Christmas is definitely here, but for someone with anxiety, this does not always mean that life is full of cheer. Between shopping for gifts and being expected to show up for events, it’s easy for your anxiety levels to go through the roof.
This year, use these 6 tips to manage your anxiety so that you can relax and enjoy the Christmas season.
1. Take care of your physical health. Your mental and physical health go hand in hand. Staying up too late watching films, eating too many sugary cookies and skipping workouts are all easy mistakes to make right now, which can contribute to your anxiety symptoms. While you may not always stay on track with your routine, you can make healthy lifestyle choices. For instance, you could cut out the caffeinated drinks if you sample a cookie so that you don’t get shaky from too much sugar. Getting enough sleep at night also helps you to feel more relaxed throughout the next day.
2. Know and respect your limits. People often feel stressed during Christmas due to the amount of social pressure that to attend events and buy gifts. You may also feel the need to interact with toxic people in your life. Start right now by setting boundaries which can help you avoid going past your limits. For instance, you can create an exit plan to use if you run into someone that you don’t get along with at an event. You can also tell people that you need to go home early so that you can get some sleep, or opt out of a gift exchange that makes you worry about money. All of these things are perfectly fine. Learning to respect your limits helps you to minimise the anxiety that occurs when you are forced to deal with uncomfortable situations.
3. Avoid resorting to drugs and alcohol. Drug and alcohol abuse tends to go up during Christmas, and this is a problem that occurs among people of all ages who fall for the idea that a drink or hit could improve anxiety symptoms. While these substances may temporarily help you to feel better, the withdrawal symptoms increase your anxiety. If you haven’t turned to drugs or alcohol, then continue with your sobriety by letting someone you trust know that you were thinking about it. If you think that you already have a problem with addiction during Christmas, be willing to commit to getting treatment. Your anxiety symptoms will ease up when you learn healthy ways to keep them under control.
4. Reach out for a professional perspective. Anxiety has a way of overtaking your mind to the point where you are no longer sure of what is a true concern. For instance, you may overanalyse your last interaction with a family member that just did not feel right. Alternatively, you may be overwhelmed by a growing to-do list that never seems to get done. Professional counsellors are able to help you distinguish between normal daily stress and your anxiety symptoms so that you can identify coping strategies that work.
5. Play with a pet. Your favourite furry friend has no idea that it is Christmas. Instead of holding out a hand for a gift when you see them, they greet you with unconditional love and a wagging tail. When the Christmas stress heats up, take a step back and play with your favourite pet. It doesn’t matter if you are a cat person, dog person or prefer horses. Any time that you spend with a loving animal helps lower your blood pressure and calm your anxiety symptoms. You can even use this strategy at Christmas parties where you need a break. Just invite a dog or cat to climb onto your lap and you’ll feel the anxiety melt away.
Use positive methods of self-expression. The symptoms of anxiety tend to increase as they build up. For this reason, you must find a safe and socially acceptable way to express them. Whether you love to keep a blog or prefer to play your guitar or flute, expressing your emotions allows you to get them out of your head. You can also use strategies such as going for a run when you are angry or dancing away your worries to release endorphins that help you feel better instantly.
No one should feel bad during Christmas, but anxiety symptoms don’t always care that you are supposed to be jolly. This year, make a commitment to take care of yourself, and focus on improving your lifestyle habits so that you can feel more relaxed and enjoy the Christmas season.
Dr Jeff Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, and founder and Executive Director of Paradigm Treatment Centers, who has been a respected leader in the field of adolescent mental health for more than 20 years. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California, his master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, his doctoral degree from Pacific University’s APA-approved Clinical Psychology programme, and completed his training at the University of California, San Diego’s APA-approved psychology internship programme.
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