Extra socializing, spending, decorating, traveling and accommodating can stir up holiday anxiety even when the holidays are something we look forward to. We love the holiday season but dread the low-level anxiety (sometimes not so low-level) that comes along with it for many of us.
In an effort to numb that anxiety, we often over do it. We get busier, drink more, eat more and over-do so we don’t have to over feel. I get it, I’ve done it and I’m not doing it that way anymore.
The cure for holiday anxiety (most of it at least)
We all experience the holidays and holiday anxiety differently so this isn’t an exact prescriptive. Take what works best for you and leave the rest behind. If you aren’t sure, treat these recommendations as experiments.
I recently asked the Be More with Less Instagram community if they experienced holiday anxiety and what caused it and received hundreds of responses. More responses than from any other question I’ve every asked.
Reasons for holiday anxiety included …
- Gift buying
- Gift giving
- Gift receiving (especially while paring down on stuff)
- Trying to make everyone happy
- Trying to do it all
- My expectations
- Family expectations
- Family dynamics
- Family drama
- Wanting it to be perfect
- Not enough time
- Not enough money
- Not enough energy
3 places you might find holiday anxiety (and what to do about it)
Even with hundreds of responses, the answers fell into a handful of categories. The following three areas seem to be causing most of the holiday anxiety.
Gift exchange is one of the top sources of holiday anxiety which means … you aren’t the only one. It’s very possible you are exchanging gifts when you don’t want to with someone who also doesn’t want to. There’s only one way to know and that is having conversations with people you usually exchange gifts with and adjusting accordingly. Having the conversation now instead of December may make the talk easier.
Decide what works best. Presence before presents and then gifts, no gifts, some gifts … you decide. Agree to a lunch, dinner or a hike together instead of gifts or exchange consumables if that’s what you agree on.
If you want to gift non-thing things, here are a few things I recommend …
- Soulful Simplicity Course: If you are considering a gift for someone you love (including yourself), join me in January for this six-week video course. If you join early, you’ll be invited to two private live calls with me this year. During the course, we’ll cover everything from making you (and a life you want) to making space and making time. There’s a private community and you get life-time access to all content. If you’ve pre-ordered my new book, Project 333, we’ll send you a $20 discount code for the course. You can read all about the Soulful Simplicity Course right here.
- Meditation: Give the gift of guided meditation with the Headspace App. You can gift anywhere from a month at a time to a lifetime subscription.
- Start a tiny book club: Invite a friend to start a tiny book club with you. Gift them a Book of the Month Club membership and you can pick from a selection of books each month to read and chat about.
- Getaway: Plan a weekend getaway (stay or experience) with Airbnb. From creative and cooking classes to outdoor adventures, gift an experience and make memories.
- Workout: A ClassPass subscription offers different classes at studios all throughout the United States. Try yoga, Pilates, cycling and other fitness classes.
- One less gift: If gift giving isn’t for you this year, and you want to give your friends and family permission to opt-out, send them this certificate for one less gift.
- Donate/Volunteer: Make a donation in the name of friends and family. I’m making donations this year in the name of the Be More with Less Community to The Hope Effect & Together Rising. You may also choose to volunteer together in lieu of exchanging gifts.
Holiday anxiety happens when the holidays fall short of our expectations, or when we think we are falling short of the expectations of others. When it comes to the holidays falling short, start by working on staying present. Find joy every day by noticing what you are grateful for. When things go sideways or don’t turn out as you had hoped, instead of getting lost in despair, be rescued by gratitude.
Consider gentle conversations with people you love or people you haven’t seen for a while before holiday get togethers. Not to manage expectations but to encourage love and connection in better ways. Reconnecting prior to a social event, especially a potentially high-tension gathering will help to ease some of the anxiety you may be experiencing.
When it comes to the expectations of others, remind yourself that they are out of your control. You don’t get to decide or manage what other people expect, or how they feel or deal with things. That’s not part of your job description. It can’t be. You are up to you — your feelings, reactions and expectations —all up to you. Their feelings, reactions and expectations — not up to you. This should be incredibly freeing to know. If you can’t control or change it, why spend any more time feeling anxious about it?
3. Overwhelmed with too much to do
Honor the yes AND the no. When you have trouble resisting or saying no to everything that comes your way, remember how you feel when you say yes to too much. Then think about how you feel when you say yes to the right things, to what matters most to you. When you say yes to what you care about and what you love, it feels so good.
Make a list of all of the holiday things you do. Include gifts, decorating, events, baking, holiday cards and everything in between. Consider cutting out some of the things you do because you think you are expected to do them and prioritize the things that bring real meaning and joy to you and your family.
If you think that protecting time for what matters is selfish, remember how much more giving and loving you can be when you are healthy, rested, and engaged in your favorite things. It’s from that fulfilled place that you can give and serve in ways you just can’t when you are overwhelmed and exhausted. Here are some ways you can take care of yourself during the holidays.
The most meaningful holiday seasons aren’t the ones with the most presents, the best meals, the craziest parties and the least amount of sleep. We find meaning in the holidays and all of our days when we create space to listen to our hearts, time to believe in magic, and to create the love, health and presence required to show all the way up for our lives.
Let’s give ourselves and each other permission to spend less, do less, and stress less throughout the holidays so we can enjoy the real gifts of the season.