3 Steps to Decrease Holiday Anxiety

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3 Steps to Decrease Anxiety

Do you want to be able to relax and enjoy the holidays? Taking steps to prevent stress and anxiety ahead of time can make a big difference.

This time of year can bring up dormant feelings and considerable stress and anxiety. Anxiety affects 40 million adults in the U.S. That’s 18 percent of all women and men. And, women are 60 percent more likely than men to experience an anxiety disorder.

Research shows that stress, anxiety and unhealthy behaviors contribute to some of our country’s biggest health problems such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Being mindful of your thoughts can be a powerful tool for regulating your mood. Cognitive distortions, which are irrational ideas, thoughts or beliefs, can cause faulty thinking.

By using self-talk to change this thinking, you can be better prepared for the small and large stressful events the holidays may bring. John R. Mulvey, LCSW, lead social worker, at Northridge Hospital, recommends trying these three steps to help keep anxiety under control during the holiday season:

IDENTIFY the distortions in your thinking. For example:
  a) You should always say “yes” to get-togethers or when asked for help.
  b) You must buy the gifts that your loved ones have told you they want. It does not matter whether or not you can afford them.
  c) Christmas only comes once a year. You can let everything slide ... your exercise, eating right, and the excellent self-care you have developed.

CHALLENGE these distortions by asking yourself if your thoughts are really true and what type of impact they have. Ask yourself, What impact does this belief have on my feelings, stress or self-esteem? Is this a universal truth? Does everyone believe this?

REPLACE the distorted thought or belief with one that is more rational. There are two basic guidelines for this process of replacement: keep it real and keep it hopeful. Your goal is not to “think positive.” Your goal is to think more rationally. