I’m going solo today to talk about how to survive the Holidays when you have anxiety.

  • Polite ways especially for introverts to leave a party early.
  • Tips to reduce stress while traveling
  • How to reduce stress around Thanksgiving and Christmas
  • Saying “no” to gatherings you’re not comfortable with.
  • How to budget for the holidays and control your spending 
  • Keeping the Holidays simple yet meaningful.

Related episode: Thriving as an Introvert in an Extrovert World with Holley Gerth

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Welcome to Hope for Anxiety and OCD episode 55. If I’m looking at my calendar correctly, this episode is going to be coming out a week before Thanksgiving. I wanted to let you know that at the podcast we do take off the week of Thanksgiving and the week of Christmas. So I don’t post episodes on those weeks before we get into celebrating these important holidays towards end of the year. 

I wanted to talk with you about surviving the holidays when you have anxiety because there are specific challenges that people with anxiety face in regards to parties, gatherings, gift giving that it can really increase your stress this time of year. And I wanna help you really reduce some of that stress so that you can have a restful positive holiday season. 

If you would consider yourself an introvert and you haven’t listened to episode 19, Thriving as an introvert in an Extrovert world, I would encourage you to go back and listen to that episode. Holly Gerth and myself talk about surviving big gatherings and parties as an introvert. And that’s the first thing I wanted to talk with you about is when you have anxiety, sometimes these large gatherings, even if there are family gatherings, there may be extended family that you don’t see very often. Or you may be gathering with say like your husbands, coworkers, and you don’t know them, obviously because you don’t work with them every day. Sometimes those types of environments can be a little bit more anxiety-provoking. Definitely go back and listen to that episode If you haven’t. 

Some of the tips we talked about in there were take an extrovert with you to the party, get there in the beginning, because then you can kind of slowly acclimate yourself to the environment and see people come in versus coming into an already overwhelming situation.

Knowing your limits and knowing when it’s time to go is important. And if you’re with, um, a friend, spouse or erode with somebody, definitely knowing how to communicate to that other person that you would like to leave is important. Sometimes you may have a code, word, or phrase that you want to use with your spouse like “Hey, don’t we need to get by such and such store before it closes. Oh, we really gotta get home and let the dog out.” I’m sure that you can come up with something where you and your spouse will be on the same page and kind of be in line with each other, like, yeah, we’re ready to go. 

I find when I go to large gatherings, sometimes just taking a moment to sit down, maybe away from where the big crowd of people is that really seems to help me in particular. So that may be something that helps you just standing requires a little bit more energy. I know that that sounds silly in itself, but you may just need to kind of take a miniature time out from all the activity you could go to the bathroom. You could step outside if there’s a, you know, indoor-outdoor element to this gather.

My overall point is that it’s good to have a plan going into some of these social interactions to help make them less overwhelming for you. You may not want to plan too much before the gathering so that you have time to rest and relax a little bit versus rushing from this thing to that thing, to that.

If you’re traveling for the holidays. One of the things that I have found the most helpful, whenever I take a trip and I understand you can’t always do this, but if you’re a highly sensitive person, introvert person with anxiety, It’s helpful to have a half a day to a day before your trip. And then definitely a day when you get back before you have to jump into your work or school routine, a lot of times we’re just. It’s like we’re out the office door and then we’ve gotta go straight to catch the plane and then get back in the Sunday night before gotta go back to work on Monday. That’s highly stressful. Try to give yourself a buffer on the edges of your trips to be able to get things in order. You know, there’s always these last-minute things that we end up having to do before a trip or after a trip. 

We have laundry and different things that we have to do. Give yourself a little bit of a buffer of time if you can, if you’re going to reduce your stress around Thanksgiving and Christmas, you want to prioritize the gatherings and parties that are most important for you to attend.

I know there are some people, stepfamily situations and maybe there’s stepparents on both sides of the family and they’re ending up going to three and four Thanksgiving gatherings. That’s just a lot, that’s a lot to deal with. It’s a lot to bring food for, and that can be too much for your system.

And so some people would say, well, I mean, but, but we just have to, I mean, the family is expecting us and. We have to be there. And I would really argue that and say, you can see your family any day of the year. A lot of times, unless you’re traveling and they’re out of town, then that’s not necessarily the case.

