With the influx in family gatherings and added financial pressures, the holidays can be the most joyously stressful time of the year. The stress from attending family gatherings can do wonders for social anxiety, while the financial fallout and assessment of the past and present can cause depression in the New Year.
Luckily, there are a number of simple strategies you can employ to make it through the holidays emotionally unscathed. Here are seven ways to avoid holiday anxiety and/or a New Year’s Eve existential breakdown.
- Shop preemptively – Anxiety is like a mouse. If you give that mouse a cookie, which in this case would be procrastinating on holiday shopping, that mouse will reward you with more anxiety. Although the thought of shopping for someone else usually induces anxiety in itself, it is crucial to get it done before the anxiety frenzy during the last week begins. Taking a head start on thinking about what gifts you will get others may make you realize that you really have no idea what to get them, sparing you the stress of figuring it out at the last minute.
- Set spending limits – It would probably make more sense psychologically to move all gift-giving holidays after the New Year, since everyone would not have to have their annual existential crisis while also being broke from holiday shopping. But since we have them backwards, it is imperative to set a budget that is realistic. Being too conservative can result in feeling like you overspent or cause you to drop the quality in your gifts, while setting one too high can lead to the aforementioned added pressure to New Year’s anxiety. Keeping a list of expenses from past holidays can help in finding a realistic number, allowing you to buy as much as you planned while not entering the New Year with a clean slate financially.
- Take a real vacation – You don’t have to fly somewhere for it to be a “real vacation.” Sometimes traveling can be so stressful that it effectively negates any therapeutic value it may have had; going somewhere within driving distance can save money and anxiety from the logistical nightmare that is holiday traveling. However, if you do find yourself traveling, a little bit of acceptance that it will be stressful can go a long way. Instead of creating unreal expectations, it is safer to simply admit to oneself that the inevitable annoyances of traveling will happen: the TSA will be the TSA, you will get lost at some point/waste the rental car’s gas and it will seem like you’re spending a lot of money. It is important to not just be realistic about the stressors that await them on vacation, but throughout the holidays in general.
- Keep it real – It is imperative to keep realistic expectations, especially when it comes to gift-giving holidays. For example, those who celebrate Christmas experience an exponential decline in joy each year after they initially find out that the reality about Santa Claus. In order to get back some of that holiday spirit, you can make a list of holiday activities, volunteer or donate.
- Don’t be afraid to say no – Possibly the largest source of anxiety during the holidays is from semi-mandatory family functions. We all have very good reasons for why we would avoid these situations in a perfect world; identifying your fears and preparing for them can lead to less anxiety if they do happen. It doesn’t hurt to leave a little early or pass up a holiday gathering altogether if it is that anxiety inducing, which brings us to our next strategy.
- Pace yourself – Much of holiday anxiety frenzy stems from the pressure of having to do too much in a short amount of time. If you feel overwhelmed, you can commit to less social functions or take a vacation to avoid doing them altogether.
- Delayed family holiday – Unequivocally the most effective strategy on this list, the delayed family holiday works for any gift giving observance such as Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. Simply moving the time from the end of December to the first week of January provides not only massive savings on presents, but reduced anxiety from avoiding crowded holiday shopping. Also, New Years is considerably more enjoyable since a good amount of your money will not be gone yet.
Most of the pressure associated with the holidays comes from our own expectations as well as the onslaught of advertisements we are subjected to. Doing something different this season like being more selfless like volunteering or more selfish (such as taking a vacation to avoid family gatherings altogether) can make it seem more interesting and less stressful.
Being a time of increased stress and anxiety, the holidays can make it tempting to turn to drugs, alcohol or risky behavior. At White River Academy, we offer a host of cutting edge therapeutic approaches to substance abuse and mental health treatment, incorporating brain wellness and other holistic techniques in our programs. If you would like more information, feel free to browse our reviews page or contact us directly.