Can you believe the holiday season is here? The fresh smell of pinecones, cinnamon and gingerbread are beginning to follow us around our favorite stores. The holidays can be a time to settle in and celebrate family, confess our gratitude and give thanks for all of the things and experiences we have been fortunate enough to gain throughout the year. However, for many people, the holidays come with increased levels of stress and anxiety.
Battling the desires of spending money you may not have on yourself, family or friends is enough to bring on depression and feelings of defeat, often referred to as (SAD) seasonal affective disorder. Not only is there stress around purchasing gifts, many also begin assessing where they are in their lives financially and professionally. There are many social pressures that drive us towards panic attacks and feelings of unworthiness.
Money anxiety is described as constant worry or anxiety about money. How often do you experience these emotions? It’s really tough to think our way out of worry and concern, and it’s often easier said than done.
Dealing with money or financial anxiety takes more than just dealing with the numbers. What it really takes is practiced self-awareness. Here are 10 tips to help you tackle holiday anxiety:
1. Relax in truly understanding what the holiday season is about.
Even if you may not celebrate Thanksgiving Day or Christmas, it’s always a great idea to take time for reflection as a way to remember what truly matters in our lives.
2. Take a break from the belief that everything has to be perfect, including the perfect dinner or the perfect gift.
There are no wrongs or rights during the holidays. The only thing that should matter is the joy we give to ourselves and how we provide that to others.
3. Pass on some of the invites you may receive.
Holidays often come with dinner invites, swap-a-gift gatherings or formal celebrations. Cutting back on a few of these opens up your schedule for more time alone or with your family, and reduces the amount of money you’ll spend on party preparation.
4. Use your downtime to get in some exercise.
Moving your body has a way of relaxing your thoughts. Typically, anything that is good for your heart is also good for your brain. Have you ever noticed when you sit still during high stress seasons your emotions only seem worse? When your brain is stressed out, your body automatically resorts to a fight or flight scenario. Hitting the gym or running around your neighborhood can reduce holiday anxiety in ways you wouldn’t imagine. Give it a try.
5. Get creative with gift giving.
The most memorable gifts are typically those that can’t be purchased in a store. Framed notes from a kid to their grandparents, personalized holiday ornaments or even chewy chocolate chip cookies wrapped in beautiful paper are all heartfelt gifts that can be made with minimal costs. Remember the gift of time. Your presence will always override your presents. If your schedule is typically full, imagine how precious being available will be to those who love and admire you.
6. Plan ahead of time for appointments, events and shopping.
Avoiding last minute scrambling will help you better balance your time. Set aside specific times and dates to handle menu prep, who you will shop for and which dinner parties you’re planning to attend. Don’t forget to keep your calendar open for moments when you also need some time alone.
7. Respect your feelings.
Sure, the holidays are meant to be merry; however, if this season brings on memories of family or friends who recently passed away, it’s okay to grieve during this time. There are simply some moments when it almost feels impossible to be happy. Avoid forcing yourself to partake in the holiday happenings if you’re not up to it.
8. Volunteer by giving back toward causes you believe in.
Devoting time to those who are less fortunate can help give you a different perspective on life. There are tons of ways to donate to a food drive, sponsor a family that’s in need or serve military troops. The options are endless. You’ll find joy in knowing your generosity has added a sparkle in the day of others.
9. Budget accordingly.
Unless you have allotted funds for gift giving throughout the year, tread lightly as you begin to plan out how much money will be spent. Reflect back on #5 by getting creative. Consider using a Green Dot prepaid card to load your holiday budget on (fees and limits apply, so be sure to factor that into your budget!), sticking to a cash only spending plan and finding as many coupons as possible. The holidays will come and go very quickly. Avoid post season dread by keeping a tight watch on your money matters.
10. Be honest and clear about your expectations.
What does your ideal holiday look like? If you have a small or large family, identify early on where the gathering will be held and who will take on what responsibilities. Relinquish the notion that you have to host the dinner, cook the dinner and purchase all of the ingredients. A family effort brings about togetherness, unity and support for one another—truly the meaning for the holiday season.
What are your plans to keep your anxiety low and your happiness high during the holidays?
This is a post in partnership with Marsha Barnes, of the Finance Bar. Green Dot has supported her with compensation for her financial expertise and blog contributions.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Green Dot Corporation.
Cards issued by Green Dot Bank, Member FDIC pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc.