If you already suffer from anxiety, you might be dreading the upcoming fall and winter holidays. Though many people relish the gifts, the time off from work, the opportunity to reconnect with family, others fear the loneliness, the social pressure, and the judgment of friends and family. If you fall more into the second category than the first, here are some tips for surviving those brutal holidays.

Make all rituals optional

Yes, you can pick and choose which holiday rituals you wish to participate in. If you can’t face gift shopping, or if you have anxiety about spending more money than you can afford to part with, you are hereby absolved from gift giving. It can be awkward at first, but if you tell people in early December that you’re not giving gifts, they have been forewarned, and they can choose to give you a gift or not.

If you have children, you can ask friends and family to take your children on an outing, like the zoo, in lieu of a physical present. You may even wish to float a no-gifts policy with your family.

If you can’t face all the rigmarole that goes with putting up a tree, opt out. Just put up a wreath or some lights and be done with it. Or you can skip the ornaments altogether. Same goes for holiday cards. You can take a year off from that. And you can definitely pass on the long, tedious family newsletter.


Invent your own rituals

Here’s a thought. Think about what would make you happy during the holidays. Maybe it’s a day at the spa with your best friend. Maybe it’s a long walk with your dog to see trees changing colors. Maybe what you really want to do is sit down and watch the Hobbit trilogy in one day.

The best thing about the holidays is the time off. That’s what is precious, not traditions you got handed without your consent. Do the things you enjoy and they can become your new traditions.


Pets vs. Stress

Pets are nature’s healers and they are scientifically proven to reduce stress. Whether it’s petting a cat or walking a dog, companion animals make us happy.

If you have a dog, you already know about unconditional love. It looks like your dog. She loves you when you haven’t showered, she loves your bad hair. She is always synced with your mood. And you may have heard that dogs lower blood pressure, one of the most prominent physical markers of stress.

Psychology Today reports that dog owners have better self esteem, make more careful decisions, and don’t get lonely like people who don’t own dogs. The real surprise, though, is that a good relationship with your dog improves your relationships with people. And not just because you meet folks at the dog park.

A recent study proved that looking into a dog’s eyes while she is looking back into yours increases natural concentrations of oxytocin, the “feel good” drug, in BOTH of you. Eye contact with your dog, in other words, is giving you both a natural high. The sense of well being you get from this makes you attractive to people who then want to be friends.

If you love all the typical holiday traditions, by all means, make the most of them this year. But keep in mind there’s no rulebook that says you can’t invent your own holiday. What’s most important is enjoying the season and keeping your stress levels to a minimum.  Let this season be a chance for you to relax, unwind and make merry in your own way. Make sure your holidays hold something for you and don’t get caught up in too many expectations and obligations.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.