For somebody dealing with any type of mental health issue, the holiday season can be a nightmare. For myself, dealing with depression and anxiety, it is always a bitter sweet time of the year. I have always loved Christmas and all the fun family traditions that go along with it but it also meant lots of social gatherings, travel, gift buying, food preparation, etc. All of which can become very stressful and have sent my anxiety through the roof.
Two forms of anxiety that I have always struggled with were social anxiety and fear of flying. Both of these become major issues for me this time of the year as I don’t live near my family so I fly home for the holidays and there is always lots of social gatherings like work Christmas parties to deal with.
I have put together a few things that I use to help me control some of the anxiety that comes with the season. Hopefully these can be of some use to you as well.
It is OK to say NO!
I used to always try and attend every event because I felt like I had to. That it was rude to say no to any invitation or social outings. The result was that I would feel terrible during the event (physically my stomach gets very painful) and I would be totally exhausted after. It would often take me a couple days to recover my energy because of that outing. Eventually it got to the point where I would not go to any which was equally as bad. So pick and choose what events you want to attend and if you just aren’t feeling it, don’t go. If your friends truly understand and care about you, they will be accepting of your decision and won’t put on the peer pressure. Select the events you want to go to and enjoy those.
PLAN PLAN PLAN.
Whether it be what food you need to prepare, what gifts you need to buy, or your travel plans, having a solid plan and listing out all the things you need to do can be a huge help. If writing out a long list of “To Do’s” makes you feel overwhelmed, don’t get into all the specifics so that it stays shorter. Then focus on one or two tasks a day and use a different piece of paper to get more specific about those two tasks. The point is getting it on paper and organizing yourself can take the stress off your mind trying to remember everything you need to get done. Plus it always feels good checking tasks off! This has been a huge help for me as I can see what I need to do and I systematically work through it. Without the planning, my head would constantly be in flux thinking about what I needed to do and what I might be missing.
Make time for yourself!
If you are a super busy person and feel like you are always go go go, make sure you schedule time to decompress and refocus yourself. Do the things that you enjoy doing whether it be watching a movie, reading a book, exercising or whatever. That recharging time can go a long way to keeping yourself sane over the busy holiday season. I have always found that if I wear myself out, I eventually hit the wall and feel terrible. Taking the time out for myself helps me get back centered and in a better state of mind.
Use anxiety-reducing techniques.
I have always had issues with flying. To the point that I would start feeling anxious as soon as I booked the ticket which was often two months in advance. While I am much better at it now, I still need to use different techniques to help reduce my anxiety. Whether it be different breathing techniques, mediation, letting the staff know you are not the most comfortable traveler or whatever, make use of the techniques to help reduce that anxiety. I no longer rely on medication but if you should need it, use it! I do different breathing exercises and meditation as soon as I get on the plane to get my thoughts and body under control. It doesn’t eliminate the anxiety but it helps. So whatever it is about the holidays that sparks that evil monster anxiety, use all the tools at your disposal to help bring it back down.
Take care of yourself.
This one seems so simple but is often overlooked when it is the holiday season. This could go along with making time for yourself but it goes beyond that. make sure you are eating good healthy meals, getting enough sleep, and exercising. It is easy to eat a lot of yummy junk food, stay up late and forget exercise during this time of the month as there is always so many things going on. Of course you have to splurge and enjoy the junk food and some late nights but keep yourself balanced so that the body doesn’t become overtired. Anxiety and depression can often feel worse when you don’t keep yourself balanced.
These are just some of the things I have started to really focus on when it comes to the holiday season. I don’t always get it right and there are times when the anxiety or other mental health related illnesses will rear their ugly head but the more we work on being mindful of what we need to do to be healthy the better.
I am thankful that all my hard work over the last couple of years have helped me get to a place where I am much better with regards to my anxiety and depression. Having said that, I still employ these tips to make sure I am in the right frame of mind for whatever might come my way. I hope these help you as well. Feel free to ask any questions if you have any.