The holidays can be a really tricky time of year, especially when you're struggling with anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. From difficult family relationships to traveling, it can be pretty stressful! And that's exactly why I want to share ten tips that will help you get through the holidays with much more peace and joy. So let's get into the tips!
10 Tips for Holiday Anxiety
01. Don't force yourself to go to a holiday event that you know is going to be terrible for you and your mental health.
First, I want you to remember that you can say no. You know yourself better than anyone. If it isn’t the right time to attend, it’s okay. It can be easy to forget that we have a choice this time of year due to outside pressure to attend all of the events. This is your reminder that you always have a choice, and you don’t have to go if it’s not right for you.
02. Set realistic expectations for holiday events.
It’s important to be realistic with ourselves, especially this time of year! And this might look like accepting that anxiety might pop up while you’re at holiday events. When we practice accepting anxiety’s presence, it becomes a whole lot easier to let anxiety be present without controlling our decisions. So remember, experiencing anxiety or uncomfortable emotions this holiday season isn’t a failure. It means you’re taking healthy action!
03. Establish your boundaries before the event.
Creating healthy boundaries with others is one of the best things you can do to ensure that you experience more peace over the holidays! Communicating what others can expect from you is a great way to establish boundaries. This might look like telling the host how long you’ll be at the party or letting family know if there’s a particular topic that you will not discuss.
04. Take breaks when you need them during holiday events.
Never underestimate the power of a quick walk! If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or stressed at a holiday event, don’t be afraid to take some time for yourself. After all, you deserve to enjoy the holiday season too! Taking a moment for yourself is a great way to recenter yourself during the holidays.
05. Prioritize daily self-care to manage anxiety consistently.
And not just around the holidays! Daily self-care is absolutely vital to protecting your mental health. And the best part of self-care is that it can look however you want it to! Some ideas might be stretching every day, reading, exercising, trying a new hobby, or any other activity that you do just for yourself.
06. Reduce exposure to social media, especially around the holidays!
This one is true for any time of year really! I always recommend taking time away from social media, especially this time of year. It can be easy to forget that social media is a curated highlight reel, and real life doesn’t work that way! These unrealistic portrayals only increase anxiety this time of year. So this is your sign to limit social media around the holidays!
07. Communicate how others can support you.
This one was really difficult for me at first, too! Letting people support you is hard, but it’s so worth it. And this might come as a surprise, but the people who love you will want to help and be supportive. In fact, communicating your needs makes their job even easier! The best part is that you’ll feel even more supported by the people you love this holiday season.
08. Recognize everyone's humanity, including your family and friends.
It can be tough to show compassion for difficult family members. We all have our imperfections and quirks, and remembering that this is true for others can really help us protect our peace. Most of the time these family members really do love and care for us. So if you’re planning to spend the holiday with family, remember that they’re human too!
09. Allow yourself to feel and process emotions, even the difficult ones!
This is especially important during the holiday season! It's so important to practice accepting our emotions. It's perfectly normal to experience a range of emotions during this time of year.
10. Lean on your support system.
We all need some extra support from time to time! Seek support from trustworthy friends, family members, or even a therapist. And sometimes, it can be especially helpful to rely on yourself for support. Unfortunately, we don't always get the support we're looking for from others. But you can find that support within yourself by being kind to yourself or doing activities that you enjoy.
No matter what you are going through, the holidays can be a difficult time of year for many of us. I want you to remember to take care of yourself first and release the harsh expectations you might be putting on yourself this time of year.
Don't forget to listen to the full podcast episode for a bonus tip for this holiday season! And until next time, friend, keep taking healthy action!
Welcome to a healthy push Podcast. I'm Shannon Jackson, former anxiety sufferer turned adventure mom and anxiety recovery coach. I struggled with anxiety, panic disorder and agoraphobia for 15 years. And now I help people to push past the stuff that I used to struggle with. Each week, I'll be sharing real and honest conversations along with actionable and practical steps that you can take to help you push past your anxious thoughts, the symptoms, panic and fears. Welcome. You're right, we're meant to be.
