For most people, Christmas means various social gatherings and a busy calendar for at least a month. Many look forward to the hectic party season but for those of us who suffer from anxiety, the symptoms can often get worse and more difficult to manage at this time of year. If this sounds like you then read on for tips on how to tackle anxiety during the holidays.
How to Manage Anxiety During the Holidays
1) Talk to your doctor
If you are anticipating a change in your mental well-being over the next few months it’s definitely worth speaking to your doctor. Having trouble sleeping, feeling unable to relax, and regularly having feelings of fear or panic are common symptoms of anxiety that you may feel over the Holiday season. Speaking to your doctor will help alleviate some of the worries and they will be able to review the severity of your symptoms and advise you on what treatment is available.
If you have already been diagnosed with anxiety then tell your doctor that you’re particularly concerned about the upcoming holidays and ask for advice. If you are taking medication then make sure that you have enough on hand for when the surgeries and chemists close over Christmas.
2) Manage your diet
There are a few foods that are commonly linked with anxiety and should be consumed with caution if you’re likely to be feeling anxious over the party season. December can be a busy month for everyone; catching up with friends, late-night shopping and after-work parties can take their toll, and often coffee comes to the rescue on more than a few occasions. Although coffee itself doesn’t cause anxiety, it does increase your heart rate and cause a jittery feeling which can make anxiety symptoms worse than usual. Sugar consumption has a similar effect, so try to avoid eating too many sugary foods if you know it can be a trigger for your mood. Interestingly, studies show that eating whole grains can have a positive effect on anxiety sufferers. They are rich in magnesium (a deficiency of which may lead to anxiety) and help with the production of serotonin, so try to add whole grains like oats, quinoa, and brown rice to your diet. You can find another great article with the top 10 anti-anxiety foods for reducing stress here.
3) Complete a mood journal
Feeling anxious for no reason can feel scary, especially when the feeling of fear and nervousness creeps up on you for no apparent reason. Keeping a mood journal is a great tool for analyzing your own thoughts and behaviors and can be used to help tackle these issues. Simply grab any notepad, and every hour that you are awake take note of what you’re doing and how anxious you feel on a scale of 1-10. This might seem like a lot of work at first but you can plan out roughly what you’ll be doing ahead of time and fill in your score and any other observations you make about your mood. It may also be helpful to add in anytime you have sugar, coffee or alcohol to see if these affect your score.
Over the space of a week you should be able to see what activities trigger your anxiety and which ones calm you down. For example you may feel great after a workout and anxious before the work Christmas party. Maybe it would help you schedule in a quick workout in the evening just before you go to the party to help boost your mood? When I did this I realized that my mood is better when I’m busy, even if it’s just doing a few light chores around the house or cooking a meal.
4) Plan your self-care routine
Once you’ve identified the things that help minimize your anxiety make sure to schedule those things into your routine. I personally love to write and I do this almost everyday without fail because it’s become such a habit. You may enjoy yoga, running, reading your favorite book or cleaning out your kitchen cupboards; everyone has their own way to relax and de-clutter the mind. Pick one thing each day and set aside at least 30 minutes to do something just for you, and don’t let anything get in the way of that time. There is no shame in putting yourself first during the party season, it simply ensures you’ll be feeling your best and ready to celebrate in style.
5) Be Prepared and Don't Wait Until The Last Minute
If you know that you will be responsible for shopping for gifts, don't wait until the last minute. You can find a few of my favorite gift guides here: gifts for people who have everything, gifts for foodies, gifts under $25 for women, gifts under $25 for men.