Tips for Managing Anxiety During the Holidays

Posted on December 13, 2017 by kerri

There are several different types of anxiety disorders, and each can have its own challenges to deal with during the holiday season. If you have an anxiety disorder, it can be helpful to work with a therapist or doctor for how best to manage your anxiety at this time of year. With that said, in today’s post, we will look at the different types of anxiety disorders, and share some general suggestions that you can try to manage your anxiety better this holiday season, in tandem with strategies personalized to you by your health care team.

a blond woman wearing a blue dress looking stressed on a moving walkway with a bag and 2 rolling suitcases
Travel can be a common source of anxiety

What are the types of anxiety disorders?

Generalized anxiety disorder is where people feel heightened anxiety or worry most of the time for months. They may feel restless or edgy, have trouble concentrating or experience their mind going blank, be irritable, have high levels of muscle tension, and be fatigued—people with GAD often also have difficulty falling asleep, struggle to stay asleep, or have fitful/restless sleep that does not leave them refreshed. [1] During the holidays, lack of energy, and constantly feeling on edge, can have a huge impact on your enjoyment of the season!

Panic disorder means a person has sudden/unexpected and recurrent “panic attacks”. These attacks may literally cause a person to feel as if they are dying or having a heart attack. They feel intense fear, and may have heart palpitations or heard/fast heart rate, sweat intensely, shake, feel short of breath or as if they are choking or being “smothered”, and generally feel a sense of “impending doom”. [1] People with panic disorder may also feel out of control, avoid places or situations that have previously triggered an attack, or avoid places they have experienced a panic attack. [1] As well, many people can disguise even these very stressful symptoms well, so people do not know that they are having a panic attack. During the holidays, this may make it difficult to enjoy yourself, not knowing if or when a panic attack could occur.

Social anxiety disorder have immense fear of social situations—they feel as if they may offend others, be embarrassed or do something wrong, and that others are judging or rejecting them. [1]  They may worry excessively in advance of an event—for days or weeks—and they may stay away from unfamiliar places or people, and have trouble making and keeping friends. They may have physical symptoms of anxiety, such as feeling sick or nauseous, or blushing profusely, sweating, or shaking around other people. [1] Family gatherings, parties, or dinner with friends can be extremely stressful for people with social anxiety disorder.

How to cope during the holidays

If you live with an anxiety disorder, the holidays can be a tough time of year with all the chaos, people, and events. Following this advice along with your regular self-care may help you cope. [2]

  • Practice anxiety reducing techniques like meditation, breathing exercises, coloring, or other coping strategies you have developed, more regularly during the holidays. Make time for self care!
  • Don’t over schedule yourself. Let others know if you need help—easier said than done, I realize. Texting or e-mailing them in advance might help you tackle this task.
  • Remind yourself that not everything will go as planned, and that is okay.
  • If you are traveling, do things early: plan early, confirm early, pack early, arrive early. Giving yourself time to second guess yourself may sound counter-intuitive, but it can help you feel better on travel day.
  • Prepare for high stress situations by determining how you will cope—such as knowing a place to retreat to, or practicing progressive muscle relaxation—seriously, no one can tell you are doing it!
  • If you have struggles with food-related phobias, bring a dish of your own to share to dinner parties, so you know you will have something you feel comfortable eating.

If you take multiple medications, or have other medical conditions, a medical ID bracelet or necklace may help you feel at ease. Often, anxiety disorders develop alongside another medical condition, like diabetes or asthma, so understanding how each impacts the other is important, too.

 

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