Alright, let's talk about how the heck to navigate the holidays in a healthy way, when you're struggling with anxiety, panic disorder and agoraphobia. Because let's be honest, it's hard enough to navigate everyday living when you're struggling, right nevermind during the holidays on top of all of it. So in this episode, I want to dive into 10 tips that will help you to relieve anxiety, and better navigate holiday events and family members, and a lack of support, and just in general set you up to have a more enjoyable and peaceful holiday season. So let's not waste any time here, I want to jump right into the tips. And with this first one, I want to start off with a bang. Do not force yourself to go to a holiday event that you know is going to be terrible for you and your mental health. You can say no, not going is an option. I think we often convince ourselves but I have to I don't have a choice, even though we know doing the thing is just not going to be enjoyable, it's not going to be healthy, it's not going to be good for us. And it's just going to make us feel terrible. So I don't care if this is your mom's annual party or your in laws are your best friends. If you know that it's going to be unhealthy for you to go, you can opt out. And this is a healthy choice. So saying no oftentimes is a healthy step. And I know it's a hard one. But it's a really helpful one to make. And I want you to recognize this to you saying no to a holiday event isn't the make or break for your recovery. You don't have to go and do all the things in order to recover. And in fact, saying no sometimes, and setting healthy boundaries, and allowing yourself to make healthy decisions actually will help you to heal. And another thing I want to say here on this first one is Don't pressure yourself to go because you're feeling pressured. Maybe it's your mom, your dad, your aunt, your uncle saying, you know, can't you come? Are you at the point where you're able to do this? Shouldn't you be able to do this, you know, doing something because you feel pressured to do and doing it on somebody else's account rarely has a healthier result. So ask yourself, What's going to be healthy for me? And what's going to make me happy and go with that don't do something just because you feel pressured to do it? Or maybe just because you're pressuring yourself to do it right, I should be able to, do you actually want to? Is it actually healthy for you? Okay, number two, set realistic expectations going into the event or the family gathering, right? Don't go into the event or the situation, whatever it is expecting not to feel anxious. I think we often tell ourselves, we have to go and do things without feeling anxious, or we shouldn't feel anxious, or we don't want anxiety to show up. So we tell ourselves, it won't, I'll go it's gonna be good. I'm not going to feel anxious. And all of this is just incredibly unrealistic. If you struggle with anxiety, and you often have that panic, that overwhelming fear, it's not really realistic to say, I'm going to go and do and I'm not going to feel anxious, I'm going to go and do and anxiety is not going to be there. You know, remember what I always say, let anxiety go with you. It's much better to not fight it, let it go. But don't allow it to make all of the decisions. And another thing about setting realistic expectations is don't go into holiday events. expecting that your mother in law or your uncle or your sister isn't going to annoy you or frustrate you or say something that's just really you know, you want to strangle them. Be honest with yourself about how things may look, you know, if your dad, your cousin, whoever it is often says things that annoys you or frustrates you acknowledge that that's probably going to happen, you know, walking into situations and events with realistic expectations and honesty takes such a weight off of you. Number three set boundaries before the event. And I want to talk through this one because I know people talk about setting boundaries and it's like What does that even mean? So I want to give you some concrete examples. So setting boundaries might look like communicating with whoever it is the event that you're going to saying, I'm going to stay for an hour, or I plan on staying for two hours, or I'm coming, and I'm not sure how long I'm going to stay, but I'm going to do my best to stay for however long feels good for me. And it is okay to communicate how long you're going to stay how long you plan on staying, you don't have to stay for the entirety of it, don't put that pressure on yourself, you know, maybe you know, it's healthy for you just to spend an hour, maybe it's a half hour. Or maybe it's saying, I'm not going to put that pressure on myself, right, I'm going to come and I don't know how long I'm going to stay. And that has to be good for you. Right, because it's good for me. Another boundary might look like saying, I know that you care about me and my mental health. And I'm so glad that you do. But I'm asking that you please avoid asking me about my recovery and my progress. I know that oftentimes at family gatherings and social events, it can seem like this, this moment, this sort of free for all to talk about these really deep things. But you don't have to talk about anything that you don't feel comfortable talking about, or anything that you don't want to talk about. So if you prefer that your recovery, your progress, where you're at in your journey is off the table, that's totally fine. That's a boundary that you can set. And that will likely be really healthy for you. So saying, I do not want to talk about it. And I'm asking that you respect this is absolutely fine, an unhealthy step. Another example is saying, I don't feel comfortable talking about fill in the blank, you know, this can be related to your recovery, or maybe it's relating to world events, or anything else like to give you a really concrete example, you know, my family knows, I have a really tough time hearing about events that are happening around the world, as I'm sure many of us do, right? It's overwhelming. We live in a world where we have access to way too much information. And I make very conscious choices, not to absorb all of it, I don't watch the news. I don't take in too much. And sometimes it's unavoidable. But I create boundaries, so that I don't take in too much information for me. And so my family knows I share this with them. You