Here we are, in the full swing of holiday season. There will be festivities of all sorts, twinkling lights, and a special magic in the air. But there's also a ton of pressure that comes with the holidays, and it can stir up some nasty anxiety for a lot of people (myself included). In fact, almost a quarter of Americans feel “extreme stress” come holiday time, according to a poll by the American Psychological Association. Let's break this down a little bit, because if your anxiety is creeping in, know that you're not alone.
- 69% of people are stressed by the feeling of having a “lack of time.”
- 69% are stressed by perceiving a “lack of money.”
- 51% are stressed out about the “pressure to give or get gifts.”
Then there's the slew of parties and pressure to see everyone...or lack there of that perhaps make you feel like you're not enough. And in politically charged times, it's also easy to worry about strained relationships with family. Whatever is causing your holiday anxiety, here's what I do to help manage mine.
Stick To A Routine
This is something that's hard to do when your schedule gets full or you're traveling, but doing things that feel familiar have a calming effect. For instance, I usually work out three times a week, so I try to keep that going during the holidays. When I'm traveling, I scope out a trial at a gym or go for a run (if it's not too cold...I'm from the midwest, and those winters are BRUTAL). It's a much needed break that helps me regroup, especially when I'm staying with family, and I make sure not to pack my schedule so much that I can't fit it in. Your routine doesn't need to be fitness-based. It's really whatever you normally do. Journaling, reading quietly with a cup of coffee, watching an hour of Netflix by yourself, making breakfast⎯whatever your thing is.
I know meditation is on every 'how to deal with anxiety' list, and in the past I would roll my eyes with skepticism. But here's the thing⎯I've been trying it, and it's actually working. Since I've started using the ten minute guided meditations on the Calm app, I'm able to recognize anxious feelings when they arise, and, instead of fighting them, acknowledge them and breathe through it. I've also been able to emotionally disconnect from racing thoughts, seeing them for what they really are⎯just thoughts. And I've only been doing it for a month now. I highly encourage you to try it. Especially the 7 Days of Gratitude series, which is perfect for the holiday season, when we often feel like we aren't enough or don't have enough.
Put Self Care Over Socialization
Yes, there are parties to go to, family get togethers, gifts to shop for--allllll the things to do and people to see, really. But sacrificing self care to fit everything in isn't helping you at all. A panelist at a women's empowerment event that I recently attended said something that stuck with me: Busy is not a status symbol. Take time for yourself to do whatever makes you feel good, and don't put yourself into situations or around people that exacerbate your anxiety. If that means not flying to visit certain family members or that friend who's kind of a friend, but makes you feel bad, you have full permission to opt out. Not saying being anti-social is the way to go, but if you know your boundaries and buttons, it's easier to step away before things get out of hand.
It's incredibly effective to speak to someone who has studied the human mind and psychology, and is literally there to listen to you. Having someone who is trained to help you deal with your anxiety is a powerful tool. And it doesn't have to be a long term thing (although that is great, too). If you're thinking, "Oh that's just another thing I'll need to add to my schedule," you can do online therapy from the comfort of your couch. There are options out there like Talkspace that match you with a licensed therapist for online sessions.
Get Enough Light
Now that Daylight Savings Time has made the sun go bye-bye at 4:30 p.m., it's hard to get the much needed Vitamin D from sunlight. I suggest waking up earlier, going on a walk during lunch break, getting a light therapy lamp, or all of the above.
Overall, it's the holidays, so enjoy yourself and eat what you want, but I like to balance it with clean eating when I'm not feasting. I make sure to get enough vegetables and fruits, and also try not to skip meals, even when things get super busy. Meal prepping helps with that, and I also like the JUS by Julie meal replacement packs, which are great for those days when I need breakfast or lunch on the go.
These are all things that work for me. Everyone is different, but I hope they help with your holiday anxiety. And if you want more tips on how I deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder, you can check them out here.