Mental Health Moments: Managing Holiday Anxiety

⌛ By Kaylin R. Staten 

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but what if you’re anxious? The holiday season is merry and bright for many people, but when you have holiday anxiety (or anxiety in general), the last part of any year could riddle you with symptoms of your mental illness.

October through December are my favorite months of the year and have been since I was a child. There’s nothing quite like waking up on Christmas morning, opening presents and spending time with loved ones. Of course, I also have that traditional sugar-filled Coca-Cola to fuel my Christmas spirit. As an adult, however, the holidays come with added stressors to manage.

Here are four ways to help alleviate your holiday anxiety so you can go back to enjoying this time of year:

Have a plan but be flexible.

As a perfectionist, I love plans. I love them so much, in fact, that the idea of them frequently gets in my way. It takes a lot of effort for me to be spontaneous. In reality, that is the opposite of spontaneity. You can’t plan for it! Most of the time, my anxiety and general personality traits prevent me from being spontaneous, much to the chagrin of those around me. I like to have a master plan of where I will be on each day during the holidays, which foods and desserts I will make, which gift is *perfect* for each person and so on. The best-made plans sometimes fail, and you can only prepare for Plan A-Z for so long until Plan AB comes up. Realize that plans will change when they are constructed of moving parts. Although this could be outside of your comfort zone, try to go with the flow as much as possible. Spontaneous moments make for some of the best memories and lasting traditions.

Realize that you can’t be everywhere.

The more your family grows, the more family get-togethers and Christmas parties make it onto your schedule. Work out a plan (just not a rigid one!) with your significant other and others in your life so you can attend what you want and have enough time to get from Point A to Point B. There will be times when events occur on the same day, so be prepared. And don’t let guilt drive your holiday season. I know, this is easier said than done. If you can’t be somewhere, take a rain check. Meet up with those family members and friends before or after the holiday. Most of the time, they will be relieved -- because they have a million places to be, too! Until we can clone ourselves, this method will have to do.

Adhere to a gift budget.

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is gift-giving. I have to really watch myself because I would love to spend exactly $1 million or more per person. Not really, but if I had the means, you better bet I would go crazy this time of year! In order to reduce financial strain, have an amount you would like to spend per person and try to stick to that figure. Keep a list and check it more than twice. Due to the fact that I am a master planner, I get Christmas presents in advance. If I see something for someone in July, I will go ahead and pick it up then. This reduces some of the financial stress in November and December.

Take some time for yourself.

As an INFJ personality type, I tend to take care of others’ needs and leave out my own -- until it’s too late. While my compassionate spirit drives who I am, there are times I just need to take a breather. This is especially true during the holiday season. If I feel like I’m being pulled in several different directions, my stress and anxiety levels reach their zenith. To maintain lower stress levels, I do things for myself. I read a new book, write in my journal, watch a favorite TV show (“The Office” is wonderful for reducing anxiety) or just sit in solitude for a little while. If you have children, it could be a challenge to take some time for yourself. Ask your significant other, a family member or a friend to watch your little ones while you recharge. The initial guilt could be there, but you will come back feeling better prepared to attend holiday get-togethers and be less like a bump on a log.

Please note: These blog posts will not be clinical, although we will provide symptoms and other information. These posts are based on my experiences with anxiety and mental health in general.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit a website like Mental Health America to learn more.

Mental Health Moments blog posts are every other Tuesday of the month. Our CEO and contributors highlight what it's like to live with a mental health disorder and continue to fight the stigma through storytelling.

Copyright © MMXVIII Hourglass Media, LLC

Kaylin R. Staten, APR is an award-winning public relations practitioner and writer. She owns Hourglass Media, a consulting company based in Huntington, WV.

⌛ ⌛ ⌛