know, I know there's a lot going on, but I don't want to talk about this. At you know, the dinner after lunch, I don't feel comfortable. For some people, this means maybe saying I'm not comfortable diving into our relationship and how we got to where we are and how we're going to fix it. You know, maybe it's that you and your mom or you and your sister, you're not in the best place. And I think sometimes that these holiday events, people can want to make amends. And you know, alcohol can be involved. And people really want to dive in and they're like, I'm so sorry for this, or I'm so sorry for that. And they just want to like really get in and fix things. And it's not the best place in time. So maybe it's saying, you know, I don't feel comfortable talking about whatever happened, you know, that sort of changed our relationship. I'm not comfortable about trying to fix any of this right now at this event. That's okay. And just in general, with, you know, talking about boundaries and setting healthy boundaries, people will inevitably want to give you advice or problem solve things for you or go to places that you don't want to go to. And you can simply say I appreciate your wanting to help. But I'm not looking for any advice right now. I'm not looking for help, I'm not looking for solving. And I think that that's an okay boundary to set too. So don't be afraid, I know it can be really hard to set boundaries, because it is hard to communicate what you need. It's hard to be vulnerable and put some of that stuff out there. But setting boundaries is so incredibly helpful for you and for others and for just you know, to decree a space that feels healthy, and peaceful for everyone involved. So as hard as it is to set boundaries, really push yourself to set them if you feel like you need to. And one last thing I'll say here too is you do not need to justify or overly explain your boundaries or your decisions. They're healthy boundaries for you. And if the people you know that you're surrounding yourself really love you, they care about you. They need to respect your boundaries. So don't feel like you need to say anything more than just the boundary itself. Okay, number four, and this is an important one. Take breaks when you need to, especially while at the events right and take breaks before you feel Like you're going to explode. So you don't need to sit there and suck it up and force yourself to be at that dinner table, no matter what, or continue to engage in conversation, you can get up, you can take a break, you can step away, you can go to the bathroom, you can take a little walk, you can even step outside and take some intentional time to connect with yourself. And with the present moment. And this might look like just taking a couple of breaths, or giving yourself some kind messages, just slowing things down a bit is incredibly helpful. And then get back to things right. But I think so many times we convince ourselves, I can't get up, I can't let people see that I'm anxious, I have to sit here I have to act, you know, quote, normal. No, you have to give yourself permission to be human. Get up and take a break. If you feel like you need a break, and do it before you feel like you're gonna explode. Okay, this is another big one. Number five, the best way to relieve anxiety and actually prevent it is to consciously take care of yourself every day, not just when there's an event coming up, or when the holiday season arrives, or when things get stressful and overwhelming. So this means finding ways to support yourself before, during and after the holidays. And I'll give you a really good example. One of my favorite ways to do this is to rest. And I'm not just talking about laying on the couch and taking a nap. Although I'm a fan, there are so many more helpful forms of rest. So I'm talking things like baking, painting, gardening, sharing with others, how you feel, going to therapy, crying, allowing yourself to express your emotions, connecting with others, maybe for you, it's being more in solitude, maybe it's meditation, yoga, reading, watching a movie, doing a puzzle, playing with your kids building a fort, nourishing your body, trying a new recipe going hiking, contributing to something bigger than you like these are all forms of rest. I don't think that we acknowledge that enough that rest is really about slowing down, taking care of you connecting with you, nourishing yourself really supporting yourself. Like this is the stuff that often gets so overlooked, but has the most tremendous benefits. So don't try to just react when you're feeling really overwhelmed or when things get busier when the holidays start to approach. Really look at your day to day, how can you slow down rest, support yourself in the day to day number six, take time away from social media. I say this often just in normal every day, like disconnecting taking some time away from social media is incredibly helpful. But especially around the holidays, because they feel like what is portrayed on social media, especially around the holidays, isn't real. It's not authentic. It's not attainable. You know, you see so many people out there family is you know, moms, it just people portraying it as though the holidays are full of laughter and joy, and just so much goodness and togetherness, and it's just not the reality of what we're all experiencing. So take time away from social media disconnect, don't allow yourself to get sucked into this unrealistic version of what people are putting out there. It's not real. So much of what you see on social media is not real. Okay? Number seven. Please don't try to make your family and friends understand what you're going through. It is incredibly hard for somebody to understand what you're going through if they've never been through it. Even if they've been through something similar to you, it's still really hard to understand specifically what somebody's going through. Because we all we all approach things differently. We've all had very individual things happen. We all have our own way of navigating things. So instead of trying to make people understand until you're blue in the face, and I understand why you do it, right, we do this because we're really struggling. And we want people to know like, No, this is really hard. But instead of just training yourself. Instead, tell people how they can help you. telling people how they can help you is going to help