3 Tips From an Anxiety Therapist for Coping with Anxiety Around the Holidays

Are You Struggling With Holiday Stress And Anxiety?

How are you feeling this holiday season? It’s not uncommon for many of us to be deep into holiday cheer but also overwhelmed with events, stressed by obligations and whipped into an unsettling buzz of anxiety. No, not the anxious buzz you feel while debating the best present for your loved one. But the kind of anxious buzz that gets so loud your thinking becomes circular and your decision making is halted. The kind of anxiety that can lead to panic attacks, isolation and interrupted sleep.

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Anxiety knows no seasonal limits and it doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you have everything to be grateful for. It doesn’t care that you have an amazing support system. It doesn’t matter if you really wanted to go to that party – it suddenly seems too overwhelming to choose getting dressed and going out.

But that doesn’t mean you are powerless to manage it and take care of yourself. In fact, the first step is to give yourself grace… and then choose stress management and anxiety management skills that are specific to your needs.

Are you ready to get started? As an anxiety therapist, I’ve got three tips to help you start managing or reducing your anxiety this holiday season.

Managing Holiday Stress, Guilt & Shame

If your anxiety symptoms are suddenly spiking this holiday season, know that it’s going to be important to slow down. See, anxiety tends to feed on things like shame and guilt. And the holiday season is full of reasons to feel shame and guilt.

Wait, what? Were you thinking the holidays were full of gingerbread spice and holiday cheer? They are. But also….

Any time we feel the pressure that we have to do something, be somewhere or have something, we are setting ourselves up for feeling shame or guilt for not meeting that expectation. It creates an opening where we feel less than. Not good enough. Incapable. A failure.

Holiday obligations and mismanaged expectations (those “have to” or “supposed to” statements) can create an opening where anxiety will tell you, “I knew this would happen. It’s too much. You suck.”

Two people chatting with reusable bottles near a rocky backdrop.

Boundaries For Holiday Stress And Anxiety

So let’s begin to look for opportunities to cut back on the to-do list and obligations this holiday season. That’s right, we need to set some boundaries to manage your holiday stress and anxiety.

During this season of holiday generosity we can think of boundaries as tools that allow you to show up, love, and spread peace and joy. Sound too good to be true? Let’s begin with these simple yes or no questions:

    • When do you feel most joyful when you’re well rested?
    • Do you feel most present when you’re well rested?
    • Do you feel most loving and patient when you’re well rested?

Did you answer “Yes!” to those questions? Well, then that means you need to be rested for a
functional holiday season.

That also means that you won’t be able to say “Yes!” to everyone, every event or every thing. You’ll need to prioritize your need for rest, reflection and health promoting activities (e.g. fitness, sleep, your budget, avoiding time with people who are abusive or neglectful with your feelings). In real life, this can look like:

    • Telling your parents you won’t be visiting this year.
    • Affirming with your decision to be sober
    • Arriving late
    • Departing early
    • Skipping corporate / sponsored work events
    • Limiting gift giving
    • Setting expectations around the price or type of gifts given


How Do I Manage Anxiety During The Holidays?

Lori Harder, of the “Earn Your Happy” Podcast, recently did an interview with her husband on how they’ve come to manage the holiday season. In this episode, “How To Create The Perfect Holiday Season,” they discuss how over the years they’ve managed to whittle down their events to only the activities that make them or their loved ones truly happy.

They faced their fear of disappointing others. They released their fear of missing out. And they found they were able to love and be present in new and deeper ways when they did meet at their chosen few events. They shortened events by arriving late or attending the evening meal rather than the full day. They created gatherings they’d rather enjoy, while opting out of gifts and the pressure to find just the right thing for dozens of people.

Here’s the point – they stepped up to the plate and made the holiday work for them by mindfully choosing each point of contact. They didn’t let the holiday happen to them. They didn’t let people sign them up for events without consent or consideration. And you can manage your holiday stress this way too!

Woman wearing headphones using smartphone indoors.

Self Care And Sleep For Holiday Anxiety

As an anxiety therapist I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about self-care and sleep during the holiday season. Many people who have experienced symptoms of anxiety can attest to the frustration of sleep difficulties. Anxiety fueled sleep patterns can show up in several ways including:

    • Difficulty falling asleep
    • Difficulty staying asleep
    • Early or premature waking

Even without the frustrations of generalized anxiety symptoms, the holidays themselves can interrupt sleep. Factors that might be affecting your sleep can encompass:

    • Navigating the stress of travel plans
    • Sleeping in unfamiliar or unusual environments
    • Change of time zones
    • Staying out late or generally being awake later
    • Variations in your day-to-day schedule
    • Changes to your diet (notably, increased sugar, alcohol or caffeine)
    • An emphasis on extroverted interactions
    • And so much more…

With this in mind, let me recommend my two favorite sleep tools.

I have been a big fan of the iSleep Easy app (by Meditation Oasis) ever since my sleep became interrupted by the arrival of children in my home. What I love about the iSleep Easy app is that it’s affordable (less than $10) and you have lifetime access to it. But what I love most about it is that it has multiple features to meet your needs. These include settings for ambient sounds only, a dozen guided meditations and playlists with customizable music sound, and (my favorite) a guided meditation called Wee Hours Rescue. The Week Hours Rescue tract is designed specifically to help you fall back asleep if you have difficulty staying asleep or wake prematurely.

My second favorite tool is most commonly referred to as sleep stories. Sleep stories are exactly what they sound like – stories to listen to as you fall asleep to help promote sleep. My favorite way to access these is in podcast form; you can also find them on YouTube but risk commercial interruptions and follow-up videos that are likely to wake you. I frequently use the Get Sleepy podcast (by Slumber Studios) to preoccupy and calm my mind as I try to fall asleep during the holiday season. Click the button below to listen to a new episode that walks you through a warm, sparkly lit bakery filled with the warm, deep scents of fresh holiday fudge. Yum.

Work With An Anxiety Therapist During The Holidays | 84790 | 84780 |

How can I find a therapist near me during the holiday season? Rest assured, therapists understand that people need counseling for anxiety and depression now more than ever. You are in good company as you try to rally your self-care and manage your stress during Christmas and the holiday season.

At Guided Wellness Counseling in St. George, Utah getting started is easy. It starts with a call or text (435)767-1424 to begin your complimentary phone consultation. We take it from there! We’ll ask a few questions to learn about what has you interested in counseling. Then we can match you with the right therapist on our team. As this lines up, you’ll choose your appointment for your meeting with your therapist and explore what’s contributing to your anxiety or depression. Then we’ll help book your follow-up appointment so you never have to wait to see your therapist.

Are you ready to begin? You can call or text now. Or, use the link below to book your complimentary phone consultation ahead of time, when it’s best for you. We cannot wait to serve you this holiday season. Happy holidays!

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