It’s beginning to look a lot like the holiday season.
That’s great for those of us who enjoy crowded malls, busy schedules, and a ton of social events. Excellent time of year for you to enjoy, congratulations!
For the rest of us who are not huge fans of the approaching celebrations, this isn’t that exciting. Social anxiety, depression, and a variety of other issues can be amplified by the stress of the holiday season. In addition to all of your normal worries, you’ll have financial pressures ( presents anyone?), and triggers from well-meaning people (sorry Aunt Edna, still not married). Combine that with having to be around people and do the “right” – i. e., neurotypical – things: making polite conversation, not being awkward, and dressing decently, and you have a recipe for disaster. And by disaster I mean you will be fortunate if you make it to new years with dignity and sanity to spare. The only great thing I can say about the holidays is that we have advance notice of their arrival. Here they come, whether we like them or not. Let’s get mentally prepared for the onslaught of holiday stress.
Know it is going to be a challenge
This isn’t anything new, you know exactly what to expect in large crowds. Even if those crowds are full of people who have known you since you had that goofy haircut in the 1st grade, that doesn’t necessarily help. Know yourself, don’t be in denial about your symptoms or your triggers. Also, don’t allow yourself to be overly optimistic and think “it’ll be better this time.” It may be better, and I hope for your sake it is, but we aren’t preparing for what will go right, we are preparing for what could go wrong. You don’t have to do that alone.
Have someone to talk to on deck
Since you are already stressed, you are going to need someone to bounce ideas off of. After all, anxiety can skew our judgment and make it more difficult to gauge social situations. Make sure you schedule with your therapist ( get one if you don’t have one) or let a friend know in advance that you are going to some terrible decorating party or headed caroling, and you will need them to be a shoulder to cry on later. It is amazing just how much better it can feel to have someone on the other end of the phone to talk to.
Keep your expectations of yourself reasonable
That means you cannot commit to a different baked good for all twelve days of Christmas. Do not sign up for every fundraiser to which you are invited. If ever there was a time to establish boundaries, holidays are the most wonderful time to do so. It is also important for you to remember that if you are doing more, you need more rest. Make time for something other than wrapping those presents, you will need fun as well. Now is not the time to play superwoman. Eat well, stay hydrated and get some shut-eye. You will need it.
Surround yourself with soothing items
Just like fingerprints, everyone’s comfort level is different. Some people use worry stones and touch them to remind themselves of good thoughts. If you are traveling, pack a blanket from home to make you feel more comfortable. At the end of a long day, treat yourself to a nice warm mug of your favorite tea. These small kindnesses can add up to a much happier you.
These tips are great starting points to keep you prepared for dealing with people. Just remember: forewarned is forearmed. Prepare yourself in advance for what it is going to take to deal with these wonderful people who you love. Do not run a guilt trip on yourself for finding social situations stressful, many people, even people without anxiety issues have the same problems. This holiday season, give yourself a wonderful gift: protection. Protecting yourself and your health need to be a priority. Other than that, just try not to eat too much fruitcake.
What is your best tip for keeping the holidays low stress? Leave me a comment!