you to get the support that you're actually needing. It's going to help you to actually feel validated and heard and listened to. Because oftentimes what we're actually looking for is not really to be understood. It's really more just to be heard and to be listened to. And something I want to say here is maybe it's not that you're or a friend or your family member is unsupportive. Maybe it's that they don't know how to support you because one they might not even know you're struggling, you might be stuck in that place of really not letting people see because you think you have to be perfect or quote normal and people can't see what's going on. So of course, people can't understand, of course, people can't support you if they don't even know what's going on. And you might think that the people closest to you know what's going on. But oftentimes they don't, if you don't actually verbalize it, if you don't actually share. And so to you know, the second part of this is, if you haven't let people in and told them how they can be helpful to you, they're not going to be able to be right. And I know, getting vulnerable is a major way that we can receive the support we're looking for. But it's hard, it's hard to get vulnerable. And he know that and I recognize that, but it is incredibly worth it. So instead of trying to make people understand, tell people how they can help you, they want to help you. Number eight, recognize that we're all human. Yes, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, your friend, whoever might be terribly annoying and have their own quirks. And they may not understand exactly what you're going through, right? Because they can't. And they might not always be the most helpful. But chances are, they genuinely do really love and they care for you, just as you do for them. So be gentle with them, and be gentle with yourself. We are all human. And oftentimes, we are all truly doing our best. Okay, number nine, let yourself feel whatever you're feeling when you feel it. This is such a big one, especially around the holidays, because the holidays can bring lots of joy. But they can also bring lots of sadness and anger and frustration and overwhelm and resentment and fear. And it's okay to feel all of these things too. You don't have to pretend to be happy, or to have it all together, or pretend like all of your problems have faded, because it's that magical time of year. It's not realistic, right? But what is realistic is to be you and to be human and to let yourself feel. So when you feel the emotions that are a little bit tougher recognize it's okay, it's human, we're all feeling that stuff, it doesn't just go away, because it's the holiday season. So let yourself feel it, give yourself permission to feel it. And it's okay, if others see it too. We don't have to always see joy, see happiness, we also have to see and connect with all the other emotions to number 10, lean on your support system, talking about your family, your friends, your loved one, your coach or therapist, whoever, whoever your support system is,
maybe for you, it's also your pets, right? I know it is, for me, the holidays are a tough time for so many people. They can bring up old wounds, like things you thought maybe you had moved past, they can bring waves of grief, they can fill you with so much emotion, like good and really tricky emotions. And it's okay, if this is true for you. It's okay, if you know the holidays are going to bring up some really hard stuff. It's just a signal an indicator that you need to lean into support, you need to ask for it, you need to receive it and really acknowledge leaning on your support is going to help you this just makes you human, we all need support. And we all deserve it. And I just want to say here about support because I think this is so important. Many of us don't get the support we need, and we don't get the support we deserve. And if your family or friends aren't supportive, I am sorry. I know how it feels it is incredibly hard. But I really want you to hear me on this. Just because you may not get the support you need. It doesn't mean you're not deserving of it. You deserve so much support and love and kindness. And what I do when I don't get support from others, kind of two part, I guess. So first, it really is a nudge for me to take a good look at that relationship, and to look honestly of how I might be contributing to the lack of support. Or if I just have to get honest with myself that yeah, this person hasn't been supportive. They don't have the capacity, and they just need to end the relationship. But what I usually do when I'm not getting the support I feel like I need from others is I really go inward. I asked myself, What do I need? And I really try to give myself the love and support that I'm seeking externally. Because I can always give this to myself and I always know I need to give more of it to myself. And it's something that's always with In my reach. So make sure over this holiday season that you're giving yourself the love and support you deserve. And two, I, this just popped into my brain and I know I have to share this. So we can add on a number 11 Here, if you really want to go to this holiday event to this gathering, but you don't think you can do it like you don't think you're there yet you don't think you're ready, you don't think that you're capable, you think it's going to look like an absolute shit show. I want you to just try, I want you to give yourself the opportunity to try. And if you don't make it, it's okay. You tried and that's one heck of a healthy step. But maybe you do make it and maybe you have a really good time. Maybe anxiety is there, but you still have a really good time. And maybe anxiety doesn't end up showing up nearly as much as you thought it would. That would be pretty incredible, right? But if you do this, if you give yourself the opportunity and you try, please do it for you and not for somebody else. This isn't for your loved one. This trying is for you. Okay, until next time, my friend. Keep taking healthy action. I hope you enjoyed this episode of a healthy push. If you want more, head on over to ahealthy push.com for the show notes and lots more tips, tools and inspiration that will support your recovery. And if you're hoping for me to cover a certain topic, be sure to join my Instagram community at Aldi push and let me know in the comments what you want to hear next.