As a licensed mental health and addictions therapist, I know that the holidays can bring a number of stressors with family issues, possible substance use, and ongoing pressure to do the “right thing at the right time”. For someone with anxiety, the holidays are a minefield of awkward situations. Here are some of the top concerns and possible ways to alter, accept, or avoid the disasters altogether.
The Dating Dilemma: Whether you’re single or newly attached, this one can be tricky to avoid. You might hear phrases like “when are you going to settle down?” or “I can’t wait until I see some grandbabies”, etc, etc. If you’re bringing someone new to your family, ask yourself if the Christmas Day intro is really the best idea in your family.
How to Deal: Perhaps a brief intro prior to the big day to avoid undue embarrassment from family? Remember, you’re not the only one who is stressed around the holidays and stress brings out the best in family.
Shopping for other people: There can sometimes be a little pressure to get the perfect gift for everyone. Parents, Grandparents, siblings, children, nieces, nephews, co-workers, friends, bosses, teachers, OMG! The list could go on for miles! How do you find the best gift for everyone? You don’t. You let someone else do it.
How to Deal: Wanna know who’s going to do your shopping? Amazon. They have conveniently broken down gifts into categories even further than “gifts for him” into “gifts for techies” and, guess what, you don’t have to leave the house. Your niece wants the most popular toy of the year? Save the day and pre-order online. Another way to beat the stress here? Limit who you are buying for and pick up some Christmas cards. You don’t need to go broke and start the New Year in even more debt than you already are.
Last-minute Shopping: OK, so you forgot someone. Until the last-minute. First of all, pat yourself on the back for remembering before the big day. Secondly, remember that you can do this. You can go into a store and pick out a gift just like a head of lettuce.
How to Deal: Pick a store that you don’t think will be that busy. Try these little stores: Dollar General, Family Dollar, or this big store, Menards. It sounds weird to go to a hardware store if you’re looking for a toy, but I promise, they have them. Menards has everything, for some reason. Or, if you’re looking for a guy, try Home Depot or Lowes, they might surprise you with some affordable last-minute gifts and they’re rarely slammed with people. For ladies, Homegoods or TJ Maxx.
Your budget is nothing: Speaking of affordable…we are all on tight budgets this time of year. I suggested some affordable stores above, but those don’t always quite cut it so you can only do what you can. You have to pay the rent, after all.
How to Deal: In addition to the stores mentioned above, I would recommend Five Below, Dollar Tree, and 99 cents stores because you will be absolutely be surprised what you might find. Again, I recommend Amazon because you never know what quirky little gift you might find on sale. Be aware of sales other than Black Friday. I promise, Black Friday isn’t really worth it if you’re on a very strict budget. Start as early as possible. Limit how many gifts per person, look for quality, not quantity. If you find something that you know that they will like, then spending $3 was an awesome deal.
Your Family Wants You to Attend Church with Them: You’re not religious. Maybe you don’t even believe in God. But, of course, Christmas is the most popular time of year for people to attend churches (kinda sad, huh?).
How to Deal: Remember when I said that you can alter, accept, or avoid situations in the beginning of this post? Well, here’s where that comes in handy. You don’t have to do anything, you’re an adult. You can decline (nicely please) the invitation saying that you’re simply not interested, but you appreciate the thought of being included and you would enjoy the downtime alone. You can compromise by going with them, but avoiding another one of your family functions in the cluster of the holidays (if you so desire). Or you can just humor them. You only have one family and the holidays are about family. (Technically Christmas is about Christ…it’s in the name, you know it).
Everyone is Drinking (and You’re in Recovery): This one, for me, hits close to home for two reasons that you might not suspect. First, because I am unable to drink due to chronic illness. Not that I’m constantly craving alcohol or in recovery myself, but because I long to be able to have a glass of wine with dinner like everyone else. Second, because I’ve worked in addictions, I know how hard alcoholism is to battle and to treat.
How to deal: Find your meetings. If you’re travelling to a different place, find a meeting there. And go. I know it can be frightening going to a new group at such a meaningful time of year, but, remember, everyone else is struggling with the same issue as you. Tell your family. Do they know that you are in recovery? Do they know how long you’ve been in recovery? You should AT LEAST have an “accountability partner” within your family that you can pull aside when you are having a craving or struggling in your recovery around the bulk of your family. Honesty in recovery is always best so, obviously, pick a sober partner, who will understand and provide both empathy and tough love. You can alter, accept, or avoid situations, but only you can personalize your plan within the bounds of your holiday plans.