Dear Barb—Christmas Crisis

Dear Barb:

It’s that time of year again and my anxiety is through the roof.  I hate family get-togethers at any time of year, and Christmas just seems to make it all that much worse.  Everyone was so upset last year about not being able to get together with family at Christmas, but not me.  I was relieved and had the best Christmas day ever with just me and my boyfriend.  My family members are already starting to argue about who will be cooking what, who will be hosting the get-together, blah blah blah.  Also, my parents are divorced and remarried so we must go to both families.  I suffer from anxiety attacks, and I am looking for ways I can control my stress level so I can get through this Christmas without having arguments with other family members.  Can you suggest anything that will help to reduce my anxiety?  Thanks, Lexi.

Great question Lexi!

Many people are feeling as you are at this time of year.  In fact, research suggests that at least 10% of the population suffers from some type of social anxiety.  While experiencing some anxiety around social gatherings is normal, people who suffer from social anxiety may obsess about the event for months ahead, to the point where they become physically and emotionally ill.

Family gatherings often cause family members to revert to dysfunctional roles within the family, which leads to some very intense situations.  To manage anxiety, it’s important to maintain a sense of control over our situations.  There are several ways to achieve this.  For example, if someone is treating you in a dysfunctional or abusive manner, don’t hesitate to speak up for yourself.  You are not that little girl or boy that was picked on, you are an adult, and you deserve to be treated with respect.

One option would be to bring a friend with you.  This way the family dynamics will be different, and it won’t be so easy to revert to our childhood ways.  Also, if someone is treating you poorly, you have the option to get up and walk away.  Go into another room.  Read a book or play a game on your phone.  I know these are behaviors that are frowned on in social situations, but it may be the only way to distract you from a stressful situation.  For the most part family gatherings are a positive experience for children.  Therefore, when things get stressful go hang out with the kids.  Play games with them or watch a movie, anything that will get you away from the anxiety producing situation.  Remember you have control over your life.  Choose to focus on the positive, not the negative.  Best of luck Lexi.

Email your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.
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