9 Tips for Managing Anxiety During the Holidays

Anxiety has a way of creeping up on many people during the holiday season. It seems like there is always one more place to go, one more gift to buy, and one more person asking for your time. To top it off, you might have family gatherings that are less than relaxing, particularly if you’re hosting at your house. Family drama may also to crop up during the month of December. This year, use these nine tips for managing anxiety to make your holiday season one of joy, laughter, and relaxation.


1. Set Your Priorities

The simple fact is that there are a lot of activities, tasks, and people vying for your attention during the holiday season. Managing anxiety can be done by setting your priorities.

What makes you feel anxious and doesn’t add much value to your celebration? Cut those things out.

What do you enjoy about the holiday season? Those are the activities and events that you should be sure to make time for.

Think about the items you wouldn’t want to miss and make those your priority; treat everything else as either a bonus or something that you are choosing not to partake in this year.


2. Learn How to Say No

Once you set your priorities, more anxiety can set in when you realize that you will need to say no to people. Particularly if you tend to want to please everyone, the fear of saying no can cause you to say yes more often than you’d like to.

First, read up on some polite ways of saying no.

Next, understand that “no thank you,” is a sentence all on its own and that you can default to these three words if you are feeling overwhelmed and anxious.

Keep in mind that your loved ones don’t want you to be anxious and that acquaintances really aren’t going to be upset if you’ve decided to skip their open house.


3. Refuse to Engage in Any Drama

If your family tends to have its share of bickering during the holiday season, you’re not alone; most people feel some modicum of stress during the month of December, and some people tend to take it out on those they’re closest to. In addition, when family members come together after not seeing each other all year, sometimes old disagreements ignite and personality differences become more pronounced. Regardless, you can excuse yourself if any poor behavior begins to show itself. If family drama is adding to your anxiety, just walk away and refuse to engage.


4. Set a Budget

Another tip for managing anxiety is to set a budget and stick to it. Financial concerns plague many people during the holiday season. Some people choose not to pay utility or housing bills in an effort to buy nice gifts and entertain family and friends. Others might rack up credit card debt trying to keep up. Instead of resorting to these stressful strategies, begin by making a budget. Determine what you can afford to spend, preferably in cash, while still meeting your other obligations. If you do decide to use a credit card, make sure you’ll be able to pay it off in a timely manner. Not having holiday bills looming over your head will keep your anxiety levels lower after the first of the year.


5. Try to Create Balance

It can be difficult to juggle everything: You still have to go to work, help your children with homework (if applicable), drive to various places, spend time with your romantic partner if you have one, keep in touch with extended family, and do all of your normal tasks in addition to the holiday activities that are trying to fill up your calendar. Think about all of the things that you want to fit in and try to create some sort of balance. You might need to leave work early one day per week or you might choose to limit your phone calls to family to just a few minutes each time. Whatever you choose, make sure that you are creating balance in your personal and professional life.


6. Don’t Skip Your Workouts

While you’re prioritizing and creating balance, don’t be tempted to cross your workouts off of your list. If you have a busy day where you’ll be on your feet a lot, it might be okay, but don’t fall into the habit of not exercising. First, exercise relieves anxiety, so that will be counterproductive. Second, you’ll have a hard time getting back into the habit once you stop, and that along can cause some anxiety. Make time to get in some sort of physical activity most days of the week.


7. Get Outside Each Day

Being indoors all day can expose you to more germs, making you more prone to picking up a cold or the flu. In addition, it can make you feel a bit anxious and depressed, particularly during the darker winter months. Make the effort to spend some time outside each day. It’s okay if it’s overcast or cold; just bundle up and go. You can combine this with a walk to take care of some of your exercise, too.


8. Make Shopping, Decorating, and Cooking Easy on Yourself

You might have some family traditions that depend on elaborate decorations and complicated foods. If this is stressing you out, it’s time to look for some corners that you won’t mind cutting. Go back to your priority list and think about what’s most important to you. If the holiday wouldn’t feel right without your grandmother’s special dessert recipe, then that might be worth putting the time and effort into. Maybe you can make up some of that time by doing your shopping online or by serving family meals on paper plates. Perhaps your spouse or kids can put up the Christmas tree if you don’t care much about decorating. Delegate and look for shortcuts when possible.


9. Take Time to Breathe

Finally, just take some time each day to sit quietly and breathe. Breathing slowly through your nose can relieve stress. Meditation is good, too. Think about one phrase, word, or idea and breathe quietly for a few minutes. You might be surprised at how much calmer you feel after this tiny time investment.


Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help for Managing Anxiety

If you find that you are still struggling with managing anxiety after trying some of these strategies, consider making an appointment with your doctor. They can refer you to a mental health professional who can help you take control of your anxiety and enjoy the holiday season and new year.