By Deborah Brosseau
No one is immune to anxiety during the holidays. The challenges of our everyday lives do not cease as we move into December, and the particular demands of the season become like icing on the stress cake. For some, the anxiety can come from stretched finances or stretched time. For others, it might be just the thought of negotiating difficult family gatherings, social time with co-workers, or feeling loneliness. And when you already have an anxiety disorder, those additional stressors can put minds and bodies into stress overdrive.Of all the possibilities of the holidays and impending new year, we deserve to feel the joy and wonder of it all as much as possible. So coping skills for managing anxiety during the season can be part of our self-care toolbox.
Here Are 7 Ways To Manage Anxiety During The Holidays:
1. Make sure your self-care techniques are in focus and accessible. It can be easy to forget we have the tools to get us through feelings of overwhelm when we are actually in overwhelm. Post-it notes with reminders to breathe, phone alarms with positive affirmations, or a gratitude journal on next to your bed can offer strong visual reminders that you have a care plan. Keep sense-soothing devices like fragrant candles, snuggly slippers, and your favorite tea nearby. Build up your Netflix queue with some favorite films.
2. Stay connected. Sure, everyone is extra-busy during the holidays, and it’s easy to fall into the “I don’t want to be a burden” hole. Your support system exists for times just like this: when you need them. If you want a brunch companion, a shopping buddy, or just to talk, reach out. This goes for support meetings as well. Try to keep your meeting commitments; there will always be someone in the rooms. If going out becomes challenging due to traffic or other hindrances, consider online or phone meetings.
3. Set holiday-specific boundaries. Remember “no” is a complete sentence., and your “yes” should feel comfortable. There may be some commitments you make to keep the peace, or simply because it’s just one a year. That’s OK. Within those commitments, you’re entitled to set some boundaries, whether they be about how much time you allot, or how much money you’re willing to spend, or what conversations are had. Planning your boundaries ahead of time – maybe even in writing – in detail can offer some confidence should you need to actually implement them.
4. Volunteer. The emotional benefits of volunteering are well-documented. It’s another way to find connectedness. You meet a group of people outside of your peer network, can do some networking in different fields, and practice social skills (or maybe some practical skills as well). It’s also a unique perspective builder and an opportunity to see the world in an entirely new way. Giving of yourself to benefit those in need enhances both empathy and self-esteem, while being part of a solution can be inspiring and uplifting.
5. Exercise. The holiday foods are tempting, and for some of us, over-indulging can happen. Sticking to a fitness routine can offset some of the green and red bedazzled sugar cookies or any variety of stress-eating. And getting those healthy hormones kicked in is a natural mood elevator. Reminder: frenetic shopping and harried party-going may burn calories, but they do not count as focused exercise. Even if you can only squeak in 10-15 minutes a couple of times each week, you’ll benefit. If going to a gym sounds like too much, YouTube to the rescue!
6. Mindful eating: Watching what you eat isn’t just about portion control and exercise to offset calories. What you eat impacts mood as significantly as it impacts weight. Some foods have been found to reduce anxiety. During the holidays, consider adding more leafy greens for calming vitamins and minerals. Nuts like cashews and almonds have positive fats. Asparagus has anti-anxiety properties, as does avocado. Probiotic foods like sauerkraut and pickles can reduce the experience of social anxiety. If you’re not a vegan, eggs, liver, and fatty fish like salmon are recommended.
7. Create your own positive holiday memories. We don’t need to gauge our own experience of the holidays by negative experiences in the past. We can make own special, positive memories and rituals. For some, that could be having your own Christmas tree filled with nothing but cat ornaments, or decorating your space only in Krampus figurines. Maybe making your own holiday dinner with all your favorites can be a new ritual. Finding an elaborately-lighted street in your area can inspire wonder.
Having a year-end coping strategy can help minimize the anxiety that might come with the holidays. Adjusting expectations of ourselves and others can make the holiday overwhelm more manageable, and even more enjoyable. And we deserve that.