via Jennifer Scott
Between sold-out gifts and awkward family gatherings, the holiday season can be anything but holly and jolly. While you can’t do anything about the latest greatest gadget flying off the shelves, you can take steps to ensure your Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t turn into an anxiety attack.
While family drama isn’t exclusive to the holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter tend to bring the black sheep and white elephants out of the shadows. If you’re feeling stressed about the prospect of supping with your stress-inducing extended family, you’re not alone. The American Psychological Association reports that more than 60% of people report stress throughout the holiday season; much of this stems from conflict and discomfort due to being in close proximity with relatives who may not always get along. If going your separate way this holiday isn’t an option, you’ll need to learn a few anxiety abating self-care tactics to get you through from dinner to dessert.
Let’s face it, life is not a Norman Rockwell painting. Grandma likely won’t be standing there with her gray hair in a bun, an apron around her waist, and a smile on her face with her adoring children and grandchildren decked out in their holiday best waiting to say grace. A more likely scenario includes screaming kids, burnt cookies, and at least one overly-sensitive cousin complaining that the bird wasn’t ethically sourced from an organic and cruelty-free farm. We tend to stress over holidays because we expect perfection. Once we learn to check these preconceived notions at the door, we can accept that things don’t have to be picture-perfect in order to enjoy time spent with those we love.
Material girls (and boys)
It seems the holidays have become more about displaying wealth than showing displays of affection. Something as simple as opening gifts on Christmas morning can become an all-out battle as brothers and sisters and cousins boast and brag over who got to open the most expensive package. This can cause meltdowns between kids and parents. If you’re hosting a holiday, lay out some ground rules for gift giving. Set a dollar amount for the adults and request that Santa’s spread remain modest. Explain that anyone unwilling to stick to your guidelines is welcome at family dinner but may prefer to spend the rest of their visit bunking at a hotel or VRBO rental. Even the National Communication Association puts deemphasizing materialism at the top of its family stress avoidance tactics list.
For the millions of Americans starting their journey toward sobriety, holiday gatherings are difficult. On one hand, everyone else is having a glass of wine; on the other, one drink is strong enough to unsettle the wagon. If you’re looking to celebrate sober this year, chances are, your family and friends will applaud you for your decision. There will be, however, those who aren’t aware of your circumstances or believe that it’s easy to partake without overindulging. Have a game plan in place for how you’ll react to inquiries regarding your reluctance to share in that aspect of the celebration. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to respond lightheartedly. You can be honest that you’re in recovery or simply explain that you have other obligations and need a clear head.
No matter your source of stress this holiday season, don’t be afraid to take matters into your own hands by implementing a few preemptive stress-busting strategies. Set boundaries along and realistic expectations and focus on the reason for the season. Most importantly, take care of yourself. You owe no one an explanation of your actions. And, if you decide to simply forgo any aspect of the festivities, there is no reason to feel guilty for your decision.
Image via Pixabay
Jennifer Scott shares stories about the ups and downs of her anxiety and depression at SpiritFinder.
Ed Preston is the Founder of The Grief & Trauma Resource Center, an online directory created to provide more accurate information to the general public about grief and trauma. His own decades long journey with grief has lead him down many paths. He holds a degree in Cultural Anthropology, is a scholar of the Orphan Wisdom School, and a breath meditation teacher.