Obviously, we have family that’s in Florida, but we can’t see them any day. But if it’s a situation where maybe you can plan to have more quality time with those family members around a different date or where it doesn’t have to be holiday related so that you’re not rushing from, “Okay, well, we’ve got mom’s Thanksgiving.” That’s from noon to three, and then we’ve got dad’s Thanksgiving, which is from four to six and we have to drive in between pick up a pumpkin pie on the way over there. All of that just can be very stressful for you. Let’s talk for a moment about challenging family relationships. I’m not gonna assume that you get along well with everyone in your family.

And so some of those relationships may cause you stress. It’s important to know just internally within yourself, how much of certain people that you can handle. And what I mean by that is that if, you know, you can only handle a day or two at a time around a certain person don’t plan to spend five days with them. That’s just a recipe for disaster. 

Oftentimes it goes back to, we do things out of obligation or we feel bad, but you have to know within yourself like what you are capable of. It’s important to be. Gracious towards other people as much as possible. And we have to love everyone, but I understand that there are going to be people that rub you the wrong way. And you may not like all of your family members or your in-laws or other people that you’re interacting with in gatherings. 

It’s understanding that you are an adult and you have a choice. You can decide that this Thanksgiving or this Christmas that you want to run off to boa Bora, just you and your best friend or you and your spouse. And you do not have to go and do all the things that you normally go and do. I worked with a client on this one year and it was incredibly freeing for her. She didn’t believe me at first that she could say no to some of the family gatherings, but then decided to go away for the holiday instead and see her family at different times where she could really invest more time in those relationships.

Have more quality, depth time versus just seeing this family member for a few minutes and that one for a few minutes, while they’re running off to do something else. Letting go of the half twos is important. So many times we convince ourselves that we just have to do things that we don’t have to do.

I remember there was one time that they had moved a holiday event. I was planning on going to with the foster children. I think it was a Thanksgiving event and we completely missed it. I did not go. And I wanted to. However, what I realized was that it wasn’t the end of the world that I missed that event.

Yes. I was a little disappointed and yes, there were some people that I was wanting to see and would enjoy their company. But at the end of the day, the world did not crash down because I missed one holiday event. It was okay. Don’t be afraid to say. If you know that what someone is asking you to do is going to be too much for you.

We all have different limitations at different times in our life, and sometimes we’re going through things and we can only do so much. And it’s okay. It’s really okay to acknowledge that to ourselves. It’s okay to communicate that to other people as. No is a complete sentence. That’s something that I tell my clients regularly when they’re having trouble saying no, you don’t have to give a lengthy explanation.

You can just say no or no. Thank you. So when you’re prioritizing your gatherings and parties, it’s very easy to get overloaded. I talked about the step-family situation, but there’s also just situations where you may have a Christmas party for your work Christmas party for your spouse’s work. The church is throwing a big Christmas production over here, and then, you know, your, your kid’s school has a function over there.

You really just need to put everything on the calendar and evaluate it and say, okay, Are we really able to give our time and energy to these things. Maybe we really want to invest more time and energy into our kids’ function and maybe just make an appearance at the work party. You know, you know how that is just kind of, yeah, we’re gonna show up a little bit later, say hi to a few people. Be a part of maybe a gift exchange and then head out and that’s okay. 

It’s okay. That you don’t have to be 110% for all of these events decide what is most important to you that you’re putting on your calendar. Let go of expectations. That’s going to be a perfect Thanksgiving or perfect Christmas. 

The reality is that we’re in a COVID world.

Still. We were hoping that we would be out of it before this holiday season, but this is where we understand that ships are sitting in ports right now, and they’re not able to get there or unload items. There may be Christmas presents that you want to buy for your kids, certain toys that aren’t available. And your kid is not gonna die if they don’t get that perfect toy on Christmas morning, you know, Santa Maye have to write them an IOU shipping delayed will come in January. I know there have been times in the past for Christmas, where I really wanted to give people little gifts, packages of cookies. And I spent so much time and energy in my kitchen making hundreds of cookies and cake balls and all of this type of stuff.

And I look back on that and I was. That was just for that season of my life. When I had foster children, that was a little much, I was trying to do a little bit too much and went overboard and now granted people did appreciate it. And I do try to do nice things for, for other people that I know around Christmas.

But my point is, whatever you do it doesn’t have to be perfect. And it’s not going to be perfect most likely, especially with some of the challenges that we’re dealing with in our world today. The last thing I want to encourage you with, which is also very important, is to have a budget and stick to it.

