‘Tis the season to have anxiety! It makes sense when you think of the shopping, the spending, the traffic, the traveling, time spent with family and friends we only see a few times a year, house guests, the colder and darker days, too many nights out, too little sleep, lots of parties and nothing to wear, indulging in dessert and alcohol, and in the midst of it all the kids are home from school… need we say more?
Despite the merriment, and the fun, the anticipation and the time off from work, that sense of uneasiness that you can’t explain and haunts your mind, body and spirit, can set in and spoil your jolly good time.
Anxiety is one of those inevitable states that is just a part of life. As a matter of fact, scientists who study the mind say that anxiety is a very normal reaction to tough situations in everyday life. It’s when the fears that cause the anxiety grow so greatly out of proportion due to a build-up of stress (the holiday season!) that high anxiety, panic or even phobias can happen.
Can you imagine, for instance, being too frightened to leave the house, drive on the highway, becoming seriously freaked out by the idea of spending time with your 88-year-old great Aunt Betty, or suddenly finding yourself in a sweat, with your heart pounding, unable to breathe with the thought racing in your head that your end is near? These are signs that it’s time to unwind and smell the pine trees.
To help you know if you’ve got it, here are a few points of interest about anxiety:
– The crazy thing about anxiety is that you often can’t put your finger on what’s making you so anxious. When it just appears out of the blue and doesn’t seem connected to anything you’re doing or saying it’s called free floating anxiety.
– Some people get anxious if they just think about something stressful. This is called situational anxiety. The thought of having to offer a toast at a holiday party, or getting Christmas dinner on the table on time for 25 people can cause it… so can wondering if the one you love will be thrilled with the Christmas gift you’ve picked out for them. And what if you hate what they got you?
– During the winter SADD or Seasonal Affective Disorder, which has to do with being exposed to less sunlight can make it worse, so can a change of diet and sleep patterns when traveling or celebrating. Sugar, alcohol and caffeine can also help trigger anxiety.
– Anxiety in its milder form can be like worrying, but add up enough worries and panic can set in.
How to survive the holidays with more joy, less anxiety:
– If you lead a balanced, healthy lifestyle with time for exercise and relaxation stay with it as much as possible. Even if you need to cut down on your treadmill or meditation time – commit to keeping your own schedule as much as possible.
– If your holiday to-do lists tend to range from overwhelming to overwhelming, relax your standards as much as possible, and make room for mistakes, delays and limitations. It’s the season to go with the flow, ask for help, delegate, under-commit, say no and ink in some private time for yourself, even if you have to get up early or go to bed later to find it.
– Deep breathing exercises and muscle relaxation techniques help to relax your body and mind.
– Indulging in a guilty pleasure, that you know won’t add to your stress, like watching a television show on TIVO or meeting a friend for a Chai latte and a chat, or even having a little chat with yourself affirming that everything will go along smoothly during the holiday season, will take your mind off anxious thoughts.
Finding time for spirituality, research shows, and the belief in a higher power, reaches anxiety at it’s deepest level. A strong sense of self-esteem of being loved and the peace of mind that is associated with spirituality and prayer (the messages that are really the focus of the holiday season!) are powerful sources, ironically enough, to help us to deal with and heal our anxiety.
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