9 Reasons Holiday Anxiety Overwhelms Me Every Year

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and Koldunova_Anna/Getty

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — for anxiety. I thought planning birthday parties was bad. I thought figuring out what to cook for Thanksgiving was bad. I thought spring cleaning was bad. I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Christmas takes the fruitcake. The holiday season starts at approximately the day after Halloween and ends the day after New Year’s, and I spend most of it in a perpetual panic. There won’t be a holly-jolly Christmas this year. I’ll be too busy crying in the corner.

Why am I so anxious? Well, let me tell you a few of the reasons why…

1. Who gets Christmas cards?

First I have to order the cards. Do I send a generic “Happy Holidays” card, thus pacifying the atheists and agnostics, Jews and Muslims in my life, showing sensitivity and light and joy — and incurring the wrath of all the old people about the alleged “war on Christmas?” Whom do I piss off this year? Why don’t they make cards with the picture of a Festivus Pole?

Then I have to decide who merits a card. What if I sent them a card last year and I don’t this year and they feel slighted and sad and neglected? This makes me a horrible person. I am a horrible person. Where are my anti-anxiety meds? The holiday anxiety level riseth.

What if I’ve lost their goddamn address? Because I’ve always lost their goddamn address. I need to give up and Google doc this shit.

2. Who gets presents?

What about my boss? Do I need to gift something to my boss, or is that weird? Maybe it’s weird. We sort of bought my mom’s Christmas present already and gave it to her, so what’s protocol there? What do I leave the mailman? The Amazon delivery person…is it the same person every time? I don’t know. This goes on for-fucking-ever, like the end of an Oasis song, until I’m in Target buying random knock-off Yeti cups and stuffing them with mints because you never fucking know, people. My husband thinks I’m bonkers. Holiday anxiety has me in its tinsel-colored teeth.

3. Am I buying the kids too much?

Holiday anxiety tells me that if I buy this kid that thing, and this kid that thing, I have to buy this thing for that kid, and you end up with this fucked-up math where a giant LEGO set equals so many Melissa and Doug containers of food, but all of these things need a smaller LEGO set to add up to a new bike; one giant stuffie is not the equivalent of three smaller stuffies, but rather one smaller stuffie and some expensive Matchbox car thing and … the Christmas arithmetic is enough to send me breathing into a paper bag.

4. Am I buying the kids too little?

We swore we would do the “something to read, something to wear, something to play with and something to whatthehellever” rule this Christmas. That’s four presents. Insert strangling holiday anxiety here. And experiences instead of presents rocks, except you can’t hold a trip to the aquarium in your hands on Christmas morning and when you are six years old that sucks harder than your mom’s Hoover (I’m being restrained here. Insert the dirty metaphor of your choice, because if your six-year-old knew it, he would sure as hell use it when he woke up to four presents and an experience on Christmas morning).

5. We said no presents, but …

But your partner lied. You know your partner lied. Or your mom lied, or you BFF lied, or whoever the hell said that lied, because they always lie.Or maybe they didn’t. Talk about tachycardia, people. Holiday anxiety at its finest. You can’t be the person caught without the present, so you have to break the rule, too.

But what if they meant it? What if they didn’t lie? What if you become the lying liar who lied and now you look like the jackass who broke the rule? Catch-22: you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I am seriously, literally hyperventilating while typing this.

6. Travel … must we?

We have relatives that live far, far up interstates with massive construction problems and traffic jams that, in the immortal words of Dave Matthews, “got more cars than a beach got sand.” And three children with the patience of, well, three children. Add in packing and cleaning (because you have to clean before you leave, hello husbands who do not understand this basic fucking principle of existence), and where are my meds? I need my meds.

7. And then see the relatives?

This does not even count the actual holiday anxiety of the visit with the relatives. One of them has the opposite political views you do, and likes to voice them loudly. Another does things you abhor in front of your children. You revert back your childhood roles of the yelled-at one, the peacemaker, the picked-on, the funny one … and now someone’s making dad jokes.

Can’t we just have ourselves a Merry Little Christmas at home? I think I have a debilitating case of the flu/the measles/explosive diarrhea on Christmas Eve.

8. Oh, the expectations

Remember how every Christmas your mother-in-law/mother did that thing, and it was such a wonderful tradition, and now that shit’s on you, and you have no idea how to do it/can’t manage it/it raises your stress level to Defcon 5? Yeah. It happens every year. Or now grandma died and you have to whip up her famous cornbread? Oyster casserole, here we come, because no one eats it but there must be oyster casserole, make it or break it. Fuck your Amazon Prime box, your sister-in-law handmade all the kids’ presents with her sewing machine.

Like Everclear says, you have to try to be everything to everyone. And you know I’m stressed when I’m letting top-20 alternative bands speak for me like I’m a depressed 15-year-old circa 1996.

9. How much should you decorate?

Okay, you have to have a tree. You have to have some kind of holiday decorations. But the holiday anxiety creeps in when you have to determine the line between not enough and too much. You don’t want to be that person who turns their house into a fucking Christmas village — or maybe you’re my friend Daniel and you do, because you have no children to scatter your manger scenes, break your glass ornaments, and gnaw the candy canes and popcorn strings. But the kids expect some kind of decorations, and so does the rest of the world. So decorate you must. But how much? Where? Which box are they in? Can you get them out of the attic without risk to life and limb?

Do you need those Target hand towels? Will people judge you for your lack of Christmas hand towels?

I’m breathing into a paper bag again.

It’s not the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the most anxious time of the year. Holiday anxiety is real. Holiday anxiety includes actually having to go to the post office. Doing things like messaging people to ask for addresses, or, in the case of old people, calling them on the phone and asking, which leads to a scolding about why you don’t have it in the first place.

Holiday anxiety means long lines at the self-checkout and embarrassing mess-ups about things not ringing up properly and the need to call a cashier, to whom you will apologize profusely. It means embarrassment when “Merry Christmas” slips out, or “Happy holidays” slips out because what if that person believes in the “war on Christmas” and you just pissed them off?

Holiday anxiety means ducking and running when you’re out of change for the Salvation Army, which discriminates against gay people anyway.

And don’t get me started on that Elf on the Shelf.

I think I’ll go hide until the holiday season has ended.

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