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… and 4 lessons I’ve picked up all these Christmases later. 

The anxiety usually creeps in during the second-to-last week in November. It starts small - nagging at my heart and poking at my mind, but before I know it it’s turned into me curled up in a ball by the Christmas tree trembling. 

Okay, dramatics aside, holiday anxiety is absolutely real and all of your feelings during this time are completely valid too. I know it can be difficult to understand why instead of feelings of holiday cheer, you’re filled with holiday worries and guilt instead, but over time I’ve picked up many lessons that have helped to ease my mind during this time. Here they are: 

 

Let go of your expectations

I am the type of person who has an embarrassing amount of Pinterest boards, and one is always dedicated to everything Christmas. It is quite a joyful sight-- aesthetically edited and containing gorgeous photos of couples in matching PJs, hot chocolate with snowman shaped marshmallows plopped in a reindeer mug, and best of all: a winter cottage decorated so intricately and immaculately it might as well be the set of a Hallmark movie. As beautiful as these photos are, they also often lead to very high and detrimental expectations on the consumer’s end. Those with a limited budget and a busy work schedule just simply cannot afford such a grand holiday season. 

Having such high expectations for the holiday season only further spurred on my anxious thoughts and mental state. I was constantly thinking to myself that the ways I was spending my holidays weren’t worthy or glamorous. After a while, this rhetoric became old… and exhausting. I chose to finally let go of these unrealistic expectations that were frankly not worth my time and as a result, I finally received peace of mind.

Avoid falling into the traps of toxic positivity and toxic productivity

This goes hand in hand with the previous lesson, but don’t force yourself to emote endless amounts of positivity or feel that you have to “hustle” and “grind” even during the holiday season. If you find yourself feeling anxious or not matching the caliber of holiday joy, then honour those feelings regardless, because they are still valid. It can be easy to feel like a Debbie-downer, but at the end of the day you will find yourself feeling much better if you just listen to how you’re feeling and act accordingly, rather than forcing a fake smile. On top of this, your productivity levels do not need to be at their maximum during this time. For students, the holiday season is often filled with exams and assignments, and with holiday events and get-togethers happening simultaneously, it is normal to fall off the productivity train. Just do your absolute best with what you have, because it is more than good enough.

Self-care comes in different forms, so pick whichever actually makes you feel cared for.

Self-care is an incredibly overused term these days, but it is honestly a quite elusive word. What truly entails “self-care?” For me, having grown up in the Buzzfeed-Millennial YouTubers-Internet age, I always believed it to be bubble baths, face masks, or chocolate and wine. I was constantly bombarded with images of girls in their 20s with a green face mask slathered on, either sitting in a bubble bath or holding a glass of wine (or both, for that matter) with a giant slogan surrounding the image: “TREAT YO’ SELF!” Fact of the matter is, sometimes when I’m severely stressed and riddled with exhaustion, especially during the holiday season, having to run a bath or wash off a face mask is more frustrating than it is helpful. I’d much rather cuddle in a blanket and listen to my nostalgic music playlist, or watch YouTube videos about cheese. It all depends, so choose whichever self-care task you think will really help you in that moment. You don’t have to buy into any tropes.

SLEEP!

I know, I saved the most difficult one for last. But sleep is one of the biggest reasons why my anxiety eases. Not only am I free from the bouts of the real world, but when I am well-rested, I find myself less prone to anxiety fits and mood swings. 7-8 hours of sleep is usually my go-to if I want to be sure that I will be in a good state of mind. Sleep also clears my mind enough so that holiday gift planning and virtual events are far easier to handle. However, it can be difficult for me to go to sleep early, thanks to social media apps that somehow never run out of content. So, to help resolve this issue, I just stopped going on my phone or laptop altogether an hour before bed. It’s a really hard habit to break at first, but just start with ten minutes and slowly increase to an hour. Your anxiety levels, physical, and mental well-being will thank you!

Jasmine Yan

Waterloo '22

Jasmine is a fourth-year student psychology student at the University of Waterloo. She loves all things figure skating, music, and is unashamedly addicted to TikTok and Pinterest.
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