The holidays are a stressful time for many different reasons. Some people with anxiety have a difficult time with the many activities going on, some may be experiencing financial difficulties, sleep may suffer and the expectations of our holiday season may not measure up to the reality in our lives.
Whatever the reason, often those with anxiety feel symptoms increase and become out of control during the holiday season. When anxiety increases during this time of year, people sometimes ignore discussing it with their doctor or seeking help. They may feel it is normal to feel anxious and therefore feel they must somehow live through it or they may feel there really isn’t any help available.
The following are twenty tips for helping to keep anxiety under control during the holiday season:
1. Spend some time giving to someone else. This can be through volunteering for a local organization or just helping people that may need assistance. Helping someone else makes you feel good and reminds you of the spiritual meaning of the holiday season.
2. Lower your expectations. Keep your expectations of the season realistic with your situation. Instead of spending more money than you can afford, limit your purchases to meet your budget. Instead of believing this year the family get-together will be great, accept your relationship with your family. Instead of spending every night at a different holiday function, spend some time at home, enjoying the quiet time spent with family or friends.
3. Get plenty of rest. It is tempting to spend extra time at parties or events and then still get up early the next morning for work. But it is important to continue to get a good night’s sleep each night. Anxiety attacks can happen more frequently if you do not get the proper rest.
4. As much as rest is important, eating healthy and continuing (or beginning) an exercise program to keep up a healthy lifestyle is important to keeping anxiety attacks minimal and under control.
5. Instead of getting angry and irritated at the long lines, take the time to start a conversation with someone else standing in line and wish them a happy and healthy holiday season. Bringing a smile to someone else can improve your mood and help spread the spiritual meaning of the holidays.
6. Practice communication and listening skills. Use methods such as repeating back what someone has said to let them know you have heard them. Gently change the subject if a conversation is becoming stressful for you or for another family member.
7. Limit time spent at holiday parties, especially if you feel uncomfortable. How much time you spend at the party is not as important as being there. Come late and then excuse yourself early. Showing up is sometimes all that matters.
8. Avoid alcohol, it can increase anxiety symptoms.
9. Bring a friend with you to holiday parties to provide support.
10. If you are traveling by car to visit relatives, drive at off peak times to avoid traffic, consider resting during the day and driving after dinner instead of driving during the day.
11. Take your time driving, drive at a safe speed, don’t use your cell phone when driving and defer the right of way to an aggressive driver.
12. If traveling by air, schedule flights during off peak hours, check with the airport for scheduling changes, and give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport.
13. Remember delays at the airport are normally safety measures and done to be sure all travelers remain safe during their journey.
14. If you are prone to anxiety attacks, let a friend know you may be calling during your trip for support. Your friend may be able to talk to you and provide ways for you to remain calm.
15. If you don’t have family in the area and will not be visiting family, talk to co-workers and friends to find out who else is in the same situation. Ask if they might be interested in having a holiday dinner together.
16. If you are feeling lonely, reach out to talk with someone, whether by phone or to get together with someone for a social event. Don’t sit home feeling lonely and depressed.
17. Check the local newspaper for holiday concerts and events. These are normally low cost or free and can fit into anyone’s budget. Take your family to community events. Not only will you feel part of your community, but you will have enjoyed spending time with your family.
18. Take time out of the holiday events to spend an evening at home, quietly. Watch a movie with your family or just spend time being by yourself.
19. Plan ahead for shopping trips or entertaining. Avoid last minute scrambling to get gifts or buy supplies for cooking. Make lists and have a purpose for shopping trips.
20. Acknowledge your feelings. If you are feeling sad or highly anxious, accept your feelings. There may be a legitimate reason for feeling sad or anxious. Use strategies such as deep breathing or other relaxation techniques to help you calm down.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.