than usual. With the increase in one’s social calendar, it is essential to remember to schedule downtime for self-care activities, ensuring moments of rest and relaxation to recharge your battery.

Learn to Say No:

While it might be tempting to say yes to every holiday offer, whether it is from a sense of excitement or guilt, it is essential to remember you can say no. Practice setting boundaries by politely declining invitations or commitments that may overwhelm you. If you want to get together with the person, but the timing isn’t right, tell them you would love to schedule a time after the holidays once things have settled down.

Communicate Expectations:

It may feel slightly uncomfortable, but it is important to have open discussions with family and friends regarding holiday expectations to help ensure everyone’s perspectives are aligned. This helps clear up misunderstandings and prevents unspoken expectations that one is expected to live up to.

Ways to reduce holiday anxiety:

Reevaluate Expectations:

Take a breath and focus on the holidays’ essence. Adjust unrealistic expectations and focus on what truly matters rather than a cultivated idea of perfection.

Delegate Responsibilities:

Share tasks and responsibilities with friends and family members. Distributing the workload and speaking up when you need help can elevate some of the pressure. Remember, don’t assume people know when you are struggling; communication is key. Asking for help and voicing your concerns can prevent one from feeling overwhelmed and resentful.

Mindful Reflection:

Engage in mindful activities, reflecting on your feelings, acknowledging anxiety triggers, and utilizing tools to help manage stress. Journaling, meditating, and walking are great ways to take a moment for yourself, reflect, and alleviate anxiety.

Seek Support:

You are not alone. If things start to feel overwhelming, consider contacting a friend or therapist for support to provide a safe space to discuss and process your feelings.

How to make the holidays more peaceful and less stressful:

Embrace Simplicity:

Consider simplifying holiday traditions and focusing on meaningful experiences rather than an abundance of activities.

Prioritize Connection:

Prioritize quality time with loved ones over materialistic aspects. Foster genuine connections with those you care about. These are the moments and memories that truly matter.

Create Boundaries:

Establish and communicate clear boundaries with family and friends to minimize potential stressors.

Practice Gratitude:

Cultivate gratitude by reflecting on positive aspects of the holiday season, fostering a more positive mindset.

Incorporating these strategies can contribute to a more serene and enjoyable holiday experience. Remember, the holidays are an opportunity for connection, reflection, and joy. By navigating potential stressors with intentionality and self-awareness, you can create a season that aligns with your values and promotes overall well-being.

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