Anxiety and The Holidays

The holiday seasons.

What emotion came to you when reading that? Was it dread, excitement, joy, stress, anxiety, loneliness, fear? Be honest with yourself.

It took me a long time to realize that, while Thanksgiving and Christmas are enjoyable, they are as equally anxiety filled and stress inducing for me. I am not the only one either.

As I have gotten older the holiday season hasn’t gotten easier, only harder. Anxiety has stolen a lot of Joy from this time of year and I hate that so much. I remember so many times growing up going to families houses for holidays or visiting people and feeling like I was going to die. I always thought something bad was going to happen to me; I was convinced I would have a heart attack, need to go to the ER, have emergency surgery, or pass out on the floor. I dreaded it.

This time last year my anxiety was going up with no destination in site. It made Thanksgiving and Christmas SO hard, I don’t love admitting that. I used to be so excited about eating mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, my moms homemade rolls, eating Aebleskiver on Christmas morning, opening presents, playing outside in the snow, and more. What happened to the joy and excitement of this time of year?

Last years thanksgiving I was so anxious that I physically made myself ill over the weekend. I tried eating the breakfast my mother-in-law made for us and I threw up in their kitchen sink. Awesome. At that time I was still trying to convince myself that I was actually sick, and it wasn’t just anxiety.

When it came time to fly home to Iowa for Christmas, I DREADED it. If Brendan had said “hey let’s just not go” I would have 110% been on board, all because it was so anxiety inducing. The reason wasn’t because I didn’t want to see family or friends or take part in the holiday traditions. It was because I was so afraid of the anxiety I knew I would have and how it would make me feel.

Y’all, writing about it makes me anxious.

Do I know why this happened? No. Did I try to overcome and just trudge through it? Yes. Did parts of it suck? Yep. Were there good parts too? Yes.

However, two good things did come from last years Christmas trip home. I remember on Monday morning at my brothers house, it was the first time in months that I didn’t wake up feeling anxious. I recall thinking “oh my gosh, is this really happening? Am I not anxious? Can I actually eat breakfast this morning?” And it lasted the entire day. Oh man it was a weight lifted off my shoulders. The other good thing was I finally told my entire family about what was really going on with my mental health. I opened up about the steps I was taking and that I wasn’t really doing okay.

I kind of wish I could go back to last Christmas and hold my own hand, give myself all of the encouragement and knowledge of anxiety that I know today. I honestly handled being at home the best that I could at that time.

I would also be lying if I said that leaving Iowa to be at our home in California wasn’t the thing I was looking forward to most. While parts of that trip were enjoyable I ached to go home. The night we arrived home in California, I swear to you that it was the best nights sleep I had gotten in months.

Holidays are hard. Especially when you have to force yourself through them. It’s okay to admit that and it’s okay to take a step back from the big parties, celebrations, and family gatherings.

Can I give you one physical piece of advice? If you start to feel overwhelmed at a social gathering or with family, step out for a minute or two and give yourself some room, time to breathe, and gather your thoughts. I’ve done this multiple times and it’s really helped.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner I am happy to say that we get to stay in North Carolina at our HOME. No travel plans, no crazy hectic schedules, no big parties, just an enjoyable holiday season. We do have family coming for Christmas, but it will be fun, relaxing, and enjoyable.

To those of you anxious for holiday plans, you are not alone. You can say no (even if its family), and its okay to verbally admit that this season is hard. And if you’re not looking forward to them, that is okay too.

Whatever you’re going through this holiday season, I do truly hope you are able to find Joy.

Thanks for reading,

~Erin, The Short Wife

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