So, it’s that time of year when things seem to be hurtling at breakneck speed towards 2019. I can barely breathe some days with all the year-end concerts, parties, get-togethers and general good cheer. But is it really that cheerful? Because some days, I wake up downright anxious about getting through it all, with a feeling of fear, rather than cheer. And, I know why; there is simply too much going on. Sure, you can say "no" to some things, but when a lot of it involves the kids, as a parent, you take a deep breath and plow through it. The class parties, friend festivities, markets, concerts; you do it all with a stoic and festive grin (when you feel more like the Grinch).
For a while, I thought I was the only one that was feeling overwhelmed until I spoke to others. That got me thinking about ‘why we do this.’ I have friends who genuinely love and embrace the festivity, diving headfirst into the parties, the hosting, the presents and anything else that comes their way.
I know others that are open about not liking this time of year, but ‘having to do it anyway.’ A few other (brave?) souls wax lyrical about not having any part of it and smugly take off for a tropical island or beach. Why do they avoid/not indulge in it? Well, some have lost loved ones and find the holiday period painful with their absence, but others hate the fact that focus of this time seems to be more about presents, ‘looking happy’ and spending money on unconscionable amounts of food and drink. Before you think I'm a real downer about Christmas, this can apply to any festivity ranging from Chinese New Year to Deepavali. It’s just that hearing others speak about “checking out of it all” for a tropical island made me think twice about why we do what we do. Christmas is huge on both my husband’s side and mine, it’s synonymous with extended family, carols, Santa, food (and drink!). In our nuclear family, we started traditions like decorating gingerbread, slowly filling Christmas stockings and suspenseful advent calendars. It’s all rather fun (Mostly).
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But what if you don’t enjoy all those things? These are real fears for some, with actual words. ‘Familiaphobia’ is the fear of your family and ‘Syngenesophobia’ is a fear of relatives and relations. A counselor once told me that Christmas was her ‘high season’ as people prepared to travel back home to see relatives, which was both funny and sad. If you add to that ‘Ligyrophobia’ (fear of crackers going ‘bang’), ‘Cyssanophobia’ (fear of kissing under the mistletoe), Ghabhphobia (fear of presents or gifts) or Selaphobia (fear of flashing lights), it is no wonder that people head straight for the beach. You might as well have Festivalisophobia (fear of the whole Christmas thing), and I suppose some do.
I don’t have any of this. I just have plain old ‘vanilla’ anxiety, because there is so much that needs to happen before we go away, and we always do. As a mixed family from different countries, we alternate Christmases – one year my husband’s side, one year mine, and the third year (in theory) on our own. I say ‘in theory’ because for the 12 years we have been married, we have only had one Christmas away from family. It was with friends, and yes, we were smug about being at the beach. Our only stress was explaining to the kids how Santa found us in Thailand. I sometimes wonder why we don’t do that every year, but the truth is, when you’re an expat living away from family most of the year, the holidays are one of the few times a year you get to see extended family. ‘Ya Just Do it!
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If you are in a position where you just have to ‘just do it,’ and you have holiday phobia’s, what can you do? Here are some tips which I gathered from a few counseling websites (which are interestingly full of advice for this time of year).
- Limit alcohol, as it is a depressant.
- If you are in a situation that is difficult for you (for example, an angry family), stay for a while, then leave. Make other plans so that you have an honest reason for leaving.
- If you’re unable to leave or go and stay elsewhere, then make it a habit go out for walks to have time to yourself. You can choose to take a break from the chaos, noise or fighting and don’t have to be a part of it.
- Those who suffer from holiday blues sometimes wait for others to make the first contact. Be proactive and take the lead. You may have to swallow your pride to do so, but that may be good for you in the long term.
- Find a place to serve others less fortunate than yourself. Serving and helping gives a sense of purpose and belonging that can help during the holidays. It also helps fight the isolation and despair that comes from it.
Reading through other people’s holiday phobias made me realize mine. It is not ‘Hodophobia’ (the fear of travel) but fear of traveling for long distances with kids for rushed and short amounts of time to catch up with too many people. Thinking about this is also giving me anxiety, so if you know the word for this, please let me know!
I genuinely hope that none of you need to utilize these techniques and that you experience good cheer this festive season. If you are one of those smugly reading this on the beach, please say ‘hi’ to Santa, as I’m sure this is a very anxious time of year for him.
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[Title image via Unsplash]
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