How to Simplify the Holidays for People with Anxiety
by Jennifer Scott
For people who have anxiety, the holidays can be an especially difficult time. There are so many things that add stress to our lives during the holidays - from buying gifts, to attending busy parties, to trying to get everything ready in time, to making sure everyone has a happy holiday - that people with anxiety may not be able to handle their feelings and symptoms. To help you keep your anxiety under control this holiday season, use our guide to simplify your holidays.
Seek Help When You Need It
Help can take many forms during the holiday season. You may need your friends and family members to help you decorate your home. You may need to ask your loved ones to give you explicit lists of gift ideas so that you don’t have to worry about making everyone happy Christmas morning. It is perfectly acceptable to seek help from those you love and trust most this holiday season, and it is okay if you give yourself permission to keep your decorations and social activities to a minimum this year.
Or, you may need to see a doctor or therapist to better manage your symptoms and feelings. If you experience any warning signs of anxiety, such as anxiety affecting your physical health, work, relationships, enjoyable activities and pleasures, or use of drugs and alcohol, you need to seek help from a medical professional or support group. Your healthcare professional may decide that it is time to get a service dog to ease your anxiety.
Make Time for Relaxing Events
Colleges, churches, and organizations frequently hold concerts, exhibits, and presentations during the holidays. Make time to attend these events to help put you in the holiday spirit and relax. There’s nothing better than sitting and listening to a holiday choir or watching local kids put on a pageant. You’ll slow down, take in the sights and sounds, and feel calm and positive when you leave. You also may choose to attend these local events alone if you need time to yourself to decompress.
Be Honest with Loved Ones
If you are feeling overwhelmed or pressured, talk openly and honestly with your loved ones about your struggles with anxiety this holiday season. You may feel more anxious about offending or insulting them if you don’t attend their holiday gatherings or participate as much as they’d like you to, so be proactive and give them a clue about your anxiety ahead of time. If they know that you may step out to get some air, go to a quiet part of the house during the party, or leave early, they will understand and not take it personally, and they will be able to offer support and help you when you are ready. Communicating your anxiety to your loved ones may not be easy, but it will be key to helping you navigate holiday parties and get-togethers.
To manage your stress and anxiety, plan to spend 20 minutes of meditation or mindfulness each day. You will give yourself a break, allow yourself to recenter and refocus, and practice being grateful and positive. You will calm yourself and take control of your thoughts. Take deep breaths, find a mantra that works for you, play soft music in the background, and help yourself through the holidays by giving yourself time to be mindful.
You don’t have to have the most beautiful holiday decorations on your block, the most delicious holiday party food, or the most gorgeous gifts for loved ones. If you are realistic about your expectations and abilities, you will take some pressure off yourself and reduce your stress and anxiety this holiday season.
The best way to manage your anxiety during the holidays is to focus on simplifying and being proactive in your planning. Begin by deciding what to prioritize. If it is important to you to hang the stockings, decorate the tree, and bake cookies this holiday season, then make your lists and plan to get those tasks done. Allow for plenty of time so you do not feel rushed and ask your closest friends or family members to help if you want to spend time with them while you prepare for a joyous holiday. The more you communicate with yourself, your health care professional, and your loved ones this holiday season, the simpler it will be for you to manage your anxiety and enjoy the holiday season.
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