Oftentimes people really overextend themselves at Christmas, go into all kinds of debt. It’s just not healthy. It causes us a lot of financial stress and in turn emotional stress. One thing I learned this year is that in the Philippines, employees have something called the 13th-month payment, where they get basically an extra paycheck towards the end of the year.

And that helps pay for Christmas and things like that. End-of-the-year bills. Maybe I thought this is an incredible idea. Everyone should have this. However, in America, we don’t have that as a standard level of pay and so forth. So we have to create our own 13th. We have to make, be diligent about setting aside some for savings every single month so that when you get towards the end of the year, you have some money to spend on Christmas presents for the family and so forth.

If you sit down and budget, you know how much you’re going to pay for Christmas gifts, who it’s actually important to buy a Christmas gift for? I think sometimes we have this perception that we have to go overboard and buy a gift for every single person that we interact with. And obviously, that’s not the case, but sometimes we put this pressure on ourselves or we think, “Oh, I’ve got a bad Christmas gift for that person.”

But because they’re gonna get me a gift and there’s this, this obligation and emotional stress, you know, I can’t think. Of a single time that I’ve ever been offended, that I didn’t get a Christmas gift from someone. I’m pretty sure there probably have been times where I received an unexpected gift from someone that I, I didn’t think that they were gonna give me a gift, but you know, it, we’re just in a spirit of giving.

And that’s the important thing to remember. It shouldn’t be out of like obligation or we have to, you know, some families to, to help with finances will maybe like draw names and each person gets a different person in the, in the immediate family or the extended family. And then that way we’re reducing the amount of money that we’re spending around Christmas.

And we’re also able to get good gifts for each other. I think sometimes when it comes to holiday spending like we way overthink things or we make them more complicated than they actually have to be. So have a budget stick to it. That’s gonna reduce a lot of your stress. I know it’s a little late to be saying to save money, you know, all throughout the year, but now, you know, going into next year, save a little bit of money every month for Christmas, it will help you out tremendously.

You can put that towards presents, towards travel. If you’re having to travel with family. It’ll be great. And finally, let’s take the opportunity this Thanksgiving and this Christmas to not forget what it’s all about. We can get so caught up in making the food, attending the gathering, spending time with people that we miss the point.

Thanksgiving is an opportunity for us to be thankful to God for everything that he has blessed us with this year. And to be thankful for our friends and family that we celebrate with Christmas is an opportunity for us to celebrate Christ. Birth is an opportunity for us to reflect on the fact that he chose to come into the world in the humble way possible as a baby.

To be a part of our world and eventually give his life for us. 

Don’t get lost in the commercialization that you forget, the simple and that you forget what’s most important. If you have children talk with them regularly about why you’re celebrating these holidays, read the Christmas story, focus on those things more than opening presence.

Find opportunities to give to others who have less than you. I think this is such an important part of the Christmas season. One thing that I’ve done for the last several years is adopted. A foster child through Casa to be able to buy Christmas gifts for them. And I know that when I was a foster parent, this was super helpful for us to be able to have other people who would buy Christmas gifts for our foster children.

And I know it meant a lot to them to receive those gifts while they were going through a hard time of being separated from their family members. For the last few years, I’ve bought Christmas gifts for teenagers. And oftentimes they want things like name-brand clothing because they just wanna fit in like every other child that they’re interacting with and going to school with.

And sometimes they want really simple things. Like hair ties. You may be, you may be in a really difficult situation this Christmas and. Not feel like you have a whole lot to give, but I’m sure that even in those situations, there’s something small that you can do for someone else. Even if it’s just take them a meal or bake them some cookies, just to let them know that you care and that you love them.

Christmas is about love, joy, and giving to others. Let’s not lose celebrating our Savior. Let’s not lose our focus in the midst of all the activity. 

I hope this episode was helpful for you. I really appreciate you taking the time to listen. I want to encourage you to get on our email list. You can do that on our homepage@wwwdothopeforanxietyandocd.com towards the top.

You can put in your email address and you’ll actually get a audio relaxation to listen to as well as a gift for signing. I’m trying to email out once a week information about our upcoming episodes and other things that are happening with the podcast. So don’t miss out and sign up for our email list today. Thank you so much for listening. 

Hope for anxiety and OCD is a production of By the Well counseling in Smyrna, Tennessee. Our original music is by Brandon Mangrum. Until next time may be comforted by God’s great love for you.