Gratitude, generosity and joy are just a few of the emotions we’re expected to feel when the holidays roll around. However, many of us also face feelings of stress, worry, regret and anxiety. Though these feelings are nothing to be ashamed of, it’s important to develop healthy coping mechanisms for when we feel overwhelmed during the holidays.
Sometimes, the best way to cope with these feelings is to distract yourself and get out of your own head for a while. Here are five tips to help you overcome holiday anxiety and be able to enjoy the best parts of this merry season.
1. Connect with a Support Group
Seeking support for holiday triggers can be a successful strategy for navigating the season. Whether you’re traveling or staying near home this holiday, many areas have a variety of support groups you can attend. If you’ve never been to one, now might be a good time to get some experience under your belt. It can be helpful to listen to others who are in similar situations, and you could even share what’s causing your own anxious behavior. When we’re able to address our problems, we can work toward resolving them. Support groups offer an invaluable way to face your issues and take the steps to conquer them.
2. Go for a Walk
Don’t be afraid to go outside and escape the chaos by going for a walk. Put some headphones on and listen to a podcast or some music that helps you unwind. Taking the dog out for a walk can also help to put your worries at ease, since exercise can help relieve anxiety. It’s always a good idea to have an escape plan before facing stressful situations, and excusing yourself for a walk can be the perfect strategy. Give yourself permission to slip away when you need to — there’s nothing wrong with partaking in self-preservation!
3. Pick Up a Book
A good book can help you escape reality, even if just for a little while. Many people find that they feel better after picking up a book and taking a quick mental break. Even if you’re not a regular reader, try cracking open a book that sounds interesting when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Even if it’s just for a few hours over the holidays, you may find that reading is exactly what you need to help relieve your anxiety.
4. Take Deep Breaths
Though deep breathing may sound like an obvious coping mechanism, it works. We all breathe involuntarily, but how often do we stop to take a few deep inhales? Taking a long, deep breath fills your body with extra oxygen and helps you to feel calmer. The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself to breathe deeply — it’s like a reboot to your system. Even if you must leave the room to do so, allow yourself to take a breather. It may be just the thing you need to re-center yourself this holiday season.
5. Play a Game or Do Something That Challenges You
You may think that playing a game could be counterproductive — competition can cause anxiety! It’s true that certain games can definitely be uncomfortable at first. If you can get past the initial social anxiety of competing, however, you may find out that you’re more than capable of getting out of your comfort zone. Take out a deck of cards, play an old family favorite or create a new game altogether. Whether it’s from the competition itself or the distraction of playing a game, you’ll find that your mind is taken off your anxiety.
BONUS: Embrace Your Inner Child
Focus on a positive holiday memory that you have and let yourself reminisce on a simpler time and happy moment. Pick up an old photo album or share stories with the people you’re with. It may be a little bit uncomfortable at first, but you might be surprised by how much you enjoy reflecting on some of the holidays from your past.
Everyone who struggles with anxiety has their own ways of coping with it. None of these coping mechanisms are guaranteed to work for everyone, but that’s alright. What’s important is that you find the strategies that work for you. Hopefully, these tips will help you manage anxious feelings this holiday season.