As many of you know, this Thursday is Thanksgiving in the US. Even if you’re not one to kick off the holiday season as soon as Trick-or-Treating is over, there’s no denying that the month of December and all its holiday insanity is upon us. If you’re like me, this can push your anxiety into overdrive.
I’ve teamed up with V at Millennial Life Crisis to share some of our personal advice for making it through the holiday season relatively unscathed. Check out her blog for plenty of insight into mental health struggles and the unjust grind of unemployment. She also occasionally posts helpful instructions about marketing & SEO that’s in plain English.
Here’s V’s tips:
- Holidays aren’t about you, they’re about your family. It might sound shitty, but it’s true. Don’t worry about your own happiness, make sure that your mom is happy, make sure that your siblings are happy, and make sure that grandma and grandpa and the neighbours and your friends are all happy. Whomever is coming over, show off your biggest smile and your heartiest laugh. If someone says something racist, change the subject. Kill them with your kindness and let them remember the good moments. Because, at the end of the day, as a human race we’re very quick to forget the bad and remember the good. If you focus on ensuring that your family has good memories of the holiday, if your family and friends have the good moments to look back on, then it was a successful holiday and you can go back to being yourself immediately after.
- Remember that these days are only a handful of days per year. Something that I often struggle with is feeling like the holidays are never going to end. Truth be told, in the grand scheme of things, the holidays are just a few short days out of the entire year. The dinners, the mingling, the ugly sweaters, you can make it through, and you will. Though the odds may be forever in your family’s favour, you can and will get through this. Think of the upcoming holiday season like the big meals you’re about to eat. You get through them slowly, little by little, bite by bite. Make each Christmas party, gift exchange, festive activity a small bite for you to take out of the holiday season. Looking at these things through the view of a small, completely conquerable event, will make it easier for you to do.
One extra piece of advice that I have is to control what you can, accept what you can’t and stop freaking out about your life. The calmer you can keep yourself, the better your holiday season will be. So remember your peaceful thoughts, your calming gestures and to note bite at an argument, no matter how enticing it might be.
Holidays aren’t always perfect. But I’ve learned that if you focus more on others than you do on yourself, it very much helps you get through without the debilitating anxiety that so frequently comes with.
P.S. I’m Canadian, and Thanksgiving has already past here. I can attest that if you’re an anxious soul, sticking to these tips will help A LOT. Also, as a Canadian the extra ‘u’ in a few words are, in fact, meant to be there.
- Everything does NOT have to be perfect:
When I was growing up, the holidays were absolute magic. The real spruce tree in my grandparents’ picture window was decorated to perfection, the china plates made their annual appearance on a table fit for a Martha Stewart catalog thanks to my crafty aunts, and dozens of relatives interacted harmoniously and somehow always gave everyone the perfect gifts.
After my Pap died and most of my family moved away, I was devastated by our suddenly tiny holiday gatherings with paper plates and rounds of gift cards instead of personalized gifts. It took a long time for me to realize that our different holidays didn’t mean everything sucked – it just meant that things were different. Everyone in my family is an adult now. There are no children to maintain the “magic” of the holidays, so things are simpler, and yes, sometimes a little underwhelming or even boring. But it’s still a day to spend with people you love, relaxing and eating good food and maybe graciously receiving a simple gift to make you smile. It’s good to have picturesque memories, but it’s also okay to realize that different traditions aren’t necessarily negative.
- Don’t compare this holiday to anyone else’s – including your own
When I look back on my childhood holidays as an adult, I can’t imagine how my grandmother managed. Decorating to perfection, making the house spotless, and cooking for dozens of people had to have been a massive undertaking, especially once she had her knee replaced and started suffering from arthritis. But back then I wasn’t aware of the struggle. I didn’t see her spending hours making pie crust from scratch or popping pain pills. I wasn’t there when she was dusting and vacuuming and setting out candles and fancy place settings. I give my grandmother a ton of credit for pulling off perfect holidays, but that doesn’t mean everyone has to go to the same lengths, especially if you’re struggling – mentally or otherwise.
Remind yourself of this when you see those perfect, filtered images posted on social media. Sure, the kids look angelic situated fireside in their matching PJs, but no one sees the financial strain those high-tech gifts cost, or the pile of dog vomit on the couch. Anyone can post a carefully posed family portrait of everyone enjoying turkey and stuffing, but no one on Facebook knows that Uncle Bill had six beers before dinner and Aunt Donna has spent the afternoon using racial slurs.
On the flip side, it’s perfectly possible that you can have an awesome holiday while wearing your pajamas and eating tacos off of disposal plates instead of a consuming meal that took three days to prepare from hand wash only china. The holidays do not have to be all about appearances or grand gestures.
- Set boundaries and stick to them
Setting boundaries isn’t just about the amount you spend on gifts, decorations, and food, but that’s a good place to start. It’s easy to throw financial caution to the wind when your mom deserves a ticket to a luxury all-inclusive resort, but if you can’t afford it, try to find something that fits your budget. I’ve recently been trying to focus on buying “experience” gifts rather than material ones, and it seems to be helpful. Activities like concerts, musicals, painting classes, escape rooms, or even axe-throwing are great ideas for nearly everyone on your list, especially if most people you’re buying for are adults you don’t spend much time with, like your parents.
That being said, don’t make the mistake of feeling obligated to “match” anyone’s gift. If someone who makes double your salary buys you front row concert tickets or a cashmere sweater, try not to feel pressure to spend the same amount of money. It’s okay if your budget is smaller than people who are buying gifts for you.
It’s also important to set mental health boundaries. Don’t feel obligated to spend time with family or friends who are toxic or abusive – it’s not worth sacrificing your well-being. And if your cousin starts ranting about entitled millennials and how he hopes trump wins a second term, have a neutral response or escape plan ready so that you can distance yourself from the conversation without causing an argument.
I hope these help give you some perspective on getting through the next two months of craziness, no matter what holiday you celebrate in your corner of the world.