For those of us with anxious tendencies, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other seasonal holidays can present their share of tensions as we deal with our own expectations and people overwhelm. The fact that we want to enjoy these times, can make the experience even more stressful. These are the points in life when we need to enact a strategy to keep us from fusing with the emotions we may have.
- Don’t allow seasonal expectations to create unrealistic hurdles to happiness. No one’s holiday looks like the greeting card. Don’t allow the preparation for the holiday affect the way you experience it. Someone will get upset. Your best intentions will be met with judgement. Experience the emotions you are feeling while staying locked on the here and now. If you allow your feelings to drag you to the past (“I can’t believe he’s acting this way again”) or catapult you to the future (“They will all be talking about me tomorrow”), you won’t be able to appreciate the now. (See number 6 for more on staying in the present.)
- Focus on others. There is a self-involvement in anxiety and depression. When we are in this state, we tend to see our emotions looming in front of us. Pick a person or persons who need you, perhaps ones that are feeling anxiety themselves. Give to them. Especially remember those who are reliving loss this season. This can be a rough season for many. Practice love. You’ll feel better yourself.
- Take time for mindful prayer and destressing. Holidays are extremely people-filled times. Take time to break away from the masses and recharge your batteries. Worship during this time can add dimension to the holiday and center it on its roots. Recognize that your temperament, extroverted or introverted is the way you were created. Your response to your feelings is where the choice is.
- Be flexible enough to change plans. There is nothing wrong with amending plans for the holidays. Too many parties? Let one go. Departure time for travel just not happening? Remind yourself of the real reason you are visiting others. If your plans go as expected this season, you are in the minority.
- Be open. If you are struggling with anxious times, find someone with whom you can be vulnerable: a spouse, close friend, a trusted family member. Lay it all out. The ones who love us the deepest are the ones who love us just as we are.
- Stay in the now. When going through anxiety, our emotions carry us to other times. Don’t take that trip. When you start feeling overwhelmed, find you can touch. Look for things you can hear. Take notice of the fragrances around you. The senses will ground us in the now and will not allow us to get caught up in the past or the future.
- Finally, use your analog or digital production plan to alleviate stress. Some people use apps, some people use paper notebooks. Either way, we all need a place to capture those ideas, stressful or not, that pop in our heads. We may journal or simply list, but the goal is to get it out of our heads and on to paper. Then we’ve held our thoughts captive.
Above all, remember to be thankful. Remember the real beauty behind the Christmas story. Focus on God, and He will provide you with the ultimate strength to move forward.