The Holiday Season: Preparing for Anxiety

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • The holiday season is a stressful time. Between shopping, cooking, baking, attending parties and being together with family, your anxiety level can escalate. You can be proactive and take steps to not just control anxiety but prevent it. The following are some ways to lessen the chances of anxiety or panic attacks during the next month.

    Pay attention to your diet. Starting with Thanksgiving and ending with New Years, there is usually plenty of food around, and often food that isn’t good for you. Make sure to pay attention to your diet. As long as your health allows it, it isn’t bad to splurge once in a while, but try to stay on your regular diet most days.

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    Take a daily walk. Increasing your physical exercise not only balances out the extra food you eat, it can help keep anxiety at bay. Try for a walk outside for at least 20 minutes a day to relieve stress.

    Pay attention to physical and emotional signs that you are under stress. Anxiety is often accompanied by heart palpitations, stomach aches, headaches and fatigue. You might also be feeling depressed, frustrated or irritable. If you notice the signs of anxiety, take time to pull away from the preparations for the holiday and give yourself some down time.

    Block out time each week for you. Being on the go everyday can overload anyone. Make sure to schedule one or two nights a week to stay in or do something you enjoy. Block out an hour each day to unwind and relax.

    Keep your normal sleep schedule. Lack of sleep increases your chances of feeling anxious. Keep as close to your regular bedtime and wake-up time as possible.

    Drink plenty of water. Keeping hydrated is important. Dehydration makes you cranky, tired and more susceptible to anxiety. When running around, shopping or visiting friends, be sure to have a bottle of water with you to keep your hydration levels up.

    Meditate for 10 minutes every day. Surely you have 10 minutes a day to sit in a quiet space and meditate. The easiest type of meditation is to sit still and focus on your breath, making sure you are breathing from your abdomen. Imagine releasing tension every time you breath out and bringing in calmness every time you breath in.

    Be selective on what invitations you accept. During the holiday season, there is an increase in social obligations: your child’s holiday party at school, your niece’s recital, a company party, shopping, visiting friends and family. You don’t need to attend every party or event throughout the season. Choose those you feel able to attend and politely decline the others. Stretching yourself or feeling guilty if you don’t go only adds to your stress.

    Plan to meet a friend. Spending time one-on-one with a friend over lunch or a cup of tea might be just what you need. Choose a friend you feel comfortable talking with about your feelings.

    Make lists. Have a to-do list of what absolutely needs to get done and a list for shopping. Lists allow you to write down what you need to remember without having all of the information constantly flying around inside your head. Choose what items on your list you want to accomplish today.

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    Keep a master calendar. Your family probably has extra obligations during the holiday season as well. If your children need rides to and from activities, keep a master calendar so everyone knows who needs to be where. Confusion and last minute plans add to the stress level for everyone in the family.

    Identify specific areas of stress. Think about the underlying reasons for your stress. Are you dreading spending the holiday with your family? Are you worried about spending more than you can afford? Address the specific issues causing you stress.

    Finally, let go of the idea of a perfect holiday. Holiday movies and television shows give us the idea that everything should be perfect and in the end, everyone is happy. Real life doesn’t always parallel those stories. Forget what you think the holiday should be and enjoy what it is.

    More information:

    Anxiety During the Holidays: Recognizing Anxiety in Children


    Tips for Managing an Eating Disorder During the Holidays


    Helping Children with Holiday Anxiety

Published On: November 24, 2013