Even if you don’t suffer from an anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or social anxiety disorder, the holidays can stir up a lot of anxiety. Between the overwhelming list of things that needs to get done and the endless stream of social gatherings, your anxiety can rise to levels that may make you feel like a Grinch.
Whether or not you have an anxiety disorder, there are ways to calm your anxiety so that the holidays are a time of celebration:
1. Take Deep Breaths
Make deep breathing a habit when it comes to calming your anxiety disorder. When you are feeling anxious, take deep, slow breaths and count to at least four on the inhale and exhale. Slow breathing will help you master your jitters and feel more comfortable in a given situation. Whether you are waiting for your plane to board or standing in a long line during some last-minute shopping, focusing on your breathing will make you feel calmer and make the waiting pass more quickly.
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2. Manage Your Expectations
One of the best ways to stop feeling anxious is to manage your expectations about what the holidays will be like. Perhaps you imagine being able to buy a mountain of gifts for your family and friends, but don’t have the budget to do that. Perhaps you imagine a gathering where all family members get along, while some family members are estranged or rub each other the wrong way. Perhaps you imagine being able to travel to a ski resort or just being able to go home, but work or finances makes this impossible. You may not have the holiday of your dreams, but by setting manageable expectations you can anticipate situations that might not be pleasant and plan to calm your anxiety before and after them.
3. Limit Social Gatherings
Whether or not you have social anxiety disorder, the thought of attending all the social gatherings you’re invited to during the last couple weeks of the year can be overwhelming. Remember that you don’t have to attend them all and that it’s okay to say no. Don’t feel the need to attend a party every night, even if you are invited. Spending some quality time by yourself or with close family at home simply watching a movie can help you recharge and reflect on all of the good things this time of year brings and can reduce anxiety levels dramatically.
Keep a list in your pocket with ways to reduce your anxiety so that you can refer to them when needed. If you are in treatment for an anxiety disorder, talk to your therapist about the best ways for you to keep your anxiety at bay during the holidays so that you can enjoy time with your loved ones.