7 Practical Ways to Manage Your Anxiety this Holiday Season
“It’s the most wonderful time of year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you, “Be of good cheer.”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
For many, this “most wonderful time of year” is marked by an increase in anxiety, depression, and grief. Spending time with our extended family can often bring conflict and tension as differing opinions and the expression of unmet expectations. You may be grieving the loss of a loved one and the holidays make it incredibly hard to be without them.
Job loss or reduced income have hit many families this year, and to try to get through the holidays on a reduced budget can be very difficult. Inflation is at an all-time high There are often high or unrealistic expectations. To make that pie just like grandma used to, to find the perfect gifts, decorate the tree and house just right, etc. These expectations can consume us and take the joy right out of their intended purpose.
As the days get shorter, the temperature gets colder, and we settle in for a long winter, it’s hard not to let that get us down. Even if you are looking forward to the celebrations and time with family and friends, you may still experience the stressors this season brings.
Coping through this season can be challenging. Here are some practical ways to reduce stress and anxiety:
“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
Prayer is a way to connect with God. We are not in this alone, and turning to prayer can be a great way to rely on His strength when we feel overwhelmed and stressed with the burdens of our lives. Prayer is also a way to give up control of the things that are causing us to worry or stress. We need the reminder that God’s got it and God’s got you!
It is so easy when we are feeling stressed or upset to focus on the negative. It’s what our brains naturally want to do. So we have to fight it, challenge those negative thoughts to find and focus on those things that cause us to give thanks. Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to get our brains to be mindful and to start to look for those things throughout the day that we are thankful for. They don’t have to be big things. It can be as simple as being grateful for a beautiful sunset, hearing your favorite song on the radio, or the taste of coffee in the morning. The more you train your brain to recognize the positive as opposed to the negative, the more your mind becomes rewired that way.
It’s easy to get caught up in the season’s busyness and not take time for rest. However, if we don’t rest, then that stress and anxiety continue to build. Rest does not necessarily mean you need to take a nap every day. Rest is doing something that fills your soul. So, rest could be a nap, or it could also be exercise, it could be coffee with a friend or reading a good book, whatever fills your soul, try to make time for that.
Research shows time and time again that helping others benefits your mental health. There are so many people in need throughout our community, nation, and around the world. There are ways to serve through offering our time or resources. Are there ways you can serve your neighbors this season?
5️⃣ Healthy Habits
During this season, it is so easy to get out of routine. This alone can cause stress on our bodies. If you have healthy routines and habits, try to stick with them, and if you do not, maybe this is the time to develop some. You do not have to wait until January 1st to kick off a resolution to be healthy again. How you eat, sleep, and exercise can significantly affect your mood, so it is important to be diligent about taking care of your body. Go for that walk, put some greens on your plate, and try to get consistent sleep. Your stress isn’t going to melt away, but by taking care of your body, your mood changes.
We are social beings, and we need each other. Connect with people you love, this can be via phone call or FaceTime, or quality time spent together. Looking back on Christmases as a child, I do not remember the presents that I received or the food we ate, I do remember the Christmas afternoons we spent as a family ice skating on a friend’s pond and the time we spent driving around in search of the best Christmas light displays.
Remember the reason for the season. This season is a time to worship and celebrate the birth of our Savior! I encourage you to take the time to read Luke 2. Attend a Christmas Eve service. Share with others about how your life has changed because of Christ coming into this world.
During this season, I pray the stress and anxiety don’t overwhelm you, and you are able to manage those feelings in healthy ways. Please know there are always people willing to help if your thoughts and feelings become too much to bear. You do not ever have to walk through this alone, there are people who love you and want to help, but more importantly, we have a heavenly Father who loves you and sent His son for you. Please reach out.