Tips for Surviving Holiday Anxiety

December 20, 2018

Maybe it’s the inevitable conversation with your family about why you're not yet married. Maybe it’s the $700+ you’re spending on a round-trip flight to see said family in Ohio. Maybe it’s the looming fear that someone might expect you to match the generosity of their gift-giving habits when the only thing you can afford is items purchased with podcast promo codes. Whatever it may be, you’re likely feeling the pangs of holiday anxiety right about now. So what to do? Scramble to find that old Xanax prescription? Try the cross-country road trip you always said you’d like to do? Skip the holidays all together? Don’t be crazy! It’s easy to forget how amazing the holidays actually are when you’re preparing, but just remember Newton’s third law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. We doubt Newton was considering astronomically-priced airline tickets to Cleveland when he made that statement, but as far as we’re concerned, for every dollar spent on travel, there’s an equal end game of Mario Kart with the cousins while eating Grandma’s homemade cookies. We’ll take that trade any week, but if you still need convincing, here are four other ways to curb any holiday anxiety you're feeling.

Succumb to the holiday spirit

It’s easy to become a cynic about the holidays, particularly as you get older. As an adult, you just don’t have the same bright-eyed enthusiasm about waking up at 5am on Christmas Day to see the spread of gifts under the tree. Let’s be honest—the only gift you really want is to sleep until noon without the fear of missing a work email. Ultimately, it’s up to you to just surrender to any preconceived notions holding you back, and allow the holiday spirit engulf your heart. When you do, the joy will flow. Maybe it’s not about immediate family for you. Maybe Christmas was never your thing to begin with. All of that’s fine, though, because enjoying the holiday experience isn’t about any of that—it’s about the happiness and, for lack of a better term, spirit that occupies everyone and everything this time of year. So, appreciate the happy children on Christmas, the parents who only get to see their children once a year, and the strangers who give other strangers gifts just for the sake of it. All of it is beautiful, and ultimately what the holidays are really all about.

Do it small

For those of us anxious about the whole production aspect of the holidays...why? Yes, it’s nice to make a big thing of Christmas (if you can), but that’s not the point—and if it’s just going to cause more drama in your life, avoid it. It’s OK to do a small Secret Santa this year instead of an incredibly thoughtful gift for each member of your extended family. It’s OK to not put up the inflatable Santa big enough to tell passersby that you’re selling used cars in your backyard. It’s OK to not cook the world’s most perfect honey-baked ham. Now, if you really love doing those things, then by all means, proceed. But if they’re ultimately stressing you out to the point that the holidays are becoming more of a burden than a blessing, take it down a notch. It’s OK to just be there, to just appreciate the people you’re spending the holidays with. In other words, it’s OK to downsize a bit.

Be generous

On the surface, this may seem to contradict the previous point, but one size doesn’t quite fit all when it comes to holiday anxiety. For some, the prospect of spending their hard-earned money on making someone they care about extremely happy is all they could ever ask for. We’re presuming those people are in the minority...but they may be on to something. We aren’t trying to get all preachy here or anything, but there really is nothing like giving something to someone without expecting anything in return. It may sound cheesy, but it can warm even the coldest, most anxious of hearts to see a child’s eyes light up at getting a toy that will quickly become the bedrock of his or her childhood for the next few years. There are worse things than being a charity junkie, even if it’s just during the holidays.

Sleep a lot

Now for the most universally appreciated part of the adult holiday experience: Sleep. No matter where you are currently falling on the holiday-season anxiety scale, remember this: Every Christmas decoration you saw in late October (ugh), every headline you read about people getting upset about Starbucks cups (ugh), every $500 middle-row seat on Spirit Airlines (double ugh) that you’ve endured over the past few months will, come Tuesday night, culminate in the most glorious, Grandma’s-cookies-and-a-warm-fleece-blanket-by-the-fire nap you’ve had all year. And then, it will all have been totally worth it.