The three months of November through January can be so stressful. If you’re in college or graduate school you’re approaching end-of-semester deadlines and finals; if you’re working you’re approaching end-of-year project deadlines, financial deadlines, hiring deadlines, etc.
To top it all off, as the holidays get closer, the amount of family time increases for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and other holidays. There are holiday parties, end-of-year parties, and tons of family time. Whether you’re working, in school, planning a big holiday or a small one, apprehension and nervousness can spike. The key is to learn how to deal with stress and anxiety during the holidays.
I’m more introverted than most of my family and get overwhelmed at Thanksgiving and Christmas at the sheer anticipation of all of the excitement, the talking, and the festivities (for lack of better word). Mid-October I began stressing about all of our holiday plans in November. My aunt, uncle, and cousins would be coming to stay for Thanksgiving. I was beyond thrilled because I don’t get to see this part of my family that often, but I was anticipating all of the togetherness and my final projects for grad school were due the weekend after Thanksgiving. I worried about how I would be able to balance time between assignments and time spent with family–both of which were big priorities for me.
Eventually I ended up crying with anxiety and stress, and my aunt ,who arrived a few days before Thanksgiving with my uncle, was a great source of comfort to me. She reminded me that no matter your age, we all feel stress and anxiety when it comes to change and “big moments.”
It’s okay to need time to yourself and to need time away from family or friends. I put so much pressure on myself to be “fun” and “happy” and pretend that anxiety doesn’t get to me as much as it does.
When I realized that I needed to be honest with myself and those around me, and ask for what I needed, I was able to take time for myself to read quietly after a long afternoon with family exploring our town. Being able to spend a morning quietly working away at my assignments, I didn’t feel so behind with school work. And because I figured out that balance, I was able to spend time with my visiting relatives without stressing about what needed to get done. I just enjoyed myself and focused on the present moment.
For anyone who is worried about the family member who pesters you about your dating life, acquaintances wondering about your career, or all of the other million things we compare ourselves to others about, especially during the stressful times, take a deep breath!
Here are a few tips for how you can manage your stress and anxiety during the holidays:
1. Take time for yourself.
Whether it is to read, go to the gym, work on a side project, or make time for yourself, self-care is important. When overwhelmed by a lot of “people time” as I call it, it is especially important to take time to step away.
No one should be upset because you need a little space to be your best self. Often, you might find that you share similar traits with family members. My aunt said she felt the same way I did after big group days. And she and I enjoyed a quiet afternoon reading on the patio during her visit. We didn’t talk to one another — just sat and read.
2. Express what you need.
I used to be so afraid to tell people when I needed space, time, or quiet. I didn’t want to be considered different or weird. It’s so important to be able to express our feelings. Communication is one of the most important parts of any type of relationship, romantic or otherwise.
3. Align your expectations with reality.
There’s no way you’ll be able to do everything and see everyone you want to during the holidays. Don’t fret if you can’t see every high school friend you ever knew or go to three parties in one night. Do less, enjoy more! It’s okay to be in the present.
4. Give yourself a break.
Forget perfection. You don’t have to be the person who sends out perfect Christmas cards to everyone you’ve ever shared time with. You don’t have to give a gift back to every person who gives you a present. We are all human; we have limitations, both financially and emotionally, and we can’t do everything exactly right. This isn’t a Hallmark movie! (Shout-out to Hallmark movies, though, I still love you).
We wish you all a happy holiday season and low-stress and anxiety in the upcoming months. Tell us your favorite ways to unwind, de-stress, and relax this time of year!
This post originally appeared on GenTwenty on December 20, 2017.