For many people, the holidays are a time when anxiety increases tremendously, so for people who already suffer from anxiety, that is double the amount of anxiety. On top of the day-to-day challenges someone with anxiety may face, they now must deal with the pressure of the holidays as well. Everything from gift shopping to Christmas parties, all normal things during the holiday season, can be overwhelming.
1. Not everyone is happy around the holidays, and that is okay
Just because we are supposed to be happy around the holidays does not mean we will be and that is perfectly fine. We understand that the holidays are the best time of year for many people, but constantly being asked why we are not as happy about the holidays as them only makes us more aware of our anxiety. For some of us, it is yet another reminder of a year spent with a mental illness as well as what the following year will bring in terms of that illness. We are aware of the expectation that we need to be filled with joy for the holiday season, and that expectation alone is daunting. Just because we do not show it doesn't mean that we care any less, we are usually just too stressed to keep up a facade.
2. Sometimes we might need to take a little breather...
Sometimes making conversation for hours on end can be stressful. Catching up extended family on your entire life is tiring; if we stop answering questions, it is not because we are avoiding, it is because we are exhausted. If we step out for a bit, it is not because we are not enjoying ourselves or because your party is not fun, it is because we needed a minute to catch our breath. If you see us sitting alone quietly, you can kindly ask if we are okay; if we say yes, then just leave us be because we probably just need a minute to collect ourselves. Do not badger us about how we are feeling. I cannot stress enough that if we disappear for a bit, you should just leave it be. Please do not ask where we went because we will probably struggle to come up with a terrible lie and it will make everyone involved uncomfortable.
3. ...or leave a party early
Sometimes taking a little breather might not be enough and we might need to leave altogether. If this happens, try not to be offended. We are not trying to be rude. There is a lot going on with the holidays, and as much as we might try to be involved, sometimes our anxiety gets the best of us. Don't hold it against us or stop inviting us to things because we do want to be there, but sometimes we just cannot be.
4. Small talk is the absolute worst
Small talk should be easy, it has nothing to do with deep personal subjects typically, but it is terrible for some people. Scrambling for topics to keep the conversation going is nerve-wracking. As we are talking about one thing, our minds are searching for what to talk about next while also overanalyzing everything that we have just said. It is a lot for our brains to do. I'm not saying don't talk to us, but when you do try to understand that if we freeze or seem uncomfortable, it is definitely not anything you did.
5. Please do not interrogate me about my personal life
This doesn't apply to just people with anxiety, but it is amplified for us. The holidays usually mean spending an absurd amount of time with extended family in a very short window of time, and we know what comes with that: questions about how your life is progressing. "How's college? Are you in a relationship, yet? What are you majoring in? Do you like your classes? How is your roommate? Have you made friends? What do you want to do with your life?" We know that you are just curious, but asking us all these questions all at once feels like being hit with an avalanche. Most likely, we are already worried enough about if we are making enough friends and what our major is and trying to talk about it is difficult. And asking what we want to do with our lives? That is a gateway to a crisis because we are probably terrified that we do not know what we want to do and you asking just makes us feel even less in control. So you have every right to ask about our personal lives, just make sure you are conscious of how you do so.
6. The obligation to reciprocate gifts can be ridiculously stressful
Even if people say you don't have to get them something, you do because otherwise you'll feel guilty. Someone gets you a gift, therefore you have to get them a gift otherwise you owe them and you feel like a terrible person. The problem is we most likely did not feel deserving of a gift in the first place, and so we feel like we have to repay you big time. If the gift is not perfect or we give it to you and you don't like it, we're going to feel crushed so we have to find the perfect gift which is way harder than it seems.
7. And when we do want to reciprocate gifts, shopping for them can be very anxiety-provoking
Black Friday is my worst nightmare; running around overcrowded shopping malls with people trampling each other does not go well with anxiety. Yes, some people who happen to suffer from anxiety enjoy holiday shopping, but for a lot of us, it is anxiety-provoking. Sensory overload is a thing and huge crowds of people with a lot of noises and visuals to take in can cause it. If you ask us to go to the mall with you and we say no, just respect that because if we wanted to go, we would. While I would love to go window shopping in NYC, sometimes dealing with the crowds can just be too much.