Updated: Dec 18, 2020
By Mary Grlic
Image via pinterest
As a kid, the holidays were always the most exciting time of the year. It meant getting presents, eating lots of delicious food, spending time with family, watching holiday movies, and living during the most wonderful time of the year. Western culture tends to glamorize the holiday season as a festive time where we all feast and socialize, but for a lot of people, the season brings a lot of stress, whether it be due to lots of food, social gatherings, or awkward family visits. We all want to live that perfect life that companies like Hallmark constantly glorify, but the reality is that life is not always like that.
Many factors play into increased anxiety during the holidays. Maybe it’s that aunt or uncle you are forced to visit every Thanksgiving, who no matter what, always bothers you about things you cannot change about yourself. Perhaps you have a huge family or your friends are forcing you to attend a social gathering that you do not want to go to. Purchasing gifts can also be extremely difficult: how do we know what to buy each person? What if they don’t like it? Schedules get busier, especially when working in retail or other industries that rely on the holidays for extra income. Finals, midterms, and other hefty exams are approaching for many students as well. In addition, many college students are traveling home on planes and other forms of public transport, which can be very stressful, especially during the pandemic. Holiday dinners can be a scary thing too, especially for those struggling with food anxiety or having a history of eating disorders. Maybe you think that you need to restrict all day just to save up enough calories for Thanksgiving dinner, or you throw all concern out the window and eat until you feel like you’re going to blow up.
Dealing with anxiety during the holiday season can be both mentally and physically exhausting. Thoughts twirl around people’s brains, creating a whirlwind of emotions and concerns that not everybody respects or understands. To everyone struggling with high stress and anxiety during the holiday season, you are not alone. Stress is completely normal, and there is a community out there who is dealing with the same thing and is here for you. The holiday season does not have to be all stress and anxiety; it can be a time to enjoy company, food, movies, comfort, and a joyful season. Here are some tips to cope with anxiety during the holidays.
Don’t let food control you. Food is not the enemy and it is meant to be enjoyed with loved ones. Listen to your body, don’t restrict or overindulge if you think you will feel bad. Try your best to eat intuitively. If you feel comfortable, let any trusted loved ones know what you’re dealing with. Do not let food offset progress or make you feel any less valid - food is fuel! Your body needs it!
Plans will change, and that’s okay! Try your best to adhere to a new schedule, while still sticking to your daily routine or your daily plans to stay on track. It is normal for something unexpected to come up during such a busy time, so be prepared.
Anticipate that you may be more stressed. It may be easier to overcome any anxiety when you understand that it can happen anytime and are self aware. Maintain a positive attitude, keep the self-talk positive, write down affirmations to keep you in a good headspace, and accept that whatever you’re dealing with is completely normal and valid.
Take time for yourself. Knowing that the holidays are a stressful time with gifts or spending time with others, sometimes it is important to put yourself first and treat yourself to some holiday love, rather than giving it all away. Remember: it is never selfish to give yourself some alone time or treat yourself - we all deserve it!
Prioritize your health in the way that best suits you. Whether this be through exercise, nutrition, sleep, etc., be sure to maintain your mental and physical health to suit your needs.
It’s okay to say no. Whether this be towards eating a certain food you may feel forced into eating or going to a holiday gathering you don’t feel comfortable attending, it is okay to say no. Always prioritize your own mental health and don’t feel pressured into doing something you’re not comfortable doing.
Confide in a loved one or ask for support. Dealing with anxiety and stress alone is never a good solution, and finding someone to help you in your journey can always make it easier. Remember that you are not alone.
Stay safe! Amidst COVID-19, it can be easy to attend large gatherings and forget about social distancing during the holiday season. Please try your best to stop the spread of the virus by wearing masks, social distancing, and limiting close contact with others.
Written by writer Mary Grlic