Managing Anxiety During the Holidays

The other day, Academy-award-winning actress and philanthropist Viola Davis shared an image by @haleydrewthis on Instagram. In the image, an anthropomorphized scribble with legs, arms, and wide eyes is labeled “my anxiety.” In the adjacent picture, it is the same scribble but with Christmas lights, labeled “my anxiety in December.” The picture is adorable but, also, very accurate. Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean our mental health difficulties go away. In fact, for many, they can get worse. For those suffering from anxiety during the holidays, here are some tips that may help you or someone you know.

5 Tips to Help Manage Anxiety During the Holidays

  • It’s Different, but It’s Also Not: The holidays sometimes feel like they should be “extra” in every way. And while in some respects that can be true, whatever you have been doing to manage your anxiety you should keep doing. It may be that your regular coping mechanisms are enough and there isn’t anything “more” needed to feel safe and comfortable during this time. It may not be as complicated as it appears to be.
  • Shorten Your Commitments: Sometimes we can feel pressure to be “fully committed” to holiday events. If it’s gathering with extended relatives, stay the whole time. Shopping, at the same time everyone else is going. Dinner, standing in line just because everyone else is. If things feel overwhelming, it’s okay to consider an alternative approach. Maybe don’t stay as long, wait until things are less crowded, or delay getting in line for food until things settle down.
  • Be (Selectively) Vulnerable: Now, that may sound like anxiety-provoking advice but, sharing your concerns around anxiety with a supportive person(s) can be stabilizing and helpful. Find someone who is safe to share with so it is not you alone who is aware of anxious feelings. If this person is with you during the holidays they can be a regulating person to check in with.
  • Lower Your Expectations: A great source of anxiety during the holidays is the expectation around “moments”, traditions, and detailed or orchestrated events. As much as it is under your control, commit to taking the holidays “as they come” rather than in a predesigned outcome that feels like it “must” happen. Be willing to laugh at those things that don’t go as planned and commit to making memories of whatever comes.
  • Remember, Feelings Aren’t Facts: While this is true all year long, sometimes we can lose our center a bit during the holidays. Remember to ground yourself in the moment, remind yourself that you are safe, breathe slowly to reconnect with your body, and give yourself plenty of time to transition between events. Be extra committed to your downtime so that you can communicate to your body’s anxiety that it is not under threat.

Anxiety can be a difficult thing to manage during the holidays but, with a little planning, forethought, and intentionality, we can mitigate at least some of the struggle. Wishing you a most peaceful holiday.

December 19, 2022. By Anne Rulo, Author, Speaker, Therapist. FB/IG/Twitter @annemrulo 

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