Are you dealing with a case of Holiday Anxiety?
What is it about this time of the year that makes us both excited with anticipation for the holiday celebrations yet puts our anxiety into overdrive? I love Thanksgiving and Christmas. The smell of delicious food cooking, the gathering of family and friends and the spectacular decorations, there is no other time of year that is as festive and heartwarming. Yet among the cheery atmosphere I have a tendency to feel rushed, overwhelmed and all of the physical symptoms when my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) rears its ugly head.
The hustle and bustle of the holidays is enough to stress out those of us who have nerves of steel, however it is especially hard if you already suffer from anxiety and depression symptoms. Instead of letting stress take the joy out of this happy time of year, let’s look at the 10 best ways we can get a grip on our anxious minds and find peace among our organized chaos.
Procrastination is a buzzkiller! Instead of waiting the day before your holiday dinner or party, plan well in advance to avoid the anxious dash to the grocery and frenzied activity you know will dampen your mood and put your entire event at risk of failure.
It is a good idea to plan your décor, table arrangements, menu, invitations and other needs at least a month ahead of time by writing everything down and checking off your list as you get things accomplished. I don’t know about you, but when I check off something on my to do list, I instantly feel a little bit lighter and happier. Get your groceries for the event at least a week in advance and of course make a list so you do not forget anything you need.
Do not try to be Wonder Woman or Super Man because you will fail. We are only humans and can only do so much in a certain amount of time. If you are hosting a party and will feed a large crowd, make it a pot luck and have your guests contribute a dish. Distribute a list so everyone can coordinate what they bring that way you do not have too much or too little of anything.
It is perfectly okay to get help from catering too. If your invitees are under 10 people and you plan to do all of the cooking, prepare what you can well in advance and keep it in the refrigerator. Give yourself plenty of time to get everything ready and take relaxing breaks along the way.
Designate “me time” Each Week
We all need time for ourselves even more so when we have been extra busy. Set a date and time each week to tune off from the world and do something that you enjoy whether it is a warm bubble bath, glass of wine with a great book or a romantic movie. Do not let anything except an emergency interfere with your me time. You need this time to unwind and recharge.
Get Plenty of Rest
We all know this, but do we actually do it? If you do not get enough sleep, you are depriving your body of the time it requires to rebuild cells, strengthen your immune system and give you energy. All of these things are vital to combating stress and depression.
Even if you think you do not need much sleep, try to get a good 7-8 hours of sleep every night. This is even more important to combat holiday anxiety. If you have trouble drifting off or staying asleep, try a natural sleep aid such as Melatonin. Turn off all distractions and make your sleep area dark, comfortable and quiet.
Enact a Daily Schedule
Make a schedule for what you need to get done each day and how much time you need to do it. Take a good look at your schedule, and make sure it is reasonable. Never cram and overfill it. It is okay to say no to things that you just cannot fit into your day. People will understand when you turn down parties, gatherings, and other holiday activities more than you think. They probably feel the same way you do. You need to do what is best for you and only stretch yourself to the limits that you can handle otherwise you will break.
Stick to Your Budget
Plan a budget for your event or dinner over the holidays and stick to it. Financial stress is one of the number one holiday anxiety triggers. Enjoying the festivities and social gatherings should be the number one goal and you do not want to spend the days, weeks or even months afterwards regretting the financial hole you fell into.
Writing down your planned budget is the only way to realize this goal. Take your budget with you when you shop or take out the amount of cash you need rather than using a debit or credit card or check. When using cash you have a better idea on how much you can and cannot spend.
Experience Your Emotions
Perhaps you are missing a beloved family member or friend during the holiday season. It is very understandable to think of them, notice they are not in their usual chair and recall past memories and start to feel a sense of sadness especially pronounced during Thanksgiving and Christmas. All of these feelings are natural, however; we need to experience our grief and emotions so that we can heal and enjoy the holidays again like our loved ones would have wanted.
Everyone has different ways of dealing with grief and loss. Rather than bottle up your emotions and cause the negative feelings to last longer than they should, find a way to express what you feel. Some examples would be to talk to family and friends about how you feel. Share memories of your loved one, go through old photo albums together, make your loved ones favorite dish as a tribute to them and even sit down with your family and have a good cry together.
Regardless of what you do to help yourself get through the holidays without a loved one, always release your emotions and talk about your feelings. With each passing year it will get a little easier and you will learn how to cope with your feelings of loss in a positive way.
Donate Money or Time to a Charitable Organization
A good way to boost your mood and sense of well-being is to donate your time or money to make the world a better place. There are so many people who suffer and need help in our world. Take notice of your blessings and pay it forward by helping others. If you are fortunate enough to have spare money, then donate to a worthy organization or cause that helps others.
Participate in an angel adoption program or help fund a toy drive for children. You can also donate money or time to places such as soup kitchens, the Salvation Army and missions who help the homeless. All of these activities will not only help you feel better about the holidays, but they will also help other people have a better Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Do not compare your Thanksgiving or Christmas to what you see on TV, because it will not measure up. You will end up feeling empty, less than and wondering what on Earth is wrong with your crazy family! The perfect holidays we see on the Hallmark Channel and all of the wonderful happy endings are made by Hollywood and not real life examples.
In the real world, turkeys get overcooked and turn into turkey jerky, grandma’s dressing may turn into a disgusting sage casserole because her vision is going bad and she dumped a whole bottle of sage in the dressing and yes a squirrel just might run through the door and cause the dog to demolish your home like on my favorite movie Christmas Vacation.
Although these things are less likely to happen, realize they can and life is not perfect. If it were perfect, how could we really make memories? It is the crazy blunders and mishaps of our wild and imperfect lives that make good stories and give us something to talk about over the next holiday dinner.
It is Okay to be You
Sometimes during the holidays we may act like someone we are not. Perhaps it is because of the mixed company, trying to impress others or sometimes and worse yet, trying to outdo others. All of these things are unhealthy and will cause you holiday anxiety and stress instead of joy.
Find a comfortable medium. Relax and just be yourself. Do your best and do not worry about impressing others. Your best should always be good enough and if not, let it go and move on. We cannot please everyone. Never to try outdo someone else. Turning the holidays into a competition of who can out-cook, outwit or outperform is nothing but taking away from what this season is meant to be in the first place and it will leave you feeling spent. Save the competitions for a later date and focus on love, sharing, caring and giving which is what Thanksgiving and Christmas is all about.