Happy freaking holidays: a guide to surviving December

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This is a stressful time of year.

Sure, it’s joyous and whatever too, but let’s not candy-cane-coat this. Many people are feeling a time crunch, family pressures, and money stress. Those of us who struggle with anxiety and/or depression tend to have a hard time, thanks to ridiculous holiday expectations.

But we can do this.

Here are some things that help me this time of year.

Leave

Walking (especially with the dog) is a sacred time for me. Even a few minutes of fresh air helps clear my head, get me grounded, reconnected to the natural world, and focused on what really matters. And anything that makes Grace happy, makes me happy.

Give

I always feel better when I am able to stop obsessing about my own life and help someone else. Volunteering or just doing something for others (baking cookies for the mail carrier or simply telling someone how important they are to me) brings an abrupt end to my pity party.

Downdog

I am a yoga fanatic; I think the benefits are endless for mind, body and spirit. I love that it can be done at home without fancy equipment and is accessible to everyone, even those with a severe lack of physical grace, like myself. I start my day with some simple Sun Salutations (which are great for beginners) and tend to unroll my mat whenever I’m feeling stressed. Yoga with Adriene offers free Youtube videos that are perfect for newbies and experienced yogis alike.

Write

Writing is my outlet. I have written angry diatribes, compete with outlandish accusations and the inventive usage of profanity. Once I write it out, I usually realize how silly it was to begin with and can let it go. And watching all that that drama go through the shredder is immensely satisfying.

“No”

Setting boundaries is integral to maintaining sanity any time of year. I have social anxiety, and parties tend to be really difficult for me. When my husband is with me, it’s a little easier, but there are events that I need to attend without him. Even though carpooling with friends might be more efficient, I almost always drive myself so I don’t feel trapped and I can leave if I start to feel a panic attack coming on. Knowing that I have an immediate out allows me to relax and actually have some fun. But even with those accommodations, there are times I need to decline an invitation and stay home with the couch and a book. And that’s okay, too.

Sit

Meditation has been an incredibly effective way of dealing with my anxiety. Like everyone else, I always thought that my mind was just too busy to meditate — but something significant changes when you take a few moments to breathe, slow down the incessant thinking, and become aware of the present moment. (I have recorded a short guided meditation for people who think they can’t meditate – hear it here!) Meditation is not easy, but it’s so worth it.  If you are interested in trying mindfulness, just sit in a quiet place, set a timer (start with just three minutes and work up to more) and count each inhale up to ten, and then back down to one again. Your mind will wander – constantly – but don’t get frustrated. Simply come back to focus on the breath, no matter how many times you start thinking about that witty comeback you didn’t say.

Here are some of my favorite books on meditation:

10% Happier – Dan Harris (For the meditation skeptic)

Wherever You Go There You Are – Jon Kabat-Zinn (For simple directions on mindful living)

Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program – Sharon Salzberg (For those looking for audio guided meditation)

You can also check out the rest of my favorite books on Goodreads.

Most of all, don’t get caught up in silly holiday propaganda and think that everyone else is perfectly merry with their perfect families and perfect homemade hot cocoa you are the only one getting stressed out.

Remember the profound words of Ellen Griswold —

 

So, let’s just take a deep breath and we’ll all make it through this joyous season in one piece. Happy holidays, everyone.

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33 thoughts on “Happy freaking holidays: a guide to surviving December

  1. Well, Lisa, I don’t know if I suffer from social anxiety because I’ve never taken the time to analyze why I don’t like joining groups, attending parties, except for family gatherings, or hate small talk and answering questions. I do like people (generally) though; but would much rather listen and observe, than jump in with my own comments. I do know that it has taken decades to learn to be comfortable with these shortcomings, and not stress over saying “no thank you”! Feeling comfortable with who you are is the best feeling in the world. As always, Lisa, I enjoyed this post. Merry Christmas! Angela Muller

    • I think you just pretty accurately described an introvert. 🙂 We don’t think of those things as shortcomings at all! I’m glad you enjoyed the post – and Merry Christmas to you, too!

  2. This is great Lisa! And SO true! Especially for introverts and those who are not social butterflies! I wish I could have the extroverts in my life understand how important it is for us to recharge on a regular basis!!

  3. You nailed it!! I have also found you just need to say NO when you don’t have the time or the mind to go. It is hard saying no especially if it is something appealing. But I have learned to trust myself. If I am stressed, even something fun becomes stressful. Have a very Merry Christmas and enjoy your time with who you chose.

  4. So neat hearing the ‘mundane’ issues That we all face-no matter our walks of life, nor socio-economics. Hope this finds you well, Lisa and Happy Holidays to you&yours. Happy Hanukkah Or Merry Christmas

    Warmly, Nadia

  5. Lisa, all of your strategies for surviving the holidays are wonderful. The hardest thing for me to overcome is the depression of being single (divorced for over six years now). Although I am around family and friends this time of year, it still makes me cry and feel empty inside when I see cute couples, young and old, holding hands, laughing, sharing, and enjoying each other’s company. I miss that immensely and have realized what’s truly important to me. I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore at christmastime. I just keep praying that I will enjoy again one day the bliss and the serenity of true love and companionship.

    Thank you again for your wonderful essay. Your words are inspiring.

    Happy Holidays,,
    John

  6. Thanks Lisa these tips are great for a PTSD sufferer like myself. Wish my doc had listed some of these, they will definitely help a person out.

  7. Thank you Lisa. Keep writing as you are great at it. I enjoyed your tips and wish you all the happiness life can bring. Luv and joy! Joie 🙂

  8. Hello lisa just read yoga see a theatre night of musem also the woods . enjoy your blog and grace tooo . have watr soup and relaxn songs merry christmas

  9. I cannot abide having Christmas jammed in my life every year, and use your advice, mostly to a tee to avoid being guilt tripped or conned into situations hypocritical to me. You are spot on about keeping an independant way out. Happy Solstice, Lisa and thank you for bold, wise words.

  10. I am living in the Middle East this year! So while my holiday season will be very low-stress, it is also a little sad because I am not with my family and close friends (except my husband). Self-care is very important during the holidays, but also remember to be thankful that there are parties to go to and family members to see.

  11. I can’t remember how I found your blog, but it’s the best one I’ve read. I have suffered from social anxiety for many years now and I was always a very shy child. I love the way you write about social anxiety and how you deal with it. You write with humour and sensitivity and I relate to so much of what you say about anxiety and introversion. When I read stories like your own I feel less alone and that maybe having social anxiety isn’t always that bad. You sound like a very cool lady to me. Happy christmas.

    • This comment warmed my heart! Thank you so much. I’m really happy to know that others out there can relate. You sound pretty cool, yourself. Happy 2015!

  12. As someone who has anxiety and low moods, you’ve hit the nail on the head, Lisa. It’s so weird to think that we’ve been sort of socialised to think it’s rude to turn down invitations, as if it’s some sort of reflection on how we see the person inviting us! Sometimes, I just turn it down because I’m not in the mood to go and I know that if I make myself go, I won’t enjoy it and I’ll probably spoil it for everyone else! Hope you had a happy, happy Christmas and hope you have a happy New Year!

    • Yes! It is surprisingly hard to say no to things….especially for those of us who might tend to be people-pleasers…. 🙂 But you are right, it is not at all personal, it’s just an understanding of who we are. Happy new year to you!

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