Life Area: Personal
Topic: Holiday Stress
For some people, the holidays really are “the most wonderful time of the year,” but for others they’re anything but. Stressors can include anxiety about travel or pressure to be with family.
Whether you’re nervous about flying or worried about spending too much time with your dysfunctional family, there are common ways to manage your emotions. Here are some techniques for dealing with holiday stress and anxiety that stems from common holiday season scenarios:
If you’re worried about traveling…
Flying during the holidays usually entails long lines, jam-packed spaces, and short tempers. The chaos can induce a lot of panic, or even panic attacks.
Centering yourself can help re-establish your sense of reality. Coloring during your flight, for example, shifts the focus to what’s in front of you.
If coloring doesn’t resonate with you, use your own body to relax. Try the emotional freedom technique, which involves tapping the meridian points on your body, such as the front of your eyebrow and under your nose.
Help yourself by establishing a boundary by predetermining how long a family visit will last.
If you’re uncomfortable drinking…
Not everyone can drink in social settings, whether it’s because they prefer not to drink, are in recovery, or because they’re on medication. They may be pregnant but don’t want to announce that yet.
For folks who are striving to maintain sobriety, it’s important to remember that the holidays are just like any other day, we, as a society, have given holidays special meaning and designated certain traditions on these days, but they come and go just like every other day. Your preference not to drink or your recovery routine shouldn’t change.
Prepare an explanation so that you’re not caught off guard, such as “I’m on medication, I’m a designated driver, or I don’t drink anymore.”
One of the biggest sources of anxiety for those not drinking or for those in recovery is the explanation that they have to give and possibly being dismissed. So anticipating possible peer pressure and preparing is key. Make an escape plan before the event in case you want to leave earlier than expected. Say and do what’s necessary in order to feel comfortable, even if that means answering a pretend phone call outside. No matter what people say or think, sobriety is the number one priority.
If you’re dreading the dinner table…
Holiday traditions center around food, which can bring up anxious feelings for some people, whether they’ve experienced an eating disorder, try to maintain a diet, or have high expectations for what or how much they’ll eat. If you’re feeling anxious about food, please practice a mindful exercise. That means using the senses by slowing down to chew, feeling the texture of the food, and smelling any aromas. In general, using your senses is an effective way to relieve stress because they bring you out of your mind and into the present moment.
Might I recommend incorporating a Mindfulness Practice into your everyday life, not just as a holiday stress coping technique.
I offer a FREE 7-Day Mindfulness Meditation Audio Series whereby I personally guide you through seven 10-minute mediations (one for every day of the week). You can [click here] to access this FREE valuable resource on my website. You can access them anytime, from anywhere, from any device, right from that page OR you may download them and listen to each of the seven sessions any time you want.
You might also dread the dinner table for family reasons. The holidays often bring up intense political conversations and other topics that stir conflict. At the very least, most people have one family member they can’t stand. Help yourself by establishing a boundary by predetermining how long a family visit will last and, if possible, steering the conversation in a way that’s positive.
If you’re feeling alone…
Not everyone can spend the holidays with family, and that can bring up feelings of loneliness or sadness. That’s understandable, but try not to wallow. Just because it’s been a certain way in the past, or just because it looks a certain way on social media or in the movies, doesn’t mean it needs to be that way for you.
If you’re away from family and friends, it can help to embrace that alone time and enjoy your own company. Try cooking a new recipe or volunteering. Helping others is a great way to get out of your mind and into the present moment.
There is also a technique called “intention setting” that helps refocus the mind. Write down what you want to get out of an experience, including what you want to feel, whether that’s comfort, relaxation, or connection. Jot down whatever words come to mind (that is your True Self talking to you) and use them as a guide to create an experience that’s meaningful for you.
A Gratitude Journal can help as well. Focusing on what you have versus what you’re lacking can put your mind into perspective. This is a practice I do every day as part of my morning routine. Nothing is too small to add to the list.
If you’re anxious about an upcoming event…
As I wrote about in my blog post you can find [here], keeping your chakras open and in balance so your energy flows through your meridians is essential for keeping the effects of holiday stress low. I like to look at anxiety as negative energy, and a lot of times, it’s just stuck in your body wanting to escape. Something like exercise, even just taking a brisk walk, helps to move it through.
Also, carrying a small item that makes you feel calm or safe, like a crystal or a picture of a pet, can alleviate your stress each time you reach into your pocket or purse. The act of holding an object can help ground you in the moment as holiday stress arises. Here’s another idea: speak a mantra that you’ll tell yourself when you start to feel anxious, something you truly believe, like “This soon will pass” or “I’ve survived this feeling before.” Repeating some type of coping statement always helps you manage anxiety. And, of course, breathe!! A deep breath under any circumstances, let alone at holiday time, will center you and automatically calm you.
Please remember, with the right coping skills, you can handle all these holiday experiences with “flying” colors. Get it? …ok, bad pun. Happy holidays, everyone. I’m truly grateful for all of you and appreciate the opportunity to serve.
Please share this blog post with your family and friends.
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