The Independent Contractor’s Guide To Getting Through the ‘Holiday Scaries’

The holidays can be a rollercoaster ride. Here’s how to get through them.

With the holiday season in full swing, the countdown to the New Year has officially begun. You may have found yourself developing a sense of the “holiday scaries.” Never heard of that? Well, chances are you’ve probably felt it but just didn’t have a word for it. Here’s what the holiday scaries are all about and how to get through the season. And if you never get the holiday scaries, then carry on and enjoy the baked goods and egg nog!

What are the holiday scaries?

You’ve probably heard of the “Sunday scaries.” That’s the Sunday-night anxiety or dread of the workweek ahead that traditional nine-to-fivers sometimes experience. Independent contractors aren’t always beholden to conventional work hours or workweeks, so we might not face the Sunday scaries in the same way. But we’re not immune to the holiday scaries. The holiday scaries are generally about fearing vacation time. Creating your own work schedule, can  lead to a feeling of needing to work All. The. Time. Especially during long holiday weekends or when non independent contractors traditionally have time off.

Here’s how holiday scaries can play out in our heads

You might have too much work but not enough time to get it done in the face of holiday plans or expectations. Or you might have extra time on your hands because of holiday downtime, and you’d like to be working, but don’t have the shifts or the projects on your plate. Plus, just about every independent contractor has experienced, at some point, that nagging sense that they should be working even when they’ve completely planned for time off.

This year’s holiday scaries can be particularly challenging because we’re in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created an additional layer of stress for everyone. The pandemic has had economic implications for so many. And lots of folks, in order to keep safe and keep their loved ones safe, are celebrating the holidays differently.

How do you stop the holiday scaries?

  1. The first step to getting a handle on the holiday scaries is to accept that’s what you might be experiencing, especially if you’re stressed or anxious about work and/or finances right now. Giving the anxiety or the unsettling feeling a name will actually help take away some of its scariness.


  1. The second step is to figure out what, specifically, is fraying your nerves. Do you feel like you have too much on your plate and not enough time? Or too much time and not enough on your plate? Both situations can be stress-inducing. But something else could be bothering you entirely.


  1. The third step is to figure out one thing that will bring you an immediate sense of relief by taking some of the weight off your shoulders. For example, if you have too much on your plate, maybe you have one big project you can get done in the next few days through some serious buckling down. If a lack of work has you fretting, what’s one thing you can do to generate more work? Maybe that involves a flurry of social media activity to remind people what you do.


  1. The fourth step is to accept that you really do deserve some time to relax. Whether you take time off on the actual dates the holidays fall on or on random days over the next several weeks is up to you. The point is that you should indeed carve out some time, even if it’s just an extra day or two off that you normally wouldn’t take when it’s not the holiday season.


  1. And the final step of slaying the holiday scaries is to let others around you know what you need. If you don’t have time to join the 10 holiday parties you’ve been invited to on Zoom, don’t attend. Or you can pop into the ones you can attend with the caveat that you’ll be bowing out early to finish work. People will understand. Or if sending gifts to people is going to drain your finances after a tough year, don’t do it. If someone normally sends you a gift, and you feel obligated to return the kindness, you can let them know in advance that you’re planning a no-gift season this year. Or you can simply send a thank you note, email, or another type of message in acknowledgment of their generosity.