The holiday season often brings out the best in people – the generosity, kindness, and joy. However, for those struggling with anxiety, it can also trigger some of our worst fears and worries. The increased obligations, social events, family dynamics, and pressure to be merry can become overwhelming.
If you’re feeling anxious about the upcoming holidays, you’re not alone. With some planning, self-care, and adjustments to your routines, it is possible to prevent anxiety from hijacking your holiday spirit. Here are some tips:
The “perfect” holidays portrayed in movies and commercials don’t reflect reality. Let go of unrealistic expectations for yourself, family gatherings, gifts, activities, and more. Perfectionism fuels anxiety. Focus instead on meaningful connection. Simplify to-do lists, decline unnecessary invitations, and give yourself permission to do less.
Stick to Routines
Disrupted routines and excess stimulation can exacerbate anxiety. As much as possible, try to plan holiday tasks and events around your usual schedules. Wake up and go to bed at your normal time, eat meals at standard times, and carve out down time when you typically relax each day.
The holidays often mean added social plans and family obligations. To prevent from feeling overwhelmed, set some boundaries. Let loved ones know if you need to limit the number of social gatherings you attend or the length you can visit for. Schedule down time between events. Say no to commitments that don’t feel manageable or meaningful. Protect time for yourself.
Have an “Escape Plan”
Even with the best boundaries, some holiday situations may become unexpectedly stressful or overstimulating. Mentally prepare for this possibility by having an “escape plan.” Drive yourself so you can leave early if needed. Plan breaks during long gatherings. Have chilling out activities handy like books, headphones, or puzzles to give your mind a break. Identify a close friend you can text, call, or meet if things get hard.
Practice Coping Strategies
Have your toolbox of coping strategies ready like mindfulness techniques, yoga, journaling, or whatever wellness practices help you manage anxiety. Use these regularly, especially when you notice anxiety building. Stay hydrated, avoid excess alcohol, get adequate sleep, and utilize your support system. If anxiety becomes highly overwhelming, have trusted contacts available for extra support.
Give Yourself Grace
Perfectionism only makes anxiety worse. Instead, give yourself grace if you get overwhelmed, need to change plans, make mistakes, or simply cannot feel joyful. Anxiety is never your fault. Reframe “failures” as opportunities for self-care and make that your priority. Remind yourself that mental health matters more than holiday perfection. Say no to guilt and criticism. Talk kindly to yourself, as you would a close friend.
The holidays can magnify anxiety, but with some adjustments, planning, and self-compassion, you can minimize negative impacts. The goal isn’t holiday perfection – it’s prioritizing peace and self care. This allows you to be more present with loved ones and enjoy meaningful holiday connections. Most importantly, remind yourself that your mental health is the priority, not pleasing others or meeting unrealistic expectations. Give yourself the gift of self-care, grace and joyful imperfection this holiday season.