The holidays are an exciting time filled with happiness and joy! Warm annual family traditions, and spending quality bonding time with friends.
Or, are they?
For many people, just the thought of entering a crowded room and carrying conversations can produce intense anxiety, depression, or in some cases even both.
Whether it is among fellow coworkers or even just strangers at a party, while exchanging gifts with loved ones and friends. Or even traveling away from home, or attending a large family gathering, stress and anxiety can take over.
Around this time of year, it is not rare for people to organize some get-togethers or parties to celebrate. Holiday parties are a common stressor. Unfortunately, they can be terrifying for people with anxiety disorders.
Particularly those who have a social anxiety disorder.
Those who suffer from this disorder may try just about anything to avoid such activities. But avoiding them will only magnify the fear associated with them.
Although some report that the holidays lift their spirits, many people say that the holiday season makes them feel very or a bit more anxious or depressed.
So, what can you do to better manage these emotions you may experience during the holidays?
How To De-Stress
You can reduce some of your holiday worry and stress by using the following New Roads tips!
1. Take The Pressure Off Yourself.
If you set high expectations for yourself and for others at holiday events, you’re more likely to feel let down. Know that some things won’t go exactly as planned — and that’s just fine.
Most people aren’t paying much attention to you or your behaviors anyway. Especially, with all of the excitement of the atmosphere they are in. In most cases, they are far to busy catching up and chatting with others in the room.
You may feel as if people are focusing on you, but in reality, most people are probably wondering what you are thinking of them.
Try giving someone in the room a compliment. Whether it be directed at something they are wearing or maybe even a feature of theirs that is most accentuating.
This can make others feel good about themselves, it can make you feel good. And that will in hopes, will reduce some stress.
2. Identifying Your Specific Concerns.
Are you maybe afraid that you will say the wrong thing at the wrong time? Or that you might do something to embarrass yourself in front of all of those people?
Remind yourself that although you may feel uncomfortable, that’s the worst that can happen to you in this situation.
3. Do NOT Look For Relief In Alcohol Or Drugs.
Although it can be tempting at times to “take the edge off” at a holiday event, alcohol and drugs can make anxiety far worse. It may possibly even trigger panic attacks.
Just remember to smile. Make eye contact and ask open-ended questions!
Most people like to talk about themselves and what their interests are. Ask other people about what their holiday plans consist of. What are their kids are doing, or what book are they currently reading?
Avoid discussing religion, politics, and other topics that can lead to heated discussions and add to your stress level.
4. Saying “NO” is Normal.
Try not to over-schedule yourself during the holiday season.
Do not feel that you have to be a people pleaser if you’re being forced to enter situations in which you are not completely comfortable.
You don’t have to be guilted by the pressures of accepting every invitation that you may receive. You might want to eliminate some traditions that cause you more stress than happiness.
Overcome Your Fears of Traveling
Holiday travel can also trigger your anxiety.
People with agoraphobia may find things such as overcrowded airports and train stations overwhelming.
People with travel-related phobias who must use buses, trains and other forms of transit, may anticipate their trips with much dread.
Those with a generalized anxiety disorder may find a host of new things to worry about while traveling. Which will in most cases, continuing interfering with their daily lives.
It’s important to remember that avoidance will not help you in overcoming an anxiety problem.
It may even bring up other uncomfortable feelings or consequences, such as being the only family member absent from Christmas dinner.
Instead of worrying about and dreading travel, consider it a chance to practice facing your fears head-on.
Try these tips to help reduce the oncoming anxiety:
1. Plan and Confirm All Details.
To decrease your stress level, try to book flights that leave early in the day when airports tend to be less crowded.
This will help you to not become too overwhelmed by the craziness. It will also help with loading the plane and getting situated more easily, which will also significantly lower your anxiety about waiting and flying.
Always confirm the flight, hotel, and car rental reservations. Allow plenty of time for packing so you can organize your belongings the way you need to and ensure to bring everything you need.
Be sure to prepare your IDs for security checkpoints and double check you have your medications.
2. Start Thinking Ahead.
Make a good list of activities that you would like to engage in while traveling.
Prepare for any potential anxiety-inducing situations that may occur by practicing a few stress-reducing techniques. Such as slow, deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation.
By doing this you will be better prepared for these types of situations and know how to properly address them in a way that is a positive method for managing anxiety and stress.
3. Put Anxiety-Reducing Techniques to Work.
If you by chance have a fear of flying, tell the gate agent or flight attendant when you check in and board. Ask if you can meet the pilot and copilot. Ask them a personal question, such as “Do you have a family?”
Seeing that the people flying the plane are “real people” can be comforting and reassuring to ensuring your safety.
If you are someone who is also very claustrophobic, you may want to request an aisle seat so you can get up and move around should you feel the need to.
This will also assist you better if getting up to walk to the bathroom on a plane builds anxiety. Having an aisle seat gives you faster access. This will remove the process of saying “excuse me” trying to get up and squeeze your way past other passengers.
4. Help Your Anxious Children
For some children, the holidays can often evoke fear and anxiety.
“Anxious children tend to be hyper-aware of their surroundings. They’re always on the lookout for possible threats or risks in new situations such as holiday parties or meeting new people,” says Elisa Nebo sine, LCSW, a Virginia therapist.
These were Elisa’s recommendations for reducing your children’s holiday anxiety:
Talk to your children about what makes them anxious during this time of year. Try to come up with a variety of ways to minimize any anxiety they might be experiencing.
Teach them how to initiate a handshake to say hello rather than hugs, if hugging is something that makes them feel uncomfortable.
Practice ways to say thank you for unwanted gifts or deep-breathing techniques for when your child feels overwhelmed.
Knowing how to better handle and approach these moments, will allow your children to react to situations far more naturally.
Eliminate The Unexpected.
Tell your child who will be attending an event prior to them arriving so that they have time to digest their guests.
If your family will have to travel, explain to your children about how you will be getting there this way there are no surprises.
Create a Secret Signal
This is a way you and your child can use to let each other know when they need your help, without alerting anyone else in the room.
This is also a fantastic alternative to asking in front of everyone for assistance and embarrassing your child.
Schedule Special Family Time.
Try to find time for your family to sit down together. Even to just play a board game, watch a favorite holiday video, make cookies, or engage in other fun and relaxing activities at home.
Maintaining the bond within your household during the holidays is just as important as it is to entertain your other friends and family.
Take Care Of Yourself.
Your children can and often tend to easily pick up on your stress much like a sponge. So, by routinely doing daily things to ensure less stress for all of you, will be most beneficial during the holidays as well.
Do your very best to make sure the entire family eats balanced meals to stay well nourished. Be sure they drink enough water throughout the day and exercise.
Keep stressful holiday shopping and other events to a minimum.
Do not forget to take care of yourself too. If you are not feeling okay, it conflicts with the order of everything else.
So take a nap, read a book, or take a long hot bath. Relaxation is one of the ways you can best approach the struggles that follow stress and anxiety.