As beautiful as they may seem from the outside, the holidays aren’t always a time of cheer and warm feelings. If you struggle with anxiety, you probably know this is true.
Maybe you experience anxiety throughout the year but getting through the holidays adds another layer of complications. Or perhaps the holidays are one of the only times during the year when you do have anxiety.
No matter what your situation is, it’s crucial to know that you can do things to cope with anxiety during this season.
Evaluate and Identify Triggers
The holidays bring a long list of expectations: shopping, cooking, parties, family gatherings, performances. It’s enough to make even the calmest person feel overwhelmed.
Have you already identified what exactly it is about the holiday season that triggers your anxiety? It could be choosing (and paying for) gifts. Maybe it’s those social gatherings involving people you don’t know well, or at all. You’d rather stay at home than go to your work party or yet another performance of The Nutcracker, but you feel like you can’t say no.
Take time to evaluate what might be causing your anxiety during the holidays. If you can’t pinpoint specific reasons, that’s okay. But if you can, that’s the knowledge you can use to build coping skills.
Rely on Your Coping Techniques
Speaking of coping skills, they’re invaluable in carrying you through the holidays. There are time-tested, clinically proven ways of helping yourself deal with anxiety no matter what time of year it is. Whether or not you’re familiar with them already, it’s always good to review.
Slow down, close your eyes, and focus on breathing deeply for a few minutes. In through your nose and slowly out your mouth is the best way to approach this. When you breathe deeply, you’ll help your body feel calmer.
When you don’t get enough rest, you’re more prone to experience anxiety from the stress of holiday busy-ness. Of course, the increased expectations and social engagements of the season can make this a catch-22. Prioritize rest, however, and you’ll be better off.
Alcohol, caffeine, and sugar are not helpful when you’re struggling with anxiety. While they certainly can be tempting, they can leave you feeling more jittery and lessen your coping skills. Look for other sources of comfort, such as herbal teas, hot baths, and massages.
Take a brisk walk around the block to increase both your oxygen levels and those feel-good endorphins in your body. Exercise is a great stress reliever.
If you easily fall into the trap of putting yourself down or dwelling on negativity, try to catch yourself. Work on replacing that mindset with positive affirmations and empowering words. The brain is amazingly able to grow and change. Small steps really can help push the negativity and fear out of your mind.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Some people’s bodies respond to the longer hours of darkness and reduced sunlight with decreased mood. Holiday anxiety may also be at play as a result. If you think you’re experiencing SAD, reach out to a healthcare provider.
Free Yourself from Expectations
While it isn’t always easy to do, freeing yourself from holiday expectations can go a long way toward reducing your anxiety. You don’t have to jump headfirst into the whirlwind of the season.
Instead, you can thoughtfully consider what aspects of the holidays are most important to you. Don’t be afraid to be picky about what you’ll participate in. When you let go of expectations, whether your own or those of others, you’ll open yourself up to more calm and joy.
If the holidays are causing you more distress than usual, consider reaching out for anxiety treatment. Together, you can find a way toward greater joy and peace.