I think of my anxiety in two ways: anticipatory and aftermath. The holidays are a great illustration of how this works.
First we have the anticipatory. I literally start having the anticipation anxiety as soon as November starts. I’m thinking of the gifts that I have to make and the places I have to be and the trinkets that I have to buy and the money I have to spend. All of that is pretty understandable. The holidays are overwhelming for lots of people. It’s a stressful time.
But the anxiety means that there’s no release valve. There’s no relief when I get something on the Grinchmas To Do List finished. Is it good enough? Will they like it? Could I have done better? Do they think I’m cheap? These thoughts continually pop up in my head no matter how many times I answer these questions.
And then there’s the actual going of places. I imagine most people who have decent-to-good relationships with their families don’t have much in the way of anxiety when it comes to seeing them for the holidays (except for maybe traffic). Well, I do. In fact, I have anxiety any time I’m supposed to see anyone because what if I’m wrong? What if this isn’t the right day? The right time? Am I dressed appropriately? Do they really want me there? Now because I tend to have low level anxiety whenever I go anywhere, this is easier to deal with. I just remind myself that it’ll be fine when I get there. Because it will be. It always is. But I need that mantra.
Then there’s the aftermath anxiety.
No matter how well things went, I am inevitably smacked with this sort of anxiety (it happens a lot after I record a podcast or submit a story). When it comes to the holidays, it means I get home from my merry-making (where I usually have a good time) and the questions start again. Did I say the wrong thing? Did I do this wrong? Did I sound/look like a moron? Was I wrong about something? Did I sound sincere enough when I thanked them for the present? Was I appreciative enough? I have come to depend on meditating to help me purge my anxiety, as I think of it. Otherwise, I can’t sleep and when I do, I dream about it, the distorted barrage of questions invading my slumber.
Between my amped up anxiety and my usual holiday blues, the holidays are a great time. So much of my exhaustion actually comes from trying to maintain some sort of mental health so I can function. A couple of years ago, the blues went into a full blown depressive episode. This year, my anxiety is pummeling everything. At this point, I’m willing to sign a petition to have December cancelled.
But like every other day when my anxiety acts up, like every other year at this time, I remind myself…
It’ll be fine when I get there.