Molly Parker

Skip the stress, celebrate your way

April 5, 2023

Earlier this month, I was sitting at my computer when the familiar sound of a new email came over the speakers.

I switched tabs to my Outlook account and was greeted by a cheerful email excitedly announcing the events for Senior Week. Immediately, my blood ran cold. 

I’ve never been one for big celebrations. Over the years, I’ve learned just how important it is to celebrate the milestones in life in a way that I actually enjoy, as opposed to how I think I’m supposed to.

Graduation is a big deal for me, as it is for most students who are counting down the days until their last finals, and it’s common for graduating students to feel stressed about finishing school, according to Clemson University’s guide for transitioning students.

With the uncertainty that follows graduation, as well as the stresses of job applications and maybe even leaving your college town, big celebrations can seem to some like just another thing to worry about.

Anticipatory anxiety is the anxiety felt leading up to a big event, according to a Dec. 6, 2022 Verywell Mind article. This anxiety can take moments, big or small, and turn them into a source of stress.

Oftentimes, college graduations mean big parties, champagne and being surrounded by hundreds of your celebrating peers—but the idea of a massive celebration filled with people I’ve only met once or twice doesn’t exactly scream “fun” to me.

I’m graduating a year early, so most of my friends are about to finish off their junior years. It seems so much more enjoyable to celebrate my graduation with my friends, maybe doing a game night or hanging out at North Beach like we usually do.

A celebration like this takes away the stress I have around trying to look perfect, being awkward and feeling isolated—fears I often have around big and important events. Instead, I’m opting to celebrate my accomplishment by spending time with the people I care about, doing the things I enjoy.

Similarly, my twenty-first birthday was over spring break. Turning 21 is often seen as a big deal, but the idea of a party brought me more stress than it did excitement. 

So instead of a massive birthday bash, I went out for a drink with some friends and spent the rest of the night watching a movie and enjoying the relaxed, comfy environment.

The idea of celebrating how one wants to isn’t just limited to personal celebrations, either.

Stress and depression are often heightened during the holiday season, according to a June 8, 2017 University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics article. The pressure of making the holidays exactly right can leave people feeling even lower than before.

This stress could be reduced, or even eliminated, with a celebration that will actually bring joy instead of one that is “perfect” by traditional societal standards. 

And while traditions are important and help reduce anxiety and build bonds between the people you share them with, your traditions can be whatever you want them to be, as long as you enjoy them, according to a Nov. 15, 2013 PsychCentral article.

Maybe it’s a potluck instead of a home-cooked feast. Maybe it’s leaving Halloween decorations up and giving them Santa hats. Maybe it’s even not having a celebration at all and instead watching a movie with a cup of tea.

If traditional celebrations cause stress, find ways to enjoy your milestones and important moments in ways that leave you excited, refreshed and comfortable instead of stressed.

There are plenty of moments when you’ll have to do things that make you uncomfortable or anxious. Your special days shouldn’t be one of them.

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