It’s Starting to Look A Lot Like Stress-mas

For many, Christmas is, as the saying goes, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. And while most of the people who celebrate Christmas are using the remaining days of this holiday season to trim the trees, buy the presents, hang all the decorations, carol all the carols, and force you to listen to endless loops of Christmas songs; to the point that if you hear one more, you’re going to Pa rum pum pum pum someone in the neck…

…wait, what was I saying? Oh right!

While all of the aforementioned festive fun, brings joy to many during this holiday season; there are some that are, right now, experiencing the most stressful time of their year, and their holidays feeling like anything but festive.

How do I know this? Well, I’m one of those people.

And before you start slinging labels – no, I am not a Scrooge. Ok, maybe a little bit, but I have to be to maintain my year-round curmudgeon-get-off-my-lawn personality. But, in all seriousness, like many, I have social anxiety, on top of regular old anxiety, depression, and a slew of other mental health issues brought on by any number of things; like being alone. See what I’m dealing with here; I hate being around people, but I love gatherings. It’s fun being me.

And, while being me on any normal day, is hard enough – everything gets ramped up exponentially during the last quarter of the year. Just the thought of all the peopling that will happen during October – December, is enough to send anyone like me into a panic attack. So, what are highly sensitive, introverted people like myself, supposed to do during the holidays? Do we shut ourselves away and count the days until January 1st hits, and then reemerge in the new year like some yule tide groundhog? I mean, that doesn’t exactly sound like the worst idea in the world.

But no! Just because I, and many others, live with this kind of panic and stress in our every day life, doesn’t mean we have to give up the fun and joy that comes along with the holiday season. So, here are 5 tips to help avoid stress-fueled panic during this time of year.

1 – Get Up and Get Out

Ok, I know that sounds kind of harsh, but it’s not what you think. While I know it’s not always this simple; the number one thing you can do to help lessen your stress and anxiety, is to get your body moving. And this is coming from a guy who loves, loves, LOVES to do nothing but curl up on the couch, under a warm blanket, and avoid all outside activities in this cold weather.

But, do it. Go outside. Go play in the snow with your kids. Go sledding, or whatever you do in your local area this time of year. Yes, I know the idea of being out in this weather is enough to make anyone pack it up and buy a one way ticket to Bora Bora, but trust me, once you’re out there, and you get to witness the looks on your children’s faces…as they sled down that hill and see you at the bottom…waiting to pelt them with endless amounts of snowballs; reaffirming your dominance. You can’t buy that kind of joy.

2 – Tradition, Shmadition

One of the biggest stressors (I’ve found) during the holidays is…family. I know, shocking, right??

But seriously, with most of us already feeling like we’re being pulled in a million directions during this time of year, and then couple that with family expectations; you’ve got yourself a bubbling pot of anxiety cooking.

My advice; don’t get stuck in the cycle of pleasing others, especially not on the idea of, because that’s the way it’s always been. You’re your own person now. Show your family, friends, coworkers, whoever, that your number one priority during the holiday season is taking care of you.

3 – Embrace The Change

Along the same lines of ditching tradition; ditch the fear of change.

This will be my first Christmas post-divorce. Which means, this will be my first Christmas alone. Not completely alone, as I will spend the morning with my kids, but in the afternoon, they will head to their mom’s place to celebrate with her and her family, and I will be here…alone…and that’s ok.

Until recently, the idea of not spending holidays with my kids, sent absolute depression and panic down my spine. But over the past month or so, I have found a new way of looking at holidays now. Sure, it will be hard to see my kids leave on Christmas day, but I’m happy they have so many people around them that love them, and want to spend time with them over the holidays. I’m grateful they will have multiple places to go, to experience the joy of Christmas, and most of all, the joy of family.

4 – Keep Track of Your Spoons

You might be wondering what I’m talking about, but stay with me…this will all make sense

I recently learned about a very interesting practice from a friend of mine. This practice is called The Spoon Theory; coined by Christine Miserandino in 2003 in her essay of the same name. The practice is especially helpful for individuals who live any number of illnesses or diseases, that take a tole on their energy. Individuals look at daily activities like spoons – one spoon for every task. And the moment you feel your spoons are gone, you need to step away and recharge, until you feel like you have more spoons to use.

I find this practice very helpful, especially with my social anxiety. This time of year is full of parties galore. Whether it’s office parties, family gatherings, birthday parties….yes, I said birthday parties! There should be a law against children being born during the dates of December 1st – January 31st. This birthday/Christmas combo is a straight up scam.

But I digress…

The point is, know your limits. If you feel depleted; I’m not just talking tired from a long day, but truly depleted, like you don’t have anything to offer, then step away and rest. Don’t attend that party. Don’t go out for drinks with your coworkers. Nothing good will come from overextending yourself for the sake of others. You have to take care of you first. Mind your spoons.

5 – Don’t Overindulge

Look, I know the holidays are what keep the fat pants companies in business; I have several pair myself. I’m fully prepared to get my eat on in the coming days, just like everyone else. But one area I will not be overindulging in, is alcohol.

I’m not going to preach to you about not drinking, because I’d be a total hypocrite if I did. Of course I will consume *some* alcohol over the Christmas holiday. But, it will be minimal, because…well, to put it simply; I know me.

Just a couple of years ago, any one of the issues listed above would have been enough for me to consume a lot of alcohol. Hell, there didn’t have to be an issue; if alcohol was there, I was consuming it. Not to get drunk, or because I’m an alcoholic, but because I just thought it was the thing to do. And even though getting drunk was not the goal; it certainly ended up being the place I would wind up at the end of the night.

I wasn’t being responsible, and moreover, I wasn’t being honest with myself. I have an overindulgent/addictive personality, and that’s not just with things like alcohol; it’s with everything, from food to soda etc. Why have just one, when two isn’t that much different? See what I mean?

I’m not sure where that personality trait comes from, but I do know I want to curb it as much as possible as I raise my kids. I would rather model responsible actions and decision making for them as the grow up.

The Dude Abides…But Not The Kids

I know there are a lot of people out there who are of the mindset that letting their kid have a sip of alcohol is ok…and you know what, I don’t judge. I did when I was a kid. I can clearly remember several times as a kid; not just during the holidays at family gatherings, that one relative or another (who was already beyond their limit), gave me a sip of their adult beverage.

I can’t say one way or the other if those sips of alcohol had any kind of effect on my growing up. But I do know I will not repeat that cycle with my kids.

Why? Well, for no other reason than they don’t need it. Alcohol has no place in a child’s life. No positive place that is. Will having a sip lead to a horrible future; no, I highly doubt it, but why even roll the dice. Now, I’m well aware of the differing opinions on this topic. Opinions like:

  • Takes the appeal away – it loses the danger and allure when allowed.
  • It’s okay to allow children to try alcohol in the security of their own homes.
  • It can teach kids to drink responsibly.

These ideas are all important and valid things to consider. And I leave those decisions to other parents. I instead choose not to allow it, and still address the above reasons with conversations, instead of experiences. Regardless of your decision, being a role model for responsibility, respect, moderation, and leadership are crucial during this impressionable time.

I would encourage you to check out the #TalkEarly website for more information on having those conversations with your kids.

I hope everyone has a fun, and safe , Christmas holiday, and here’s to hoping your 2020 is even more awesome than your 2019.

I was honored to be an ambassador with Responsibility.org and the #TalkEarly campaign this year. This experience has provided me so many amazing tools to, not only help other parents along the way in their journey, but to communicate better with my kids.

I am a #TalkEarly ambassador for Responsibility.org. I have received compensation for my work, but all opinions are my own

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