|Anxieties can overwhelm you during holiday season
The holidays are upon us, and with it comes the anxiety from the gifts, the parties, the baking and the family. And the absence of these things can make the holidays feel even more anxious or just plain lonely.
So as a gift to you, I’m offering some practical tips, which Mary and I have used over the years that have helped us actually enjoy this frenetic time of year.
These tips come out of various research studies over the last 40 years, which has discovered that we can take control of our anxiety.
I’m outlining them in the order of the common holiday complaints people have shared with me over the years.
• This isn't how I thought it would be!: The holidays come packed with high expectations. Last month, I mentioned how Norman Rockwell and Martha Stewart have irreversibly colored our visions of what the holiday season “should” be, making it difficult to not be disappointed by reality. Lower your expectations. Try for a “good enough” holiday season. By keeping expectations realistic and focusing on what’s really important to you, you may just find that your “good enough” holiday turns out to be “pretty great” after all.
• I'm lonely!: On the flip side, this season can often be a time when the absence of family or social connections becomes highlighted. If you are far from family, try creative ways to connect with them, like email, videos or Skype. If you find yourself feeling alone, look for local holiday concerts or community events to attend. Find out if any co-workers may also be far from family or without holiday plans and have a potluck. Consider spending your time giving to someone else in need. Volunteer at the Rohnert Park Senior Center, the Sonoma County Food Bank or distribute gifts to needy children. Helping someone else makes you feel good and can broaden your social relationships.
• I hate crowds!: The traffic, crowds and interminably long lines are, unfortunately, as much a part of the season as cranberry sauce and candy canes. But instead of frustration or anger, try humor, kindness or mindfulness. If you're stuck in traffic, use the time to call an old friend and catch up. If you're waiting in line, strike up a conversation with someone else waiting. If the crowds are rattling your nerves, take the opportunity to notice the sights and sounds around you. Take deep breaths and try to relax and accept that this is an inevitable part of the season but only a temporary inconvenience.
• I'm exhausted!: The late-night parties and all they include can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and guilty. Make a pledge to have a fun but healthy holiday season. Be sure to get plenty of rest, including naps if possible, during this stressful time. Be mindful of your alcohol consumption. Watch the carbs – have one cookie instead of three and don't go back for a second helping of mashed potatoes and gravy. And, as best you can, try to maintain an exercise schedule during these busy months. Take the time to take care of yourself, and you'll have more energy to enjoy all that the holidays have to offer.
• I haven't accomplished anything this year!: As the new year nears, we begin to take stock of the past months and may feel down over unmet goals. Perhaps you didn't lose the weight or didn't get that promotion at work, or the garage remains a mess or your files disorganized. It's great to set goals for yourself, but it's a reality that they are not always met within the timeframe we had hoped. Rather than feeling down about what you didn't do last year, take this time to re-evaluate. First, write down what you have accomplished, for we usually have accomplished a lot more than we like to acknowledge. Perhaps you did not accomplish certain goals because they were simply not important to you? If so, what could you do differently in the new year to meet them? Regroup and reenergize by focusing on the future, not ruminating on the past!
• It's just too much!: If you find that you just can't cope with your anxiety or sadness, be sure to get the help you need. The holidays can be a very difficult time. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your feelings, talk to a friend, or your doctor, or call me. I would love to chat.
Best wishes for a peaceful and joyous holiday season and a calm and Happy New Year.
Steven Campbell is the author of "Making Your Mind Magnificent" and conducts "The Winners Circle" every two months at Sonoma Mountain Village in RP. He can be contacted at 480-5007 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to www.anintelligentheart.com.