The holiday season can be a time of joyful celebrations, thoughtful gifts, and family traditions. Homes are filled with beautiful holiday decorations, the delicious aromas of favorite baked goods, and cheerful songs. But the holiday season can also mean long travel delays, crowded stores, financial worries, family disputes, and over scheduling. What is meant to be a festive, peaceful time often becomes hurried, stressful, and unenjoyable. That negative experience may be heightened for people with anxiety. Take some time now to prepare and think about ways to prevent or lessen holiday anxiety.

Healthy Habits

Taking good care of your body is especially important during more stressful times. Here are a few reminders:

  • Make time for exercise. Staying active can improve both your physical and emotional well-being. Pop in a fitness DVD, head to the gym, or go for a walk. A brisk walk around the neighborhood can do wonders for your energy level and mood.
  • Eat healthy foods. Many favorite holiday menu items and treats are rich, sugary, high in fat, or all of the above. Enjoy these tasty selections in moderation, and be sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein in your diet. Remember to stay hydrated!
  • Limit alcohol. Consuming alcohol can increase anxiety symptoms. Limit your holiday cocktails or avoid alcohol altogether.

Practice Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness is a good idea year round, but can be especially helpful during the holiday season. You’ll be better able to recognize when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. Ways to practice mindfulness include:

  • Meditate. Spend a few minutes alone each day in a quiet room, being still, acknowledging how you are feeling, and focusing on your breathing. When your mind wanders, bring it back to your breathing. If you’re having trouble meditating on your own, there are many websites and apps for your smartphone that provide guided meditations. Check out the Stop, Breathe & Think app or The Honest Guys on YouTube.
  • Set Expectations. Keep your expectations realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect, and it’s important to remind yourself of that.
  • Practice Gratitude. Making an effort to focus on the positive things in our lives helps us retrain our brains to stop fixating on the negative. A quick, easy way to practice gratitude is to write down three things each day that you’re thankful for.
  • Be in the Moment. Slow down and recognize how you’re feeling. Take a deep breath. Be aware of what’s happening right now and be present in that moment. Try not to worry about what’s going to happen in the future.

Holiday Travel

  • Traveling by car? Go at off-peak times when traffic won’t be as heavy. Plan your stops along the way, and give yourself plenty of time to take a break from the road, stretch your legs, and eat a healthy meal or snack.
  • Check the weather forecast and be sure to have a winter survival kit in your vehicle.
  • This is one of the busiest times of year for air travel. Schedule your flights during off-peak hours if possible, and arrive at the airport even earlier than necessary. Remember that weather-related delays are common during the winter months.

Other Tips

  • Start your holiday shopping early to avoid crowds, or shop online.
  • When you’re feeling stressed or anxious, reach out to someone you trust to talk through your feelings.
  • You don’t have to attend every function or volunteer at every event. It’s okay to say no.
  • Take some time for yourself. Enjoy a quiet evening at home watching a movie with family. Treat yourself to a massage or eat at a favorite restaurant.

Find ways to prevent or lessen levels of holiday stress so that you are able to enjoy this festive season with family and friends.

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