The holiday season is often a time of joy, togetherness, and celebration. However, for some, it can be a source of heightened anxiety. The stressors associated with the holidays, ranging from social obligations and financial pressures to the disruption of routines, can contribute to increased anxiety levels. But there are strategies you can employ to manage and reduce holiday anxiety. Let’s explore those.
The Holiday Anxiety Dilemma
Before we dive into effective coping strategies, let’s talk about why anxiety tends to spike during the holidays. By recognizing the underlying causes, you can better address and manage these stressors.
- Unrealistic Expectations: One of the primary factors contributing to holiday anxiety is the pressure to create a picture-perfect celebration. From hosting flawless gatherings to finding the ideal gifts, we often set unrealistic expectations for ourselves. These expectations can lead to a sense of inadequacy. If left unaddressed, it can feel overwhelming.
- Financial Stress: Holiday-related expenses, including gifts, travel, decorations, and parties can place a significant strain on your wallet. The fear of overspending or the pressure to keep up with extravagant gift-giving can result in financial stress, which, you guessed it, increases anxiety.
- Social Obligations: Holiday parties, family gatherings, and work-related events can become overwhelming, especially for those with social anxiety. The fear of judgment, rejection, or awkward interactions can intensify during these gatherings, contributing to holiday anxiety. Even for those without social anxiety, the sheer volume of “peopling” can be a lot.
- Disrupted Routines: Most people find comfort in their routines. The holidays often disrupt our daily routines. Changes in sleeping patterns, eating habits, and exercise regimens can throw your body out of balance, making it more susceptible to anxiety.
Coping with Holiday Anxiety
Now that we’ve talked about some of the most common causes of holiday anxiety, let’s talk about some practical and effective ways to reduce and manage it. Remember, you don’t have to let anxiety steal the joy of the season. With the right tools, you can find a happier, more relaxed holiday season.
- Set Realistic Expectations: First, it’s very helpful to adjust your expectations. Instead of striving for perfection, focus on creating meaningful moments. Understand that no holiday celebration is flawless, and that’s perfectly okay. Embrace imperfection as a part of the human experience.
- Create a Budget and Stick to It: To alleviate financial stress, establish a clear holiday budget. Determine how much you can comfortably spend on gifts and other expenses without straining your finances. Sticking to a budget can help you make informed decisions and avoid overspending.
- Prioritize Self-Care: In the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations and social gatherings, don’t forget to prioritize self-care. Dedicate time to activities that help you relax and recharge. Whether it’s reading a book, taking a leisurely bath, or taking a long walk and enjoying nature, self-care is a great way to manage anxiety.
- Plan and Organize: Planning and organization can significantly reduce holiday stress. Make to-do lists, set a schedule, and delegate tasks when possible. Having a structured plan in place will help you stay on top of your responsibilities, and prevent last-minute chaos and the stress that comes with it.
- Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness involves staying present in the moment and acknowledging your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Engaging in mindfulness exercises, such as meditation or deep breathing, can help you stay grounded and calm during the holidays. We share some mindfulness exercises in Beyond the Spiral.
- Seek Social Support: Don’t hesitate to lean on your support system during the holidays. Share your feelings with friends and family who can provide emotional support and understanding. You’re not alone in your holiday anxiety and connecting with loved ones can be immensely comforting.
- Set Boundaries: Boundaries can be very important and it’s perfectly acceptable to set them during the holidays. If you feel overwhelmed by social commitments or family obligations, communicate your needs with honesty and kindness. Prioritize your mental well-being and choose engagements that align more closely with your comfort level.
- Incorporate Physical Activity: Regular physical activity can be a powerful tool for managing anxiety. Even a short walk or a quick workout can release endorphins, which are natural mood boosters. Make time for exercise to keep your mind and body in balance.
- Seek Professional Help: If your holiday anxiety becomes too overwhelming to manage on your own, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Therapists and counselors can provide guidance and coping strategies tailored to your specific needs. Remember that reaching out for assistance is a sign of strength, not weakness. For more urgent situations, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline.
- Focus on Gratitude: The holidays are an excellent time to reflect on the things you’re grateful for. Keeping a gratitude journal or simply taking a moment each day to appreciate the positive aspects of your life can shift your focus away from anxiety and toward a more positive outlook.
The Joy of a Low-Anxiety Holiday
Holiday anxiety may be a common challenge, but it doesn’t have to overshadow the joy of the season. Remember, the holiday season should be a time of connection, love, and celebration. You deserve to experience it with a peaceful and happy heart.
By identifying the root causes of your anxiety and implementing practical coping strategies like these, you can navigate the holidays with confidence and serenity. Remember, you have the power to create a holiday season that is truly meaningful and joyous.