All of us, if we’re honest with our self, probably have some kind of holiday anxiety. Whether it’s stressing about getting the shopping done in time, or what on earth you’re going to buy packrat Aunt Mildred (that she doesn’t already own). Maybe it’s the stress of hosting and cooking for the whole posse. Maybe you’re heading into the holidays alone. Or maybe you’re like some of us that just stress about the whole darn thing. Regardless, anxiety is real. But it really can be managed to make this holiday season a whole lot hap-hap-happier!
I’m going to hit a nerve here. What immediately comes to mind with the following phrase…
Swish it around in your mouth. Let it settle for a minute. Now… how do you feel?
If you’re like me, you think sweet, fluffy, wonderful things about family being together. But that lasts about 20 seconds. And what actually settles in my mind and weighs on my heart is completely different.
The warm, lovely thoughts of laughter, little pranks and jokes, and conversations around the kitchen island with some of my favorite people suddenly turn sour when I think about how irritable and unpleasant I get with a house full of energetic wild children running and yelling. Suddenly I’m mentally living in the moment. My heart races. My jaw clenches. My whole body tenses. Being in the midst of that craziness hits all my anxiety triggers. The noise. The chaos. The lack of control.
Months before the holiday gathering, I start stressing dreading what should be considered a joyful, memory making gathering. I worry about what people will say about me. Hurtful words from the past echo in my mind. And the anxiety builds. Don’t they know I don’t mean to be ill-tempered and bossy and harsh? I’m trying so hard to keep control of my emotions, but I don’t know how. So instead I try to control the activities, my surroundings, even my kids.
I feel trapped. You may feel trapped too.
Trying to cope with anxious thoughts, juggling family and holiday commitments, and trying to “make the holiday perfect” is nothing shy of overwhelming. We’re like a hamster running in a wheel going nowhere. Only our wheel is an anxiety cycle that only leaves us running on empty. And we go through the holidays not enjoying this beautiful season of family and friends at all.
Your story of holiday anxiety may be different than mine. But please know you’re not alone. And with a plan in place, we can be overcomers!
This year, I vow that we take back the holidays and truly enjoy our family gatherings anxiety-free!
7 Simple Holiday Anxiety Coping Tips
Starting to feel anxiety build? Do something to distract yourself. Take the focus off of yourself and off your source of anxiety and place your focus on something that can keep your hands busy. Concentrate on what you’re doing. Even as unappealing as the huge stack of plates and utensils might be, washing dishes might be exactly what it takes to take your mind off of the chaos happening in the other room.
Someone stressing you out by turning your happy holiday into a crabfest? Kindly change the conversation. Or pay the crabby person a compliment. You’ve heard the saying “Kill them with kindness”. Well, here’s your opportunity. Address Miss Bah-humbug directly with something like, “Oh (name), before I forget… I want to tell you that your green beans were delicious. What did you put on them?”
Someone creating tension by bringing up a sore conversation or talking politics and dividing the house? Take the topic and turn it another direction not focused on the negative subject at all. If the person who was leading the heated conversation looks at you like you were rude or crazy, acknowledge your interruption with a quick “Sorry. I know that took the conversation in a whole different direction. But hey, it lightened the air.” Hopefully the person will take the hint.
Too much kid hyperactivity and chaos? Be the ring leader and guide that energy into a focused activity. Come prepared with some games or a craft for the kids to do. It can actually bring the whole family together and create more of that “quality time” you all desired from your family gathering.
Can’t remove the chaos? Remove yourself. Don’t leave leave. Just leave the room. Go get a cup of coffee and sit in the sunroom or next to the fireplace or the Christmas tree or whatever. If someone questions you, just tell them you wanted to enjoy your cup of Joe in a quieter place.
Body feeling tense from trying to hold your emotions in check? Take a walk. You’ll be doubling up on treating yourself right… fresh air and walking off the extra holiday calories! You could even work in some quality one-on-one time by asking if anyone would like to go with you. This way you don’t seem antisocial and if they say no, you’ll get to enjoy some alone time. Either way, you’ve escaped the majority of the chaos and can breathe again (literally).
Feel like a roller coaster of emotions? Take an elevator ride with Elevator Breathing. Slow deep breaths through your nose that rise from your belly into your chest, up through your throat, through the face, and into your forehead. Try it! Very cleansing and calming… and no one will notice.
Friends, anxiety is real. Your feelings may not be understood by others, but they are scientifically justified. Anxiety IS real. Whether you’re using these calming strategies or being medically treated for anxiety, use what is available to you. And be the best you that you can be.