How to cope with anxiety over the holidays

The holidays are always a stressful time, but they are especially stressful for people who struggle with anxiety. The large crowds of people, the endless parties to go to, the financial concerns and the hunt for the perfect gift is enough to send even the most calm person over the edge. As someone who has battled an anxiety disorder for years, I’ve learned different coping mechanisms that help me through my most anxious moments. So whether you have an anxiety disorder like me or just feel the anxiety of the season, here are my tips for getting through this time of the year with your sanity in check.

1. Limit your caffeine
This year I made the choice to completely cut out caffeine from my diet, which I realize isn’t a realistic choice for everyone. But for me I find caffeine just increases my anxiety. The Mayo Clinic recommends anxiety sufferers limit their caffeine intake because it can make you feel jittery and nervous. Unfortunately limiting caffeine can be hard during this time of year. At holiday parties you probably imbibe in more caffeine then you’re used to thanks to mixed drinks and after dinner espressos. Plus, late nights require extra caffeine the next day. So how do you limit your caffeine? At parties I stick to water with some cranberries or pomegranates thrown in for a dash of festive cheer. If you hit a midday slump, don’t reach for a can of Coke, instead try a brisk walk on your lunch hour.  A couple squares of dark chocolate make a great afternoon pick me up.

2. Don’t be afraid to say no
For many anxiety sufferers, social gatherings can be very stressful. Don’t feel like you have to say yes to every invite, it’s okay to say no. At the same time, the worst thing you can do is isolate yourself. You deserve to celebrate and enjoy the holiday season. Instead of saying yes to every party, pick and choose which events you want to go. I suggest going to more low-key parties or parties where you know a lot of the guests. That way you won’t feel anxious about a large crowd or not knowing anyone. Plus, the best way to deal with an anxiety-inducing party is to surround yourself with family and friends who are very understanding of your anxiety. Loved ones are the best coping mechanism around.

3. Sleep
Sleep is hard to get at this time of yearthere’s just so much to do. But you need to sleep. My therapist always tells me that a huge part of caring for your mental health is taking care of your physical health, which means getting enough shut eye. Psychologists have found that anxiety sufferers who get a good night’s rest feel less worried and fearful. But of course anxiety can make it hard to sleep. I have two sleep remedies—spray some lavender oil on your pillow to help you fall asleep. And keep a pen and some paper next to your bed so you can write down your anxious thoughts. Sometimes writing down what you’re thinking helps you let go of those sleep-depriving thoughts.

4. Drink tea
I swear by tea to help me cope with my anxiety. I drink anywhere from six to eight cups a day. Chamomile is my go to tea when I’m feeling anxious and need to calm down. Chamomile is a natural sedative, so it’s the perfect way to settle your nerves. I highly recommend a cup of chamomile tea when you’re at those stressful holiday parties. Green tea is my other must-have tea, I drink it ever morning. Green tea has an amino acid in it called L-theanine, which has a calming effect.  When you’re feeling anxious grab a cup of tea, sit down and take some deep breaths. Just the act of drinking tea is very calming because it forces you to sip slowly. When I drink tea, I try to use all my senses, taking in all the scents and taste sensations that come with a good cup of tea. Doing this helps me focus on the present, instead of worrying about the past and future.

I hope these tips help you through this crazy but wonderful time of year.

How do you cope with holiday anxiety?

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