How to Deal with Holiday Anxiety Like an Adult

It’s only Tuesday and I’ve already seen at least 5 articles this week on how to get through the holidays with your sanity intact. And I’ve read every one of them because I’m already feeling the strain.  No doubt, ’tis the season for all of our anxieties to come shining through like a flashlight in the face!

But doesn’t this seem wrong, somehow? Why do we feel obligated to put ourselves through this year after year? Yes I get that traditions are important but does being super stressed out have to be a tradition too?

Truth be told, I don’t enjoy the holidays any more. I have a hard time finding the joy in it all when it all just feels TOO MUCH. Too much pressure, too much money, too much food, too many things to do, people to see, places to go…and for what? So we can post some Norman Rockwellesque photos on social media? So we don’t disappoint someone in our family? So we can feel like we did it “right”? I feel like the whole thing needs to be reworked.

But until I’m able to escape to the Caribbean for the months of November and December (someday!), I’m going to have to suck it up and deal. And here’s how I plan to deal with it:

  • Radical Acceptance – these holidays are happening whether I like it or not. They just are. So I can accept that I am going to have to do things I’d really rather not do, but since I am an adult I will handle myself with maturity and grace. And then I’m going to reward myself for Adulting so well.
  • Cope Ahead – I can make a plan and do things ahead of time that will make the actual event easier to deal with. That might mean cooking a few dishes ahead of time, getting in some exercise so I feel better, getting more rest, or watching for things I need to go on sale (so I feel like I have at least a little bit of control over my money).
  • Improve the Moment – sadly the only thing I can think of here is having a nice glass of wine or some spiked punch. But maybe it also means having some neutral discussion topics on hand – movies, books, etc – so that if the conversation takes a ridiculous turn, I can steer it back to common ground (this could also be considered Coping Ahead, I think). Retreating to another room for five minutes to watch a funny cat video is also a good way to improve the moment and my mood if I feel like it’s getting to be too much.
  • Find Joy in the Little Things – when my kids all pull together to get the house clean while I’m at work on Wednesday, noshing on my mom’s Thanksgiving stuffing, that glorious nap that comes after the meal, Christmas music on the radio during my daily commute, A Charlie Brown Christmas (along with ALL the Christmas classics), driving around and looking at Christmas lights, baking treats with my kids, making that first batch of the peanut butter balls that makes my husband so happy…these are the things I’m going to focus on. These are the things I’m going to look forward to.
  • Writing – I’m going to write, write, write, either here or privately because I already feel better about everything since I sat down to write this post.

If you love this time of year and you feel like you are on top of it, more power to you (and also, I envy you)! But for the rest of us who tend to feel like we’re caught in the undercurrent of TOO MUCH, let’s just take it easy on ourselves, okay? Let’s agree to do what we can and let that be good enough. Let’s agree to take spectacular care of ourselves and maybe, just maybe we’ll surprise ourselves and come out on the other side of this with some good times and warm memories.


4 thoughts on “How to Deal with Holiday Anxiety Like an Adult

  1. Good morning, Jill. Well, you probably remember that I opted out of the holiday madness quite a few years ago. At first, it was uncomfortable. And even now, my sister thought it was okay to tell me that my nieces talk about me after I leave??? That’s on them, not on me. I come early so I can talk to my niece that is hosting, I help in any way I can, and then I leave after dinner so I don’t have to drive home through the dark, and also because on Christmas, I don’t enjoy watching the frenetic present opening followed by the inevitable disappointment on people’s faces. I’m really not a scrooge, I just decided that what we have made Christmas into has nothing to do with what Christmas is supposed to be about.

    LOL, that said, being retired really helps with the stress. My sister asked me to bring two majorly intensive dishes this year. I thought and thought about what I was going to do, because I am going down Wednesday and I won’t have access to an oven. So Monday I made a beautiful pie, and then froze it (just like they do at Apple Hill.) This morning I sliced four pounds of potatoes and grated cheese and sliced an onion and made a massive casserole and am baking it now. It will have to be okay on Thursday 🙂

    You have some good plans. Did I see anywhere up there that it is okay to say “NO” to one or two things? Also, I LOVED the little things that bring you joy 🙂

    1. Oh gosh you are so right – saying NO should definitely be on my list! 🙂 I always think of you and how you do Christmas – it sounds so peaceful and meaningful.
      Your pie and your potato dish sound delicious!! I’m going to do some prep work tonight – plus I have 4 other people who can help me so that will be nice!
      Hope you have a nice Thanksgiving!

  2. I am one of those people who love the Christmas season! We don’t have Thanksgiving in Australia but I am hosting a pool party on the weekend so does that count? And then I am hosting Christmas lunch for 20 or so as I have most years out of the last ten or so, and also Boxing Day when they all come back for my father-in-law’s birthday. It is a lot of work, but I love having family here and I love the present opening orgy too! This year we are buying less for the extended family, concentrating on presents for children and close family members (ie still buying for grown-up siblings and parents but not cousins, aunts etc).

    I couple of things I’ve learned help me. First, be super organised! Cook some things ahead of time, not every nibble has to be home made, and I have an extremely detailed running sheet for cooking on the day – often in 5 minute intervals for basting turkey, put the potatoes in, etc. Otherwise it is easy to forget and get flustered.

    Second, don’t be afraid to ask for help, or accept it when offered. Everyone always brings food, of course, but you can also get help with cleaning up and other things. One year when a lot of my husband’s family were younger and not much used to housework I put a lot of jobs written on paper into a hat and got everyone to draw one. Wash glass-wear, or wash roasting pans, or collect used wrapping paper and take it to the recycling bin, or sweep crumbs from under the table. Each job small and not burdensome, and good for boys in their early 20s who honestly had no idea what needed to be done! Back then we lived further away and had a house full of guests for several days so Tim and I couldn’t do it all ourselves. Now we all live closer so it’s only a couple of big meals but still good to have help.

    And thirdly, just sit down and enjoy it. Don’t let all your time be taken up with cooking and cleaning and looking after other people.

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