As soon as you hear the first ad for the holidays, there’s sweat beading at your hairline. You’re feeling a little hot under the collar, despite the winter’s chill, and you can’t blame your clammy hands on the frankly shocking amount of shortbread whips you’ve put away. Does this sound familiar? It will if you have gift giving anxiety — in which case, the holiday season triggers an acute stress response instead of the typical holly jollys.
It’s not that you’re a scrooge who hates the idea of the gift giving holiday. Far from it! Often people who suffer from this holiday-inspired anxiety value the gifts they exchange more than anyone else.
Some people think a gift is a gift is a gift, and they don’t put much thought into the pair of socks they wrap up. You, on the hand, never think a present is that straightforward. Gifts have a language all to their own, and what you give to a person could mean anything from ‘I’m sorry’ to ‘I love you’ to ‘I secretly dislike you’.
Whether your recipient understands your intentions is the rub, and you can’t always control people’s reactions to the present you just spent weeks agonizing over. In the worst-case scenario — and at a time when men like Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump are itching for a nuclear war, the idea of worst-case scenarios is at the forefront of our minds — your thoughtful gift could be misinterpreted as cheap, thoughtless, or conceited when you intended anything but. It’s enough to keep you up at night with a cold sweat.
If you’re tired of succumbing to your gift giving anxiety, it’s time you learn how to ignore your nerves. There’s an art to giving gracefully under pressure. Here are some tips to become a master of it:
At a time when you can jump online and order literally anything from anywhere in the world, the amount of choice is enough to stop you in your tracks. Barry Schwartz, the author of The Paradox of Choice, calls this phenomenon a “choice overload”. He claims that:
“As the number of options increases, the costs, in time and effort, of gathering the information needed to make a good choice also increase… The level of certainty people have about their choices decreases. And the anticipation that they will regret their choices increases.”
If this sounds familiar, try to cut down on the choices involved in your gifts. This means you’ll have to do some research to figure out exact likes and dislikes, but a little snooping never hurt anyone around this time of year.
If you have an aunt who volunteers with an animal shelter, don’t think of the housewares, jewellery, and clothes you could get her. Limit your gift search to animal-related items. Books on animal welfare, novelty calendars with a kitten a day, or a trip to a local animal sanctuary would be right up her alley.
Though purr-fecfor your aunt, these gifts wouldn’t fit your cousin who spends most of his time in the basement playing Overwatch. Limit yourself to Xbox games and accessories. You could get him a subscription to Xbox Live or a prepaid Microsoft gift card. If you’re worried these ideas aren’t personal enough, you could customize a brand-new Xbox One skin to show how much you care. Don’t worry if the choice of colors and textures make it hard to pick just one. When you shop from the styles created at dbrand, they’re at a low enough price point that you could get him your top 5 best Xbox One skins.
Don’t be too proud to ask
You might scoff and say it’s all well and good to suggest a trip to a sanctuary or a tailor-made Xbox One skin when you have an outsider’s perspective. A little bit of distance gives you some clarity. When your up close and personal, the obvious answers aren’t always as clear.
If you’re struggling to brainstorm on your own, just ask them. There’s a reason why people make lists around this time of year. Even the man with the bag himself relies on a list, and he checks that thing twice! Don’t let your pride stand in the way of a great gift. Ask them what they want, and they’ll probably have a long list of things they hope to find under the tree.
Stick with a budget
Setting out a price range — like limiting your choices — is a proven way to create some structure to your shopping experience. When you impose strict limits to your spending, you immediately stop worrying about gifts that fall outside of your budget.
If you aren’t sure about how much you should spend, ask! Your loved ones — if they haven’t already asked the same question — are probably wondering the same thing. Ask even if you feel awkward about the money question. It’s better to get over your hang-ups now then realize one person spent triple the amount of cash on the other person.
The Bottom Line?
These tips don’t promise a quick fix to your nerves, but they are a reliable guideline to keep your worry in check. Each strategy offers a little bit of organization to a hectic time of the year. They can help you focus your whirlwind of ideas into a clear plan of attack. So the next time you start to feel heart palpitations when you think of your growing list, try these on for size. Concentrating on a theme, asking for direction, and working with a budget may help you manage your anxiety.