How to Deal With Your Anxiety During the Holidays
For many of us, the holiday season brings with it added responsibility, commitment, and an unspoken commitment to excellence. “The most beautiful time of the year” can be especially worrisome for those with high-functioning anxiety.
“High-functioning anxiety refers to those who seem to be doing very well with their lives and doing well, however, they still suffer from excessive anxiety, stress, and at times intrusive thoughts,” Dr. Amelia Kelly , trauma briefed. therapist and co-author of What I Would Like to Know: Surviving and Thriving After an Abusive Relationship , explains Lifehacker. “Holidays can exacerbate anxiety, especially for those who appear to be high-functioning on the outside, due to the high amount of expectations and obligations that come with the holidays [especially when it comes to socializing and appearing in front of other people].”
In addition, financial pressure and “increased pressure and a departure from normality can also negatively affect our health and well-being, leading to the perfect storm to further increase anxiety,” she says.
What are the signs of high functioning anxiety?
Whether you’re worried about yourself or a loved one, there are significant signs of high-functioning anxiety. According to Kelly, here’s what to look out for.
Insomnia or trouble sleeping. “Sleep is often the first sign that something is wrong with your mental health,” Kelly explains. “When our minds are at work, it can be difficult to fall asleep, especially if you suffer from anxiety. An anxious mind is very critical and the opposite of the more creative, compassionate mind we need for sleep.”
Kelly recommends following a calming regime before bed, reducing stress as much as possible in the evening, and detoxing from screens in the late afternoon. “All of this, combined with maintaining a regular sleep schedule, is critical to getting the sleep we need to reduce holiday anxiety,” she says.
Pervasive negative self-talk and uncertainty. “Part of suffering from high-functioning anxiety is the story that it’s “not good enough,” Kelly says. “Even if it’s an unconscious thought, constant overzealousness and comparing ourselves to others feeds the idea that we are destined to fail.”
Whether you’re struggling with FOMO or comparing your holiday activities to others, Kelly suggests limiting social media during the holidays. Also, make it a conscious habit to practice self-compassion. “Notice if you are criticizing yourself, and instead reframe your thoughts and self-talk as if you were talking to a friend or someone else who is very dear to you,” she says. “Clients I work with find it helps create a self-compassionate mantra, like ‘I’m more than good enough’, every time they start talking negatively about themselves.”
Looping on the past or the future . “If you find it difficult to stay in the present or find yourself constantly feeling nostalgic for the past, this is a sign of high holiday anxiety,” Kelly says. “Even listening to the lyrics of some of the most classic holiday songs is often centered on ‘days gone by’ or ‘past tense’. Holidays carry a lot of symbolism and memories and can take us out of the present. This is especially true for those who are experiencing grief due to the loss of a loved one.
For now, the best way to deal with this, according to Kelly, is to practice grounding skills. “Inhale and see where you are, think about every piece of jewelry you decorate instead of rushing to get it done,” she advises. “Be open to changing or adding new traditions to welcome the pure potential of the future. And if you find it hard not to dwell on the past, especially when you are going through grief, surround yourself with loved ones with whom you are all right.
Kelly says it’s important to ask for help from others, take some pressure off of yourself, and take a moment to slow down, be present, and see if you have a personal need that isn’t being met.
Physical discomfort and/or arousal. “Anxiety can cause tension in the body, which exacerbates chronic pain such as headaches, stomach problems, and other autoimmune disorders,” Kelly explains. “Also often becomes more susceptible to medical conditions as pervasive anxiety has a negative effect on our immune system.”
Kelly recommends meditation and yoga, in addition to breathwork and exercise, which can also help relieve tension in the body. Another way to reduce stress caused by anxiety is to be mindful of what you eat and drink during the holidays. “It was customary to indulge in an endless supply of sweets at almost every event, but keep in mind that not doing it in moderation will make you more susceptible to anxiety. Take your time to enjoy your food and drink, but remember that you don’t have to agree to every offer.”
Why is it important to manage your expectations?
Most importantly, manage your expectations. “Remember that it’s okay to say no,” Kelly says. “People will still know who you are and love you even if you don’t send a holiday card. Try to strive for imperfection wherever possible, accepting things that are out of your control and knowing that not everything we expect will happen. This shift in thinking allows for a more compassionate tone, such as allowing you to laugh when things don’t go as expected, instead of being hard on yourself.”
She adds that this is also the key to accepting imperfection. “If the goal is imperfection, it helps curb the pressure that people with high-functioning anxiety put on themselves. If the gift you’re wrapping doesn’t look perfect or the cookie is a little burnt, accept your efforts and move on,” she says.