The Christmas and Lunar New Year holiday season is soon approaching. While it can be a time of celebrations and social gathering, for many, the anticipation and build-up of activities and events means increasing anxiety and stress levels.
Anxiety during this time of the year means having to meet groups of people whom you may not have seen for long periods of time. Being at social gatherings and around large groups of people can drive anxiety levels up. You may feel strong nervous feelings about having to attend a party, or notice frequent worry thoughts about being at the event itself. It is natural to feel apprehensive about buying the right gifts, or being away from home on an overseas holiday, or meeting friends and families that you’ve not seen for a while. However, when that feeling of apprehension turns into sleepless nights and endless worrying, it will be helpful to consider some strategies to help tide through.

5 Self-Care Tips for Managing Anxiety

Here are some practical steps you can take to regulate your stress and anxiety leading up to and during the holidays.

1. Taking the pressure off yourself.

If you set high expectations for yourself and others at social events, it is more likely to be a let-down. Consider what is within your control; and what is not (for instance, how others think, feel or behave during an event), and let go of the times where things may not go entirely as planned. Keep things simple and within your reach. Perhaps plan a potluck instead of cooking an entire meal yourself. Eliminate details as much as you can, so that there is less to worry about. Help yourself to be comfortable with the notion that you don’t have to do everything.

2. Setting aside worry time.

Worry thoughts can come about anytime of the day and very frequently. Having fleeting worry thoughts about day to day events are normal, but you’ll soon feel burn out if they are persistent and highly pervasive to a point where your sleep and mood is affected. Instead, schedule a specific time once a day, to do nothing but worry for say an allocated time of 15-30 minutes. Make a written list of the worries that come to you during this time. Then, choose one worry and write down as much reasonable solutions as you can and write those down too. This helps you to be in charge of the worry, rather than the worry taking control of you.

3. Allocating time for yourself.

During a busy period you may set your needs and wants to the lower priority when you become focused on tasks that need to be completed. Make an effort to set aside time in your schedule to relax, or to do things that matter to your mental and physical health. It might be spending 20 minutes with your favourite book or magazine in hand, or a 45 minutes’ walk/run around your residence. Relaxation exercises such as yoga or meditation are often a big help. Allowing time and space for your mind to quieten. It is up to you, choose something that relaxes your body and calms your mind.

4. Making active decisions.

It’s okay to decline an invite to gatherings that you rather not attend, but what if you’ve been invited to an event that you absolutely have to attend? Plan ahead to attend and make contact with the people who matters to you and then have a set time where you would like to leave. Alternatively, if self-assertiveness is the goal, the key is to be polite but firm. You might say, “I appreciate the invite, but I’m unable to this time around. How about we plan a one-on-one catchup soon?

5. Making space for emotions.

The holiday period can be a time of pleasant emotions such as joy and excitement. Although these feelings are common during this season, other emotions of grief, disappointment or sadness may also arise. It may be a time where losses are recollected or past hurts re-lived. Allow yourself to acknowledge the emotions and sensations in the body that come up for you. Perhaps lighting a candle, placing a memento on a plant or tree, holding a moment of silence, or placing a photo in remembrance are ways to acknowledge the losses felt so deeply, especially on holidays and certain times of the year.
Clare Kwan
Principal Psychologist
Private Space Medical