I’m delighted to host a guest post by Jennifer Scott, a life coach who’s a passionate advocate for mental health and wellbeing. Jennifer has personal experience of anxiety and depression so her suggestions for getting though Christmas and New Year are especially valuable.
’Tis the Season for Holiday Anxiety
The holiday season can be chaotic for everyone, but busy schedules packed with festivities, friends, and family present additional challenges for those who deal with anxiety. Here are some tips and tactics for managing your mood while still celebrating the season.
Try sticking to your regular routine as much as possible. While travel, parties, family dinners, and even time away from work can make that more difficult during the holiday season, simple rituals such as going to bed around the same time every night, doing a brief morning meditation session after waking, or writing in your journal each day can be even more critical to managing your anxiety this time of year.
Setting realistic expectations can go a long way toward making the holidays less stressful. It’s inevitable that things won’t go exactly as you planned, whether it’s at the office party or the turkey-and-trimmings dinner with your in-laws. Anticipating those temporary detours will help keep anxiety from throwing you completely off track.
Identifying specific situations that increase anxiety can also help make the holidays less hectic. For instance, if travelling stresses you out, pre-plan as much as possible in order to avoid chaos. This might include booking a flight early in the morning, when the airport will be less crowded, or reserving an aisle seat so you can easily get up and walk around a bit during your flight or train journey. This will work to reduce feelings of claustrophobia or other anxiety-related issues, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
The holiday season can be chaotic
While anxiety or depression shouldn’t prompt you to avoid festive events altogether, it’s okay to turn down some invitations. For example, if trying to choose the perfect gifts or braving manic malls is an annual anxiety inducer for you, it’s perfectly acceptable to turn down a shopping date with friends or family in favor of shopping online or opting for gift cards. Trimming some traditions will also help you control your calendar to make time for self-care during the season.
Seasonal self-care could include scheduling a solo massage, taking half an hour at the end of each busy day to curl up with a novel, moderating holiday treats with weekend food prep sessions that help you stick to healthy eating habits on most days, or incorporating exercise into your calendar. While it might not be practical to enrol in a morning boot camp class at your local gym during the holiday season, simply making time for daily walks alone, with a friend, or with a furry family member can increase your brain and body’s release of serotonin and endorphins, two mood-boosting chemicals.
And studies show spending time with a dog also increases levels of oxytocin — a hormone that helps fight stress, boosts relaxation, and increases the desire to create social bonds — for animals and humans alike, according to The Washington Post. So it’s no wonder hospitals, nursing homes, and other institutions are increasingly employing four-legged therapists to provide comfort and companionship to patients and residents. And dogs don’t even need special training to help reduce levels of anxiety and depression for their owners. A growing body of research indicates having a furry friend can improve a human’s health in a number of ways.
If you’re feeling isolated, reach out to religious organizations and other groups to create connections in your community. Volunteering your time and effort toward a good cause can provide a sense of purpose and serve as a great mood booster. And if you can’t shake feelings of sadness or anxiety, are having trouble sleeping, or can’t tackle routine tasks, you should seek advice from a health professional if symptoms persist.
For many, anxiety is as much a part of the holiday season as Aunt Carol’s cranberry relish recipe, but taking care of your mental and physical health can help you celebrate the season with joy instead of jitters.