A Psychologist Shares 3 Ways to Manage Anxiety During the Holidays

A Psychologist Shares 3 Ways to Manage Anxiety During the Holidays

The holiday season is fast approaching, and while that may be exciting for some of you, there are plenty of others who find that this time of year brings on intense feelings of anxiety and overwhelm. The final months in the calendar are often packed with social events, and that is not always a fun time for people.

Between work Christmas parties and intense interactions with extended family, you may find that the silly season is kind of socially draining for you. If that’s the case, know that you are absolutely not alone in that. It’s rather common, in fact. So I chatted with Mary Spillane, Clinical Psychologist and Headspace App’s Mental Health Expert, to get some tips on how to manage feelings of anxiety relating to social interactions during the holidays.

Here’s what I learnt.

Why might the holiday season bring feelings of anxiety for some people?

As the years trickle on, you may come to discover that the holiday season isn’t simply a period of gift-giving, good food and cheesy tunes. It can actually be quite taxing for some. Spillane explained that the top reasons that people tend to feel anxious about the holidays often include an “increase in alcohol consumption“, “conflict or complex dynamics” with families, “feelings of fatigue or being run down”, and plain old “social anxiety”.

There’s also the chance that the cost of the whole period is weighing on you emotionally – the holidays are expensive! Not to mention the possibility that feelings of loss and grief may be coming up for you, which is also completely normal.

In the end, there are loads of possible reasons the holiday season may be bringing up difficult feelings for you. The most important thing is that you know your anxieties deserve to be heard, and there are ways to help manage them.

What are some ways to manage these feelings?

Now, I would like to caveat this advice with the note that the best place to get advice for any mental health struggles is through a mental health professional. They will be able to offer advice tailored to your circumstances specifically.

But on a general level, Spillane shared three tips for working through holiday-induced social anxieties:

  1. Attend parties or events with another trusted person can assist with feelings of anxiety.
  2. Set yourself a target of staying at the event for a short period of time, and then reassess as the event goes on. Sometimes anxiety can arise when we feel overwhelmed, and breaking down social engagements can assist with some of this overwhelm.
  3. Practice regular mindfulness. Mindfulness can help us to stay in the present moment more often and become less stuck thinking about what might happen or how we have coped with events in the past. Doing a breathing meditation on the Headspace App for 10 minutes before you go to an event is a good way to focus and relax.

And above all, remember that it’s okay to say no to things if you don’t feel up to them. You can always take a step back to look after yourself – considerate loved ones will understand.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. In an emergency, call 000.

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