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How Can I Mange Holiday Stress? A Guide to Surviving the Holiday

by Hayley Miller, LPCC, RD, CEDRD-S

The holidays can be tough. You might feel pressured to spend time with people who stress you out or use eating disorder behaviors to manage your feelings. Anxiety might swirl in your mind, and it might be hard to know how to cope. You’re not alone in that. Many Americans report experiencing increased anxiety during the holiday season, whether from the proximity to family, the desire to put on a good front, the stress of choosing the right gift, etc. Here are some tools to help you persevere through your anxiety and stay committed to your goals throughout the holiday season.

 

  1. Create a coping toolkit Write out a list of coping skills and keep it with you.  If it’s helpful, you can put your list in a little box, envelope, or wallet so you can make sure to look at it and use it often.
  2. Take breaks when you need to  If you find yourself in a stressful situation, try to politely excuse yourself. Go to another room, take a walk, run an errand. There’s no reason to put yourself through something difficult unnecessarily.
  3. Check in on your anxiety before approaching food Observe your anxiety level and make sure it is within a safe and manageable level. If you find that your anxiety levels are too high, use coping skills to decrease anxiety before thinking about food.
  4. Rely on safe foods if needed If the day is too overwhelming and you don’t feel prepared to challenge yourself with food, try to remember that food can be comforting in a good way. Pick a meal you really like and enjoy it.
  5. Make sure to practice your resources You can draw on different tools like grounding skills and tapping to calm yourself down without resorting to maladaptive coping skills so the pressure doesn't build.
  6. Take your medication If your doctor has prescribed medication for you, make sure that you are conscientious about taking it on time and in the proper dosage.  Your medication should be part of your regular routine. Forgetting to take your medication can negatively affect your mood and make the holidays more difficult.
  7. Check in with your support system Family can be a support but not always for everyone.  Spend time with people who lift you up rather than those who bring you down.  Even if your supports aren't local, you can still connect with them via a phone or video call.
  8. Stick with your regular routine  Be sure to go to bed and wake up at the same time so you maintain your regular eating schedule. Ensure that your schedule includes down time so that your body clock stays normal.
  9. Try not to compare yourself with others It is difficult, especially during this time of social media, not to look at what other people have and compare yourself unfavorably. Everyone is different, and their outfits, weights, and level of hunger are likely different from yours. It’s important to remember that “different” does not mean better or worse. We are all unique.
  10. Try to enjoy yourself Plan events with people you really enjoy spending time with. A mindful walk alone is also a great idea.  Even if the day isn't going well, make sure to try to help yourself by engaging in self-care routines.

 

These are just some of the ways that you can manage your anxiety levels during the holidays. Remember, you can always reach out to your support system or therapist for help. You’re not alone.