How to Ease Holiday Anxiety

November 23, 2022

Ask any therapist or counselor – it’s normal to be anxious around the holidays! Not only are these days loaded with pressure and preparations, but they’re also fraught with awkward conversations. 

When are you graduating?

What’s your plan with that degree?

Are you seeing anyone?

When are you getting married?

When are you having kids? 

When are you having another?

Are you expecting a promotion this year? 

Have you thought about going back to school?

I remember all those thanksgiving questions when I was in my undergrad and in my master’s. Those invasive questions are… stressful. Not only do I remember the dreaded questions, but I’m still on the receiving end. Tyler and I have been married for two years – can you guess which question I’m preparing for? 

On top of these deeply personal questions, there are also political ones. In my opinion, the personal and the political are the same, but, for the sake of this blog, I wanted to differentiate between the two. We, in the USA, just wrapped up the mid-term elections. Or, should I say, we’re in the midst of elections as our friends in Georgia are still in the heat of campaigns. The campaign slogans, commercials, and platforms were deeply personal for many, myself included. And, it’s very likely not every person at any given Thanksgiving gathering will be completely aligned on political issues. That, however, doesn’t prevent people from bringing it up. I’m anticipating this, too. 

So, in planning for what could be some intrusive, and uncomfortable conversations, I wrote out a few phrases and actions I’ll be using should I need them this week. I’m thinking you might be able to use them, as well:

“Excuse me, I have to…”

– This statement is polite and allows you to exit from the conversation by adding anything you’d like to the end. 

“I don’t agree with that. Let’s change the subject.” 

– This is direct. It establishes your boundary and invites the conversation to continue. 

“I’d rather not discuss that.” 

– This statement, too, is direct. You do not have to answer any questions you don’t want to. If someone pushes back, walk away. 

“Maybe we should talk about something else.”

– This statement gently guides the conversation to a new subject 

“I don’t think this is the appropriate time to talk about this. I’d like to discuss something else.”

– This statement implies your discomfort with the conversation while respecting your boundary. If you are someone who avoids confrontation, this may be the best option. 

Leave the room 

– Maybe you’re overhearing something that hurts or offends. Step away, take a breath, and pause if you need. Remove yourself from the situation and, remember, you are not required to stay from the beginning to the very, very end of the gathering. 

I, too, will be practicing these statements should I need them. It’s always easier to have a few prepared sentences in your back pocket so you can pull them out when needed. All too often, my fear and anxiety related to these questions and conversations manifest themselves in defensiveness and, sometimes, cruelty. While I don’t love this about my defenses, I also know I’m doing my best in those moments. All I can do is have love for myself and know that my fear and anxiety are trying to keep me safe. I’m also shifting my focus to the people who matter the most: my allies. 

These are the people I’ll intentionally stay close to. They are my support system and my backup, should I need an escape. Who would you consider to be your ally on these stressful days? Keep those people close. 

I know these days aren’t always easy, but you’re stronger than you think. You’re stronger than you believe. Be brave. I hope these suggestions ease some anxiety you might be feeling as the holidays approach.  I know you can do it.

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