‘Tis the season filled with … joy? Theoretically, we’re all supposed to feel jolly this time of year. But you’re not alone if a tiny bit of sweaty dread occurs as those twinkle lights appear. The holidays can be a lot, with endless to-do lists and expectations flying at you from every which way, not to mention hopping from event to event with family and friends. So, how are you supposed to navigate this time of year when your old friend anxiety decides to tag along?
First, know that you are not alone. Anxiety, and more specifically Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), impacts more than 6.8 million American adults. Only about half of those adults are receiving treatment for their illness. Many more of us may be experiencing symptoms that can be intensified by things like the holidays, travel, and other big life events.
Is it just anxiousness or a disorder?
If you feel butterflies in your tummy when you think of buying the right gifts for the people you love, setting off on a holiday vacation, or hosting a party, these are normal signs of anxiousness. What is important to recognize, though, is that if those butterflies turn into sleepless nights or constant worry or dread, GAD may be to blame. If you think you may be suffering from GAD, then you should seek the help of a trained professional. After all, no one wants to go through their holidays (or life for that matter) with constant worries and stress.\
What should you do if you have anxiety?
If you already have an anxiety disorder, are feeling highly anxious, or think you may need to seek help, it can feel overwhelming to even consider the approaching holiday season. That’s why it’s important to have some tools you can use when stress kicks into high gear. Managing anxiety will mean setting boundaries, learning that you don’t need to meet everyone’s expectations, and taking good care of yourself. Here are our big helpers:
Keep things simple.
Don’t take on too much trying to give everyone the greatest holiday ever. Instead, keep gifts, meals, and even parties as simple as you can. This is also a great way to remember the true meaning of the holidays: spending time with those you love the most.
Just say no.
Along the same lines as keeping things simple is getting comfortable saying “no.” You don’t need to attend every party or purchase a gift for every person you know. Does your family really want you to host this year’s holiday feast? Only do it if you really want to. Otherwise, drop a “no” and offer to help someone else out with the food in their home.
Make time for yourself.
Self-care for those suffering from anxiety is as important during the holidays as it is at every other time of year. Find something that truly brings you joy or helps you to de-stress. Make sure to set aside plenty of time for doing absolutely nothing. On top of that, eating healthy and staying active are great ways to manage anxiety.
If you’re worrying about things such as an upcoming party, travel, or holiday spending, take some time to soothe your concerns through planning. For example, if you’re worried that you will end up spending too much money on gifts, create a budget for yourself and stick to it.
Ask for help.
Remember, the holidays aren’t meant to be carried by one person alone. Ask your partner and family for help in planning events, gifts, and more. Furthermore, if you feel that you are beginning to worry so much that it is impacting your daily life, seek professional help. Getting the treatment you need could be the best holiday gift you could give yourself.
Anxiety might be a guest this season, but it doesn’t have to ruin your holiday spirit. Take good care of yourself so you can enjoy this time of year with your closest and dearest family and friends.