9 Ways to Prepare for Stress-Free Holidays

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If you struggle with anxiety like me, you know that the holidays can be an especially stressful time. From too-large crowds to jam packed schedules, the holidays can wreak havoc on our nerves. Below are some tips that I plan to implement for the upcoming season. I wanted to share them with all of you in the hopes that we can all have a stress-free time with our loved ones.

1.       Be present. No, I don’t mean BUY presents. I mean, stay in the present moment. Practice active listening, I know how easy it is to tune out during holiday get-togethers but you might be surprised at how rewarding it feels to be there in the moment with your loved ones.

2.       Thrift for gifts. Is money your main stressor? Make a budget and stick to it. Thrifting is great for your wallet and the environment! Shop for clothing items on sites like Poshmark. Take to Pinterest for ideas on how to repurpose items you have hardly used or simply re-gift some of those things you have never taken out of the box.

3.       Respect your limits. Don’t overbook yourself. We can’t use anxiety as an excuse to avoid all of our triggers, even at the holidays. But we can still say “no” when we feel overwhelmed or like we need some time to unwind from the holidays. There are routines that I have set in place that I feel ok bending to a certain degree, but I can’t forego my usual routines every day from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Know what you can and cannot handle and what you do and do not want to allow. If crowds overwhelm you, plan accordingly. Don’t go to the mall in the afternoon on a Saturday, plan to shop online or at slow times. If you know that exercising is critical to your mental health, don’t give that up.

4.       Be open to a range of emotions. Understand that the holidays bring up all kinds of emotions for different people. For some, they bring overwhelming joy and happiness but for other they signal loneliness and grief. Be kind to yourself and open to anything that might bubble up inside you. Stay self-aware so that you can cope with them as they arise. Remember to be patient and kind to others as well, we don’t know what the holidays brings up for them in their lives.

5.       Have a support system in place. We all have those people that just calm our nerves and we feel comfortable being around. Let those people know that you may need them more than usual over the holiday season. If you know you will forget to remind yourself, have them remind you to get adequate sleep and exercise. And still do fun things for you!

6.       Determine whether or not to keep family traditions. This may mean a serious conversation with your significant other or family members. Determine whether or not it is necessary to go to every event this holiday season.

7.       Prepare talking points. For some, political family discussions are our worst nightmare or biggest stress inducer. Prepare talking points ahead of time if you want to calmly spearhead the topics you know your family is going to bring up. Alternately, you can make a list of talking points that are neutral ground and things you can easily steer the conversation back on track with. You can also prepare something about how you don’t want to spoil family time with conversations that you know could make you or others upset, and ask them kindly to respect your wishes.

8.       Prepare your own food (if you have a specialty diet.)If you get antsy thinking about all of the cruelty at your family’s dining table, or you just have a sensitivity to dairy or gluten, think potluck! Tell the host or hostess that you will be bringing food options for you. They may surprise you with items they planned to make especially for you, or they may be overjoyed to have extra help in the kitchen.

9.       Prepare yourself emotionally. If someone is provoking you about your lifestyle choices, don’t stoop to their level. This is something that happens a lot to vegans at the holidays. People often question what they don’t know, questions are okay if you are comfortable with answering them. If you don’t, and they insist on answers, let them know that you would be glad to share what you know about animal agriculture, but privately and at another time. If someone is trying to guilt you, or make passive-aggressive jokes towards you, let them know that they are making you uncomfortable.