Do your holidays feel emotionally overwhelming? If the answer is yes, you aren’t alone. In a study published by the American Psychological Association, 61% of people often feel stressed during the holidays and stress increases 38% at this time.
Stress is a response to the environment, and anxiety is the emotion of apprehension or fear. As this is not likely the first time you have been involved in a holiday, you probably know what to expect in terms of stressors such as navigating a holiday shopping crowd or remembering to move Elf on the Shelf every night. However, when your nervousness about the holidays as a whole or a specific part takes over your emotions and causes you dread, that is anxiety. For example, a particularly critical mother-in-law coming to your house for the holidays causes you dread, so you probably have anxiety about that!
When the stress of everyday life compounds with the anxiety of the upcoming holidays, it can be difficult to manage. This anxiety can come from a multitude of areas such as strained family relationships, financial trouble, pressure to make the holiday perfect, etc.
Below are some ways to help you prevent and cope with anxiety:
Acknowledge Your Feelings
It is okay to feel the way you are feeling right now. Do not beat yourself up over your anxiety. It is liberating to accept your feelings as valid. By accepting your anxiety you are granting yourself permission to be human. Our anxiety, and all of our emotions, are part of our human nature and they are useful. If you are fearful or uneasy about a situation then there is a reason that you do. Find that reason and listen to it.
Be realistic about what you want to handle and not what you can handle. Be realistic about your budget. Be realistic about your feelings for your mother-in-law. Be realistic about your inability to attend every holiday party without running on-empty.
Making boundaries is therapeutic and necessary, especially for those prone to anxiety. Again, if you have anxiety about a particular situation or person then there is a reason for that anxiety. Once you become realistic about those reasons then learn to say no. The holidays promise joy and happiness and it is up to you to make that a reality for yourself.
Anxiety looks different on different people. For me, anxiety means curling up in bed with my dog and sleeping all day. This is not a particularly helpful. way to cope. When anxiety levels rise, so do unhealthy coping mechanisms such as inactivity, overeating, an excess of alcohol consumption, overspending, etc. The holiday also brings sugar-rich food and drink that bog your body down and effect your mental state. Exercise is proven to reduce anxiety! If you are looking for a way out of your anxiety-ridden house then taking your dog on a nice stroll around the block will be a welcome break.
It is normal to isolate yourself in anxious times but that can often lead to loneliness or fuel insecurities. There are many different ways to reach out to someone. If you have social anxiety then take courage in knowing that reaching out does not have to be in person. Cell phones, the internet, and video games are perfectly acceptable ways to reach out for connection with others. Human connection is one of the best ways to deal with anxiety in my personal experience.
Seek Professional Advice
Not all people who experience being anxious have an anxiety disorder. If you think that you might or if you’d like to talk to an impartial party to sort through your emotions, then seek professional advice.
You got this! I hope your holiday is filled with love for yourself and for others.
Check out this book list we have compiled for you on anxiety, calming techniques, and mental health. Visit Science and Technology for more books like these and also visit the Social Sciences Room at Central Library for books on stress-reduction.