There are a handful of emotions that we are expected to feel when the holiday season rolls around. Gratitude, generosity and anything else of the like. But what no one wants to mention are the feelings that many of us actually will be experiencing: stress, worry, regret, nostalgia and — let’s not forget the “A” word — anxiety. I think it’s important to recognize that these feelings are nothing to be ashamed of, and I think we can all use some more coping mechanisms for when we feel overwhelmed during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
Below you will find five ways that could help you when dealing with your holiday anxiety. They are intended to get you out of your head for a bit, and allow you to enjoy what the season is all about for you.
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1. Connection / Support Group
Whether you’re traveling or staying in an area that you’re familiar with this holiday, there are support groups that you can attend. If you’ve never been to one, now just might be a good time to get some experience under your belt. Seeking assistance for holiday triggers is nothing to feel bad about. It will be good for you to listen to others who are in your shoes, and potentially even share what’s causing your anxious behavior. When we can address a problem that we’re having, we can work toward resolving it, and support groups could be what helps you the most. Don’t knock it until you try it!
2. Go for a Walk
Don’t be afraid to go outside, escape the chaos for a bit, and go for a walk. Put some headphones in if you’d like, and listen to a podcast or whatever helps you unwind. Whenever I find that my anxiety is a bit louder than usual, I take my dog for a walk. That always calms me down. If something as simple as walking outside could help ease your holiday anxiety, why not grant yourself the permission to slip away if you need to? There’s nothing wrong with partaking in some self-preservation!
3. Pick Up a Book
There’s nothing I love more than picking up a good book to escape for an hour or so. I have discovered that when I can find an hour to dive into another world, such as with a book, I always feel much better mentally once that hour is over. I’m not sure what it is about reading or the satisfaction I get from turning a page, but even if you’re not a reader, I highly suggest giving it a chance when feeling overwhelmed. You don’t have to be an avid reader to gain the benefits of a book, even if it’s just for one hour over the holidays.
4. Take Deep Breaths
This sounds like such an obvious coping mechanism, but seriously … try it! Yes, we all breathe involuntarily, but how many of us actually stop and take a few deep breaths? Our body may breathe for us, but it certainly doesn’t take in more than what’s required. I actually have to remind myself that deep breathing is an option for me, and even after the first deep inhalation, I automatically feel better. It’s truly amazing what a few good seconds of breathing can do for you. Even if you must leave the room to do so, allow yourself a breather; it may just be the thing you need this holiday season.
5. Play a Game or Do Something That Challenges You
I know what you’re thinking. “A game? That has anxiety written all over it!” Yes, playing certain games can definitely be uncomfortable at first, but if you can get past the initial social anxiety of competing, you just may find out that you’re more than capable of getting out of your comfort zone. So, take out a deck of cards, play an old family holiday favorite, or create a new game altogether! A little competition never hurt anyone, and it may be just the thing to cure your holiday anxiety.
BONUS! Allow yourself a moment to 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 ones 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.
Anyone you know who struggles with holiday anxiety can give you at least one way they cope with it. It may not work for you, and that’s okay, but what’s important is that you look for ways to get better. Life is a trial and error process of what works, and what doesn’t, but I hope at least one of the above ways will help you this holiday season.