Shrinking Holiday Anxiety

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Shrinking Holiday Anxiety

Christmas ornaments were in the stores before the Halloween candy could be eaten. The drumbeat of anxiety is part of the evening news – prices are up, Christmas will be hard, supply chain issues mean less of this amazing item; there might not be enough iPhones to go around. The special day could be ruined – stay tuned.  

Fear sells. Fear is not reality.  

The reality is all the shopping and meeting of expectations is not the point of having a holiday. Holidays are a way to build community and social connection. Commercial expectations can drown out that underlying purpose. These expectations create a special list of worries that can add to your everyday concerns. Today I want to talk about some of these expectations and possible responses.  

Gift Giving

Do not feel responsible for another adult’s happiness. Example: At a Halloween gathering this year a neighbor was wondering how to keep two family members happy during Christmas. Should the gifts be similar or identical, but the two people had different tastes? What if one liked their gift and the other didn’t? Her anxiety was palpable. Instead of getting anxious about making another person happy, simply do your best, try to be thoughtful, and accept that some years you will miss the mark. You are not in charge of the recipient’s happiness, attitude, or opinions.  


There are so many holiday traditions! Cookies and cakes. Cards and lights. Gifts and trees. Consider your traditions and which of them you like. Do those and let the others go. Whenever you hear your brain say “I should….” pause. You should? No – don’t should yourself. Do you want to? Do you have the resources to? (Resources – time, energy, money) If you want to, and you have the resources to do this holiday thing then enjoy it. If not, let it go. Only do the parts that work for you this year. 


What if you want to, but can’t? Feel how you feel about it. Name your emotions – sad, disappointed, bitter, angry, frustrated…. Take care of yourself.  You are allowed to be your whole self every day of the year. Don’t plaster a smile on our face and pretend that all is fabulous. Ask for the help and support that you need. Find ways to take care of yourself.  

News, Social Media, and Adverts

The news often focuses on things that can be worked around rather than the real struggles that exist in this world. News: “Supply chain issues will disrupt holiday shopping!” You: “Right. I get something else, give an IOU, or order early.” News: “Prices put limits on holiday shopping.” You: “There have always been limits on holiday shopping! This is not actually news.” Media: “You can have the perfect holiday celebration!” You: “Hmmm… Perfect?  I am going for fun.” Talk back to the news, media, and ads.


Talk to your family, your kids, your inner child. Consider what matters and what is possible given your resources. Having conversations in advance help make the holiday season less stressful. Listen to the anxious thoughts in your head and go through the process of triaging them. Is this a safety issue? If so, reach out for help. Is this a possibility and within your circle of control? Plan ways to address it. Is this something out of your control (like other people’s feelings?) then let it go.  

Sharing holiday traditions builds community, whether that be coming together with family and friends to do a puzzle, play a game, or share a meal. Connecting with others during the holiday season reaffirms friendships and caring. The holidays give us opportunities to build community resilience. Don’t let the worry monster get in the way with unrealistic expectations about how it is supposed to look. 

Anxiety can get in the way of enjoying life. Do you have a friend who might want to shrink their anxiety? Forward this post to them and suggest they click here to get their own copy of our free workbook

For a more in-depth approach to shrinking anxiety sign up for our online course that includes support from Laura through discussion and live zoom sessions exclusively for course members.  


Laura A. Gaines