Many people struggle with anxiety leading up to Christmas and during the holiday months. Learning to effectively cope with this anxiety can help make any holiday more enjoyable
Feeling higher levels of anxiety around the holidays is something many people struggle with on an annual basis. Seeing family members, shopping for Christmas presents, and travelling for Christmas are all contributing factors.
Coping with anxiety during the holiday season
Learning how to cope with this anxiety can help alleviate stress and make the holidays more enjoyable. In time, these learned skills can also help a person deal with anxiety throughout the year.
Accepting What Cannot Be Controlled
One of the main sources of anxiety is worrying about situations or factors that a person has absolutely no control over. During the holidays, variables such as bad weather, family grudges, or long lines at the shops are examples of situations that cannot be controlled by any individual. However, these stressful situations can cause a person to isolate oneself to an unhealthy degree.
Coping with anxious or stressful situations can be difficult; when possible, a person will often avoid stressful situations altogether instead of confronting their fear. Confronting this stressful situation head-on is one of the best ways to alleviate anxiety, however, especially when the person realises that things are not always as bad as they originally thought. Letting go of factors that cannot be controlled can provide the confidence needed to address these worrisome situations.
Keeping the Past in the Past and Staying in the Now
Holiday stresses can be the result of past experiences which turned out to be negative. If a family fight occurred one year during Christmas, for example, a person may become anxious each following holiday when the same family members are in attendance. The fear can be that if a bad situation happened once before, it will probably happen again. However, this is an irrational thought that holds no real bearing on how a particular situation will play out.
The only certainty that exists when dwelling on the past is how these thoughts will negatively affect a person’s emotion. Instead, focusing on the present along with what is actually happening is healthier than dwelling on something that happened long ago. People learn from past experiences but are not controlled by them.
Avoid Forming Unrealistic Expectations
Face it; no Christmas gathering or season will ever be 100% perfect. Shops will always be busy, family members are going to have disagreements, and weather will always cause inconveniences. Forming expectations that these factors “need’ to be different this year is simply an irrational thought. In fact, all that a person will experience is disappointment once he or she realises that these expectations cannot be met. Instead, focus more on accepting these situations as they come and realise that a holiday experience is not defined by these factors alone.
While recalling past experiences can be helpful in learning from one’s mistakes, allowing these experiences to define one’s future can be unhealthy. Holidays are meant to bring families and friends together for a time of enjoyment, not for fear and worry. Practicing a few anxiety coping techniques along with focusing on the present can help anybody have an enjoyable holiday season.
The Mental Health Foundation and Mind have lots of information and resources to support you.