Holiday Angst, Pt 5

My family is blessed to live near the Smoky Mountains. Hiking those mountains has long been a love of ours and a couple years back, I discovered a new joy to be gleaned from that beautiful, verdant land. I started photographing the wild mushrooms that grow there along the trails. (You wouldn’t believe the varieties and colors!)

For some reason, thinking of my hobby gave me the idea for this fifth and final blog on dealing with holiday anxiety.


When preparing for those holiday family visits, I encourage you to shoot with a wide-angle lens. Leave the zoom lens in the bag.

What do I mean?

Just this. When you think of the holiday visits and the family dynamics that will come into play, what do you do? Indeed, what must you do? You have to form pictures in your mind. You cannot think of anything without pictures in your mind.

So, take great care in choosing the lens you use to shoot those pictures.

Which leads me again to reinforce the suggestion in this post. Be sure you shoot those mental pictures with a wide-angle lens, and not a zoom.



A couple of reasons.


For one, wide-angle lenses take in more of the whole.

(In fact, like our human eyes, a wide-angle lens allows us to have a field of vision that takes in nearly half of the of the 360˚ surrounding us.)

Most anxiety about holiday family gatherings comes from using a mental zoom lens –

you keep playing what someone said at Christmas three years ago that hurt you, over and over in your mind,
you remember a certain characteristic behavior of this or that person that drives you nuts,
you dread seeing your rich cousins
Dave and Mary’s child makes you want to scream
you’re still focused on your map from childhood

When you use a zoom lens, you’re limited as to what you can take in.


As I said, a wide-angle lets you shoot more of the whole. Let’s consider the above from a wider angle –

yes, I was hurt by what she said, but I know she didn’t intend to hurt me
yes, it bugs me when he does that, but he has a lot of qualities as well… and no doubt in some way I bug him
they’re rich alright, but they are great people – I’m the one with the issue about that
I’m giving a whole lot of emotional energy to that child
what better time for a fresh look at things – a new map – than the holidays

You see, a wide-angle lens lets you take in more of the whole. They give you a fuller and more accurate context.


See if you can figure out the image on the left before clicking the link on the right – perspective!

anxiety, personal growth, growth resources online


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Another reason to shoot your holiday mind photos with a wide-angle lens is that they allow for a deeper level of focus (called depth of field in photography) than a zoom lens.

This results in more of your mental shot being in focus.

You see, as wonderful as they are in their proper usage, zoom lenses flatten perspective.

For shooting the holidays in your mind… that’s not an asset. As I said in the first post of this series – magnification distorts perspective. Whether the subject is literal photo shooting or the thought shots in our mind… zooming distorts perspective.


Back away a bit – broaden your perspective. It will allow you to see things like:

yes they, like me, aren’t perfect… but there’s a lot to love about my family
the discomfort isn’t only on my side – there are ways in which I’m no piece of cake for them
when I look deeper, there is so much more to this family than just the problem spots
I wonder how things could change this year if I changed my attitude
what if I took some time to see him, and not just my grievance against him


When it comes to your family holiday field of vision, what pics are you shooting in your mind? Are you zooming in on unproductive and even petty particulars and thereby distorting the scene?

Shoot with a wide-angle lens. It allows you to see more of the whole – and to keep that whole in better focus.


Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family… and Merry Christmas!


Dr Michael Ruth, Growth Resources, Personal Growth