By the end of November, the panic stations generally set in as we realise that the festive season is around the corner. Gifts must be bought and wrapped, cards sent, family visits and meals planned for. Work and projects need to be completed before the end of the year, while social events seem to multiply. It is a stressful time for anyone but particularly if you have generalised anxiety disorder, or any kind of anxiety.
These last two years have been difficult for everybody, with heightened feelings of isolation, uncertainty, and loss. However, those who struggle with generalised anxiety disorder might still be fighting their own personal battles, even after lockdowns and restrictions have lifted.
Listed below are some tools you can use to help cope with anxiety during the holiday season.
Maintain Your Health
It goes without saying that physical wellbeing has a positive knock-on effect for your mental wellbeing. One of the best ways to stay healthy is to stick to a daily routine, even when life becomes chaotic. Maintaining some semblance of routine will help you start the day with a sense of control and will ease you into what lies ahead.
Stick to your exercise regime, eat healthily, and get as much sleep as possible. It’s much easier to resolve a problem or finish a task after a good night’s sleep rather than pushing yourself to the limit. Try to take time in the day for a calming activity such as meditation, journaling, breathwork, listening to music, or going for a walk outdoors. Walking in nature, or even walking around the city streets and noticing people going about their day, can help take us out of our own thoughts for a moment. Even a short walk is a great circuit breaker.
Manage Financial Worries
If the thought of end-of-year spending on gifts is causing you extreme anxiety, then take a moment to gain control of the situation. Sit down and write down all the things you need to pay for and prioritise the expenses. Find places where you might be able to cut back on spending. Perhaps a thoughtful, sentimental, or hand-made gift can take the place of something expensive? If you have a lot of family or friends to buy gifts for, perhaps you can suggest a Secret Santa, or to just buy presents for the children this year. If you’re hosting a dinner, you could ask everyone to bring a plate of food, their own drinks, or something that will help to keep the costs (and the stress) lower for you.
Set realistic expectations for your end-of-year gatherings. With our current COVID climate, it may not be the fabulous family reunion you dreamed of. Not everyone has had a good year, people have different opinions, and there could be underlying stresses for everyone. If you or someone in your family struggles with generalised anxiety disorder, try to keep drinking in moderation as alcohol can be a trigger for conflict, stress, or arguments.
Opt for simplicity, play some light-hearted games, remember the spirit of the holidays, and don’t let conflict spoil the magic of the time together.
Christmas and the holidays can exacerbate one’s feelings of loneliness and isolation. Reach out to your support system of friends and family, let them know how you are feeling. Plan an activity every day to keep excitement levels high and to distract from the loneliness. Journal about how you feel and connect online with family and friends.
Community events such as markets, carol singing, and religious gatherings can be a great joy at this time, filling your cup and giving you something else to focus on. If you have the time available, why not volunteer? Helping others is a great way to help you recognise your own blessings.
There are many ways to prevent your generalised anxiety disorder from defeating you this holiday season. Take control, make lists, delegate, live healthily, and reach out when you need to. Take a break where you can, have a few deep breaths, walk around the block and take a break from the worries, and focus back in on what brings you joy and purpose.
If you find yourself overwhelmed and would like extra support, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Sydney City Psychology. Wishing you a restful and restorative holiday season.