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Tips to help you deal with the anxiety of gift giving at Christmas

In the lead up to Christmas having a big family and a small budget can be stressful.

To some people a gift is a gift, it’s the thought that counts whereas to others there is a lot of thought that goes into the choosing of a gift and having the added dimension of a budget, can cause heightened anxiety.  

What can complicate matters more, is that some people see gifts as having symbolic meaning, being an extension of personality, ability and wealth. This often causes anxiety with people fearing embarrassment, judgment and lack of approval.

Read on for tips to help you curb these feelings of anxiety during the festive season.

3 tips to help you manage anxiety around Christmas gift giving

Rather than jeopardising your mental health to the point where you feel yourself obsessing over a gift and the other person’s reaction to it, try to actively use the following tips in the lead up to Christmas:

1) Mindful acceptance

Mindful acceptance is commonly used in emotion efficacy therapy (EET) where clients are taught emotional awareness and regulation.

By practising mindful acceptance during Christmas, you may realise that your anxiety can be controlled and understood.

When the thoughts of ‘what if’s?’ or ‘I’m not spending enough’ start racing around, try the following steps to bring yourself back to your relaxed state.

  • Accept sensations: is your heart racing? Are you breathing too fast? Are you breaking out in a cold sweat? Accept that the anxiety is causing you these sensations.
  • Watch thoughts: ‘They’re not going to like it’‘It looks too cheap’‘I wish I could spend more but I can’t afford it’ or ‘They’re going to think I’m poor’ are common thoughts that may filter through your head. Acknowledge these thoughts but try not to dwell on them further than that. Hold there.
  • Label feelings: As you acknowledge each thought, try to connect them to any feelings that arise. Do you feel depressed, self-conscious, worried or restricted?
  • Notice immediate urges: As you label these feelings, do you find any reactionary urges come to light? Perhaps the urge to justify spending more money? Or the urge to move presents around so that one person gets more than others?

By going through this process 5 minutes a day, you will find that by allowing yourself the experience, your anxiety will decrease when you get around to Christmas shopping.

2) Create new traditions

While the giving and receiving of gifts is definitely a tradition in most homes this time of year, there is also the opportunity to try forging a new tradition with your own family.

If you have small children who believe in Santa, perhaps buy one or two gifts for their stockings on Christmas Day.

Look for Christmas traditions the whole family can take part in, whether it’s decorating the Christmas tree, going carol singing, everyone getting in the kitchen and cooking one dish for Christmas dinner. Whatever it is, the aim is to shift the focus from buying gifts for each person and getting into the Christmas spirit as a family.

3) Go away together

The best way to reduce gift giving anxiety is to make sure you aren’t home at Christmas in the first place!

You don’t need to spend a lot of money and head overseas. Try going on a road trip and discovering somewhere new with your partner and children.

With a little bit of research and planning, there are plenty of affordable caravan parks and motels you can spend some anxiety free nights at.

Going away will give yourself and your family memories that will last longer than any toy or piece of jewellery will.

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This blog was written by Shara Smith who is a psychotherapist and a counsellor with over 12 years of experience in the mental health, life coaching and self-care sector. While she loves her husband and three kids, she also loves watching re-runs of Sex in the City and baking decadent cookies that only she gets to eat.


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