Help for Moments of Gift Anxiety


Gift buying can be stressful–especially when you’re worried about disappointing someone you love.

Geoff and my brother both have massive gift anxiety. To them, it feels like a pressure cooker of potential disappointment.

Geoff’s ideal present is to gift an experience. My brother’s ideal present situation is to avoid gift-giving entirely.

I enjoy giving gifts, but only if I know the person well enough to know I’m picking a gift that will mean something to them. But I don’t like giving gifts whose sole purpose is to sit on shelves. I much prefer to give gifts that can be used or experienced.

A new pair of ski socks for the ski lover, concert tickets for a show you know they love, a new bracelet for the friend always sporting new accessories.

In this season of materialism holiday cheer, giving a gift on auto-pilot can be so easy. I’ve definitely snagged a last-minute gift at Whole Foods on my way to a party before.

Yet, at the same time, giving a gift, no matter what it is, shows you value the relationship enough to think of giving a gift in the first place.

It’s all very nuanced, like most things in life.

Love is something we all need, though.

To be witnessed. To be appreciated, seen, and valued.

It’s the love we want when getting a gift—that’s why it’s one of the five love languages.

That’s why gifts we’d never think of buying for ourselves or are too scared or practical to buy for ourselves are usually the most fulfilling.

And if not that, a handwritten card in a season of mass-produced Christmas cards goes a long way—because it makes people feel seen.

So as I sit here writing out the list of people I still want to show love to this holiday season, I thought I’d share how I’m avoiding gift anxiety. I use the following questions to help me think about how I want to show people they’re important to me this season. Some of them will end up with a gift, some will end up getting love from me in a different way.

Here are the questions I run through to help me avoid gift anxiety:

  • Who do I want to recognize this holiday season?
  • How do I want to make them feel?
  • What’s the best vehicle for making them feel this way?
  • Do I think gifts are their primary love language? (If so, I try go out of my way to get them a gift).

I’m of the opinion that buying everyone in your life a Christmas gift can be a waste of money. Because the reality is most people don’t need more things. (People really don’t need more “Live, Laugh, Love” signs). And in many cases, a handwritten card is an excellent way to communicate that you’re thinking of them and wishing them well this holiday season.

So if you’re feeling the pressure to buy everyone under the sun a gift this year, maybe release some of that pressure and consider a handwritten card instead.

The quality of our lives comes down to the quality of our relationships. And the quality of our communication largely determines the quality of our relationships.

What do you want to communicate with those in your life this holiday season? And, is a gift the best way to do that? Or would a card or grabbing a coffee with them communicate just as much, if not more?

What’s your gift-giving philosophy? Do you buy for everyone? Does your family do a white elephant exchange? Do you do something completely different? I’d love to know.



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Alyssa Kulesa

Alyssa Kulesa

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