Dashing Through The Holidays One Step At A Time: Tips To Reduce Holiday Anxiety And Depression.
The Holiday Season is a chance to reconnect with family members, share milestones, build new memories and share in heart-felt family traditions. For some, however, the Holidays can be painful and lonely. For some Holiday seasons may trigger memories of a loved one that has died, bring up loneliness induced by a recent divorce/separation/breakup or over-exposure to toxic or difficult relatives. Holidays may also be difficult for those struggling with eating disorders or body image issues. With proper tools and coping skills this holiday season has the potential to be a joyful and memory inspiring one!
Here are a few tips to help you through the holidays:
1. Be Realistic
Being realistic means understanding that the Holidays does not have to be 'perfect' write out what you would like your experience of the holiday to be so that you aren't mindlessly going through the motions: An example of this may be "I would like to spend meaningful time with my family in conversations that reconnects us." "I would like to focus less on gifts and more on laughter this holiday." Acknowledge that difficult family members will not miraculously change for the holiday be realistic in what to expect which will decrease disappointment and set realistic expectations. If you are at a family get together with difficult personalities try pivoting away and joining more pleasant conversations. Learn to identify your cues that suggest you may be increasing in anxiety/frustration (e.g; tightness in chest or throat, tension or knots in shoulders, racing thoughts, etc) when you are aware of your cues take deep breaths, take a time out or bring a friend or other family member that may add a buffer in sticky situations.
2. Identifying When To Say "NO"
Saying YES to every request or demand on your time this Holiday season may leave you feeling stretched, resentful and overwhelmed. Ask yourself before saying YES- "Do I really want to do this?" "If I said YES would I add more stress rather than enjoyment to my life?" Realize that you do not have to be involved in all activities this season decide on the activity that will bring cheer and joy to your life and engage in those activities. Remember Saying "NO" to activities or request that leaves you feeling stressed will set the tone for a holiday season that feels more connected and happy.
3. Reach Out
The Holiday season exacerbates loneliness, depression has the potential to set in during this time. Isolating can increase depressive symptoms and anxiety. Challenge yourself to reach out to friends- initiate contact for social meetups or ask for their support during this time of difficulty, join community volunteer groups- giving back and focusing on others during this time will take the focus off loneliness and create meaningful connections. Check out: www.meetup.com there is an array of meetup groups for people navigating the holidays. WWW.volunteermatch.org can also be useful in finding community volunteer opportunities in areas of interest and in a city of your choosing.
4. Practice Mindful Eating And Healthy Self-Talk
The pressures of the Holiday can spiral you into anxieties around food intake/restrictions and body image. Remember that although there are more options and social pressures around food during the holidays you get to decide how you will interact with food. Make a food plan that is mindful and realistic. Increase physical activities if you plan on indulging a bit more this holiday season to offset weight gain and feelings of lethargy and slugginess. Take your time to smell your food, taste the layers of flavors in your food, check in with your body for levels of fullness (Scaling your levels of fullness may be helpful 0- Extremely Hungry- 10- Stuffed And Extremely Uncomfortable. Consider stop eating when you are at a 7 or 8) If there are foods you want to try but after checking in with yourself you are a 7 or 8 come prepared with tubberware and containers to bring home for intake later. Use mindful self talk to help you through each food choice. Self Talk may include: "I can control and enjoy food without food controlling me." "My emotions in the past has influenced my food choices, this time, however, I will choose to take care of my emotions and eat to survive not to soothe." Spacing out eating with socializing may help take the hyper focus off food and unto the connections with people.
5. Seek professional Help
Despite efforts to navigate the Holiday Season you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, irritable and hopeless, constantly lonely and unable to connect to social groups. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. Visit: www.psychologytoday.com to find a list of therapist in your area you can filter by therapist specialization, zip code and insurance. Take control of the holidays by taking control of your mental/emotional health.
Holidays can be joyful or it can be dreadful, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or family/personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to an emotional spiral. With proactive planning and some positive self talk, you can find peace and joy during the holidays!