Have you ever experienced gifting anxiety? It plagues me every Christmas, birthday, Father’s/Mother’s Day and here in Greece, they do gifts for name days, too. I cannot trust myself not to cave under the pressure and buy something ridiculous.
This holiday season I’ve been doing some research (Knowledge is power! Fighting my fears with facts!) inspired by a comment Ruth Rae, founder of White Witch Connemara, had made on an Instagram post. She wrote,
“Gifts and gift giving, the right kind, are a necessary part of being human…”
I hadn’t thought of it with this perspective before. I have previously struggled to find the balance between thoughtful and conscious gifts for loved ones and the idea that giving presents was materialistic and frivolous. Unable to find a balance, I would fall into a spiral of emotions and overthinking. The end result was typically panic buying.
The modern approach to gift giving seems to come with the added stress of commercialisation, marketing and status symbols (although the latter has ancient roots, too). I get anxiety just thinking about buying gifts and nearly have a panic attack should I consider making gifts. What is the perfect gift? Does the recipient need more “stuff”? Will they like what I’ve given them?
This train of thought brings me to another question: Why do we even give gifts in the first place?
I've discovered that it's simple: The psychology behind gifting tells us that we find joy in the human connection.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
It is believed that the act of gifting pre-dates civilization and is part of our human instinct to show love, caring, appreciation and loyalty. From sharing something beautiful found in nature or something useful to assist in survival, gifting is known to have taken place within primitive caveman culture, and continues to be an integral part of being human.
So back to Ruth’s mention of the right kind of gift. I’ve now found some calm that has helped me be more focused and considered in my gift giving during the last few weeks. Here's how I made my gift giving easier:
Pauline’s Strategy For Non-Panic Gifting
1. For the folks who don’t need more stuff
The human connection in holiday gifting can be taken a step further by making a donation in someone's name. This year, my son will receive an “adoption certificate” for a baby sea turtle named Hector as part of a donation made ARCHELON The Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece.
My close family has had a donation made in their honour to AMURTEL Greece in support of creating a safe space for pregnant women, new mothers and people who are breastfeeding whilst in crisis. This is the SOCIAL CAUSE we support here at ethos pathos.
2. For the folks we’re uncertain of what they’ll like
My go-to has been gift cards, especially digital ones. It may seem like cheating but it's actually super considerate, eliminates the need for returns and double packaging or delivery of the initial purchase then the giving of the gift and the recipient gets to choose exactly what they want. You’ll find wonderful and unique European brands who offer gift cards in OUR BRANDS directory.
For me, spending time with people is the best present. Nothing warmed my heart more than seeing my son’s Christmas Wish List and having it include “a nice time, relaxing with my family”. (Do note he also asked Santa for “No homework”. I think he understands exactly who fulfills the Wish List.)
Movie nights or game nights, accompanying the recipient doing their favourite hobby or activity, a pot of tea and some quality time chatting, to name a few ideas. Time spent together can be a truly meaningful gift. Take pics and cherish the memories for a lifetime.
If you have already spun out and panic shopped, please know you are not alone. For a bit of comic relief, I suggest the InStyle article Bad Gift Giving Anxiety & Why You Have It by Amanda Richards. I also have a sister who is an amazing gift giver and I wholly relate to the bad gift giver sister in this article.
If you find yourself with awkward gifts to hand out, perhaps you, too, will become the stuff of legend at the next family gathering and provide much needed laughter. Plus, there's a reason for the saying it's the thought that counts. I am convinced our anxious and panic thoughts are valid for this as well.
Wishing you a calm holiday season.