The holidays are opportunities to celebrate, have time off from work, and spend extra time with family and friends. Unfortunately, holidays come with so much preparation and so many expectations that they can cause a great deal of stress for anyone, especially those dealing with anxiety.
Preparing for a party or holiday event can involve many anxiety-provoking aspects: shopping for the perfect gift for each person on your list while watching your budget; planning the perfect menu and shopping for food; cleaning the house and preparing for guests; and dealing with crowds and the family members who rub you the wrong way.
You feel pressure to do everything “right” while you may also feel underappreciated for all your efforts. You may feel obligated to attend certain parties or see certain people. And, of course, you worry about paying for everything when the bills come in.
If you struggle with anxiety, even just thinking about these things can cause you to feel unhinged. There are no easy answers, but there are certain steps you can take to help you not only cope with the upcoming holidays but actually enjoy them.
- Manage Expectations – Yours and Theirs
Know your limits and “just say no” to some things. Tell yourself firmly that you can’t do it all, and believe it. Choose several things that are important to you and focus on them. You will be pleased with the results of those few items that you had the time and the energy to do well.
You also need to communicate this plan clearly to others. Only the people who are important to you really matter. Tell them your plans and why – you want to be able to really enjoy the holidays like everyone else by managing the anxiety-provoking activities. This is what you are going to do, and these are the events you will be able to attend. Those who love you will support you.
- Take Care of Your Health – Physical and Mental
This is particularly difficult during the holidays, but there are a few things you can do. Try to maintain your routine, which calms the anxious feeling because you know what to expect. Maintain sleep and exercise habits, and eat as healthily as possible. Exercise is proven to reduce anxiety and depression, as are sleep and good nutrition.
Allow yourself time to step away and rejuvenate in the midst of get-togethers. Again, in order to do this, you need to communicate with your loved ones. Tell them that you’re not angry or upset with them and you aren’t being rude or snobby. You are rejuvenating because you love them and want to spend quality time with them. If you have to leave entirely, they should know that it’s not a reflection on them. You’re there because you love them and want to see them, but you have limits and need to get your sleep or your quiet time.
- Avoid These Common Pitfalls
Don’t set high expectations. People are people and they have their own personality quirks. Whatever a person’s quirk is, the holidays will amplify it. Try to have patience with them as you want them to have patience with you. Don’t self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. This makes anxiety worse and can trigger an anxiety attack. And finally, don’t isolate yourself. Being alone too much can also increase anxiety and depression.
If needed, I can help you develop the skills to prepare for and cope with the holidays, so don’t hesitate to reach out.