Is Anxiety Ruining Your Holiday Season?

anxiety surrounded by people in train station

In a previous post I looked at the role of the Heart in social anxiety and offered a simple heart-opening exercise to help anxiety sufferers stretch their social muscles (Help for the Heart in Social Anxiety).

For some, the holidays are a truly challenging time of year. While family and social engagements can be festive occasions, some people become paralyzed by the obligations of the season. Friends and family members who love parties, dinners, and overnight guests are often unaware that these situations can cause distress for people with anxiety.

Many people have been taught to respect the “holiday spirit” by agreeing to the spree of shopping, eating, and socializing that has become Thanksgiving through New Year. Anxiety sufferers are no exception. They dress up for parties they don’t want to attend, join dinners that trigger fears of ridicule, and return to homes where they may feel uncomfortable or unloved.

In fact, this warm, sentimental, joyous time of year can elicit feelings of anxiety and insecurity on a massive scale.

I feel it’s important that we recognize this is all too much for some people. The frenzy of spending, eating, traveling, drinking, and socializing can actually deplete us of the energy we require to feel nourished, especially during the dark months of winter. Often anxiety is a signal that you should stop and reevaluate your situation. More than ever, the holidays may require you to practice conscious self-care.

If winter obligations are causing you discomfort, consider reducing your commitments for the sake of your health.

Anxiety can come from any number of sources—money, over-scheduling, spending time with people with whom you don’t feel connected, even needing to board your dog while you travel across country. The sheer volume of expectations during the holiday season can create a cumulative feeling of helplessness and instability.

To manage these feelings, start by telling yourself I accept this anxious response as a signal that I am overwhelmed. This year I promise to take better care of myself so I am able to participate in the events and activities I actually enjoy.

If you encounter a friend or loved one wishing to bow out of a social opportunity—a company party, a family ice-skating outing, a gift exchange—consider that they may feel stretched thin. Most of all, don’t take their disengagement personally.

By allowing others to care for themselves, we create space and goodwill toward our own needs.

This season comes like clockwork each year, yet our lives may not unfold on the same schedule.  Through respecting your needs during the holidays, you will be better able to appreciating the small miracles of the season—body, heart, and mind.