It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but if you cope with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or social anxiety, the holidays can be particularly stressful. Managing your expectations, celebrating responsibly, knowing your limits, and seeking the support of trusted family and friends are a few of the ways you can manage holiday stress.
Tips for coping with holiday anxiety
Below are a few tips and techniques that can help you manage stress and anxiety during the busiest time of year.
Manage your expectations
If your family get-togethers are typically stressful, chances are they will still be stressful during the holidays. If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, your holiday traditions could bring up memories that amplify your grief. Managing realistic expectations for the holiday season can prevent further frustration and disappointment.
Drug and alcohol use can make symptoms of anxiety worse. Celebrating responsibly is particularly important if you are in recovery from a substance use disorder. If you think the temptation to use drugs or drink alcohol would be too difficult to avoid, consider skipping out on events where drugs and alcohol are present. Friends and loved ones that support your sobriety will understand.
Know your limits
Make a note of the type of situations that trigger your anxiety. For example, if being in a large crowd causes you to have feelings of panic, attending a friend’s holiday block party might be too stressful. If you do want to attend a large party, consider showing up early before most guests will arrive. Alternatively, invite the host to a small dinner with just a handful of your closest friends.
Lean on your support system
A healthy support system can help you better manage your mental health. Trusted family members, close friends, your therapist, and supportive co-workers are all valuable resources when you’re feeling anxious or low. Let them know that you may need additional support this season and what that looks like. Maybe it’s a simple text message or a short phone call. Support can also take the form of an extra therapy session or taking a mental health day in the weeks leading up to the holidays.
Getting help for anxiety
Treatment for anxiety can include a combination of therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Treatment can vary, just as anxiety symptoms vary from person to person. Speak with your doctor or counselor at any time about the symptoms you’re experiencing so that they can recommend the right mental health services for you.
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