Monday, December 15, 2014

The Anxiety that is December

There's no good reason for it, but it's there. The tightness in my chest. And the fatigue. And the general feeling of overwhelm. I have become inexplicably anxious this December.

It's silly really. My family is healthy. We are financially secure. My husband has a good job and works very hard at it, so I don't have to. I'm excited (and not at all overwhelmed) at the opportunity to start my own business doing something I love. Our lives are blessedly free of the stresses that make life most challenging.

It's the mundane things that make me anxious, and that's why I feel so ridiculous.

What gifts to get everyone. How to make sure the holidays are special for my kids. Writing holiday cards. Decorating inside and out. Baking cookies. Hosting the annual book club holiday party. Little things. Silly things. Things that I enjoy or choose to take on. Things I do not find challenging or important. Things that do not make me feel a need for perfection or to impress anyone. Yet the anxiety is still there.

I don't understand it.

Back when my husband and I were doing our pre-marriage counseling, we took some personality tests. The psychologist who met with us said to me, "According to these results, you don't like chaos."

That's an understatement. He continued, "How do you deal with chaos?"

Gratefully, I told him that my life hadn't been very chaotic--stable home life, happy family, and healthy, long-lived loved ones. He responded, "I don't mean that sort of chaos. I mean everyday chaos--like being stuck in traffic or late for an appointment. How do you deal with that?"

Not well. Not well at all.

"You realize that children are chaos, right? They draw on the walls. They are unpredictable. You can't control everything."

Well, when you put it that way...

My anxiety over the little things is not sounding so out of left field at all. Maybe I'm hard-wired for it. Even if I don't want to be stressed by the little things--even if I want to let it go--maybe I can't.

Rushing out the door for school. The clothes and books and craft supplies discarded all over the house. Lost coats and hats and gloves. Mopping the kitchen floor after the gingerbread house, and the muddy boots, and the dropped pesto. Wanting everything to be just so. Having a place for everything, but finding nothing in its place. Everyday chaos.

Not a bit of it worth being upset about. But still. It happens.

I've reached a couple conclusions. First, checking things off the list may not always be my best tactic. Sometimes, I just have to stop. I need to sleep, because being tired and cranky only makes it worse. I also need to allow myself an escape. Sitting down with a good book is not a waste of valuable time, but a chance to travel to a different world and forget about the lists for a while.

Second, as much as I try to rationalize away the anxiety, it's not going to go away entirely. It's who I am. But just because I'm feeling anxious about the time or the mess or the lists, I don't need to share those feelings with everyone around me.

Snapping at the kids to hurry up makes them move no faster than if I deliver the message in a normal tone. Griping about the floors isn't going to make them any cleaner. So I'm trying (not always succeeding, but trying) to keep my constant feeling of snappishness to myself. When I start barking at people, they bark back. And then we begin a self-perpetuating cycle of annoyance that benefits no one.

While I wish I were more laid back, I can only do so much to change my nature. Perhaps the best things I can do are to try to cut myself (and others) some slack and, when I cannot, to keep it to myself. Just because I'm anxious doesn't mean I should be, and I cannot let it control me or affect those around me.

Now that I have that off my chest, should I return to my online shopping list or continue the book I started last night?

What about you? Do you have the laid back personality I desire, or are you a just-so person as well? If so, does December bring out your worst? What are you doing to keep it in check?


  1. Susie: Put some music on or read a book and relax. There will be a time when the kids are grown and u won't have the chaos. So, enjoy it while its here.

  2. Susie: Nice pic by the way.

  3. Susie: First Xmas without dad(grandpa).

  4. I think you have to say no to something. Don't make cookies, or don't do a gingerbread house (too late for that - you get the idea) or something, just so you can breathe. Chaos makes me crazy, too, but I take comfort in making lists and crossing things off. If that isn't working, then maybe it's time to let something go and use that time to sleep instead. Sleep is generally the best medicine for being freaked out.

    1. Yes. I know. The insane cookie baking extravaganza and distribution went by the wayside last year because it wasn't fun anymore. As did homemade gifts for friends this year.

      This year I added handwritten messages on each card to the mix. While it took a lot longer than just stuffing envelopes, I'm glad I did. It made me stop and consider each friend or family member individually, which is important.

      I think I get way too strung out about the "right gifts," and making sure there is equity between the kids.

      Mostly, I need to sleep, read, and take and edit photos. Those are restorative to me. (Plus, the list is looking pretty good right now, so I should chill!)

  5. I too am struggling with balance, and I so want to make everything magical. It's hard. I am glad that this year we were able to go to a almost non-existent school day (well traditionally speaking anyway) because we started so early. I've been wanting to do this for years, and it's finally working out. AND I LOVE IT. I heard someone say making Christmas "happen" is a full-time joy. Was it you? I think it's true. And not just gift buying for the three, but deciding what to do to help in our community and what crafts and what stories to share with our family. I am not putting out all of our decorations this year, because I reached a saturation point, and no one has even missed them, so what does that say? Just got our picture disks in, so I'm off to work on Christmas cards tonight.....sigh. Better late than never? Hoping for grace on that at least.
    I vote you go curl up with that book. Hope it's a good one. Hugs and peace, Cynthia. <3