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How To Deal With Holiday Anxiety

By DR EDRICA RICHARDSON

The holiday season is a time of tradition, and traditions have a funny way of becoming expectations -- like getting lots of stocking stuffers and spending days on end with family and friends. But what if you are going to spend much or all of the holiday season alone? What's a person to do?

No matter the reason why you're alone for the holidays, you can make it a wonderful holiday season all the same. And if you're not alone, you might still experience stress. The following are tips for helping to keep anxiety under control during the holiday season:

  1. Take care of yourself. Your child will pick up on your stress. So try to make sure the entire family eats balanced meals, drinks enough water, exercises, and keeps stressful holiday shopping and other events to a minimum.

  2. Spend some time giving to someone else. This can be through volunteering for a local organisation or just helping people that may need assistance. Helping someone else makes you feel good and reminds you of the spiritual meaning of the holiday season.

  3. Lower your expectations. Keep your expectations of the season realistic with your situation. Instead of spending more money than you can afford, limit your purchases to meet your budget. Instead of believing this year the family get-together will be great, accept your relationship with your family. Instead of spending every night at a different holiday function, spend some time at home, enjoying the quiet time spent with family or friends.

  4. Get plenty of rest. It is tempting to spend extra time at parties or events and then still get up early the next morning for work. But it is important to continue to get a good night's sleep each night. Anxiety attacks can happen more frequently if you do not get the proper rest.

  5. Limit time spent at holiday parties, especially if you feel uncomfortable. How much time you spend at the party is not as important as being there. Come late and then excuse yourself early. Showing up is sometimes all that matters.

  6. If you are travelling by car to visit relatives, drive at off-peak times to avoid traffic, consider resting during the day and driving after dinner instead of driving during the day.

  7. If you don't have family in the area and will not be visiting family, talk to co-workers and friends to find out who else is in the same situation. Ask if they might be interested in having a holiday dinner together.

  8. If you are feeling lonely, reach out to talk with someone, whether by phone or to get-together with someone for a social event. Don't sit home feeling lonely and depressed.

  9. Check the local newspaper for holiday concerts and events. These are normally low cost or free and can fit into anyone's budget. Take your family to community events. Not only will you feel part of your community, but you will have enjoyed spending time with your family.

  10. Acknowledge your feelings. If you are feeling sad or highly anxious, accept your feelings. There may be a legitimate reason for feeling sad or anxious. Use strategies such as deep breathing or other relaxation techniques to help you calm down.

The holidays are a stressful time for many different reasons. Some people with anxiety have a difficult time with the many activities going on, some may be experiencing financial difficulties, sleep may suffer and the expectations of our holiday season may not measure up to the reality in our lives.

Whatever the reason, often those with anxiety feel symptoms increase and spin out of control during the holiday season. When anxiety increases during this time of year, people sometimes ignore discussing it with their doctor or seeking help. They may feel it is normal to feel anxious and therefore feel they must somehow live through it or they may feel there really isn't any help available. But I am here to help, feel free to call for a free consultation, check out my website for contact.

• Dr Edrica D Richardson is licenced marriage and family therapist in multiple states in the US and an AAMFT approved supervisor. Her clinical specialties include relationship issues, infidelity, individual issues, family counselling and life coaching, to name a few. She works with adolescents, couples, and families in the Bahamas and the US. Check out her website at www.dredrich.com.

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