For many, the holidays are a time of joy and celebration, and they seem to breeze through all the hustle and bustle without skipping a beat. But if you suffer from an anxiety disorder, the amped-up energy and crowded calendars that come with the holidays can be daunting.
Dr. David Larson at SourceMD: Integrated Wellness Solutions specializes in identifying and treating anxiety with a unique approach called integrative psychiatry, which embraces every aspect of your physical and mental health.
Because your body and mind affect one another, Dr. Larson treats your anxiety from a holistic perspective that addresses both at the same time.
This relationship explains a lot about why your anxiety symptoms get worse around the holidays. Busy schedules are physically demanding, you tend to let your nutrition slide, and emotions spike and tank in waves.
Here are Dr. Larson’s tips for anticipating the upcoming stress and mitigating it to manage your anxiety symptoms.
1. Plan ahead
The first step to managing the increased stress during the holidays is expecting it. If you know it’s coming, it won’t catch you off guard and add another layer of stress. Identify the extra obligations coming your way and block out time to deal with them one at a time.
Whether it’s baking, shopping, wrapping, volunteering, or hosting, write them all down and allot a specified time for them — then stick to that.
Lists are your best friends this time of year, because they take the pressure off remembering too much information and forgetting important dates and people. Either download an app on your phone, buy a planner, or use a notepad. This not only helps you budget your time, but your money as well, which can ease the stress of overspending.
2. Eat well
There’s no avoiding the bounty of holiday goodies, and denying yourself is torture. But controlling your diet is essential to keeping your anxiety under control.
Stress and anxiety directly affect your gut, and gut issues can be stressful, so pay attention to what you eat to keep both problems under control. Again, having a plan is key to success:
- Choose either the mashed potatoes or the pie, but not both
- Have one cookie, not a handful
- Stay away from the buffet at parties (mingle on the other side of the room)
- Eat on a schedule and don’t skip meals
- Pack healthy snacks
And by all means, curb your alcohol consumption. Whatever you’re feeling, alcohol will just make it worse. It robs you of the energy to cope with stress, exacerbates depression, adds calories and sugar, interferes with sleep, and can trigger panic attacks.
3. Simplify your life
Saying no can be a great stress reliever. While you’re planning your holiday calendar, prioritize the events you want to attend and decline invitations to those that aren’t essential.
And if parties seem overwhelming, don’t stay long. It’s okay to show up and visit for a while and then leave.
If socializing makes you anxious, ask questions rather than fielding them. If you ask someone about their work, their kids, or their hobbies, you’ll find yourself simply listening rather than struggling to come up with answers to keep the conversation going. The attention will be on someone else.
4. Be proactive
Managing your stress during the holidays isn’t only about saying no and limiting your obligations — it’s also about saying yes to taking care of yourself and doing things you enjoy.
What relaxes you? What restores your energy and calms your spirit? These activities should be at the top of your list. Do some yoga, get a massage, and schedule some alone time where you can think, pray, or mediate.
5. Ask for help
You may not be used to asking for help, but once you do it a couple of times, it becomes easier. Sharing the burden of party planning, entertaining, shopping, and cooking can reduce your anxiety symptoms considerably.
And getting help this time of year doesn’t just mean turning to family and friends. It also means calling Dr. Larson when you need professional support.
He offers customized therapy that includes exercises for brain health, stress-reduction strategies, interpersonal therapy, nutritional counseling, biofeedback, guided imagery, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medication to help you manage your anxiety issues.
With his guidance, you can maintain healthy relationships and a healthy work-life balance during the holidays and throughout the year.
If you have an anxiety disorder and need support as you face the upcoming season, contact us at our Encinitas, California, office at 760-230-1317.