Krissy Howard
December 18, 2016 5:00 pm
Natalie Fox/Unsplash

Family, friends, festive gatherings: For some people, these parts of the holidays can sound like an awesome way to say bye to the current year and ring in the new one. But for anyone with anxiety, the holiday season can make for potentially stressful situations. For some people, money, and all the stress or ingrained associations that come with it may be the source of their holiday troubles, while for others, being around that much family in such close quarters for hours or even days at a time can just make a girl want to curl up and hide.

People get anxious over a variety of things, and the holiday season and all the events that come with it can certainly become a huge source of stress — and a serious trigger for latent anxiety problems. As much as a lot of people associate the holidays with being happier and more excited than normal, it’s also the time of year when, for so many of us, mental health becomes a bit harder to maintain.

And it’s easy enough to see why: It may feel like you’re being pulled in a million different directions, which is why when taking a moment to practice self-care can make all the difference. Check out these simple but effective tips to try when you feel the pressure of the holiday season getting to you.

1Breeeeeathe!

Of course, retreating to a tranquil meditation space to bliss all the way out would be a dream come true for most, but that’s probably not an option for anyone cramped at the kids’ table with the little ones and any other unmarried cousins. (Haaay!) Luckily, you don’t have to go full-blown yogi to reap the benefits of mindful breathing. Even the simple act of taking a few deep inhales and exhalations in a quiet space like a bathroom or parked car can help ease anxiety, because unlike most other bodily functions, our breath is something we can gain control over, which can be majorly reassuring for anyone on the verge of panic.

2Don’t skip meals.

Anyone who’s ever experienced the irritability that comes with being “hangry” knows how important keeping that blood sugar up can be! If you feel yourself starting to run on fumes, grab a healthy snack to hold you over in between meals. Good options include hydrating fruits like grapes and apples, and protein-rich almonds, which can help produce mood-boosting chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. But after all is said and done for the day, go ham on those desserts if that’s your thing girl, you earned it.

3Take it easy on the alcohol.

Don’t hate us. And yeah, asking someone to lay off the sauce in the presence of their crazy-ass family seems almost counter-productive to reducing anxiety, but that relaxed feeling that comes with a few glasses of your favorite drink will wear off eventually, leaving you dehydrated, and your body depressed. If you’re gonna indulge, do your best to switch it up with a full glass of water after each cocktail.

4Get your rest.

When it comes to maintaining overall health, getting your recommended amount of sleep each night is usually among the top tips out there, and for good reason. Lack of sleep, or even frequent disruptions, can directly affect cortisol levels created by the body. Cortisol works to help the body manage stress, so giving yourself the gift of slumber can help you face the challenges that come with a hectic day. This may be tough for anyone traveling home for the holidays, or forced to sleep on cramped and anything-but-comfy sofa once you get there, but you can always manage stress throughout the day with the deep breathing technique mentioned above (seriously, don’t skip the deep breathing.)

5Just remember, it’s only temporary.

What’s one easy way to freak yourself out with anxiety? Wonder what’s wrong with you for getting so damn anxious. Holidays can be so tough. There are usually a lot of moving parts and expectations and sometimes, it just gets to be too much. Sometimes our families test our patience or even become too triggering to be around, and that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with you for feeling this way. You’re not bad or weak or doing anything wrong, it just is what it is, and you can take care of yourself in those moments until the intense emotions pass, we promise.

Of course, all of this advice aside, anyone with diagnosed anxiety or other mental health issues will want to consult a physician and stick with the treatment plan you both arrive at. But even then, it’s important to remember that your anxiety doesn’t define you, it’s just something to take a minute at a time as it comes and goes, which — this is so important — it eventually will.

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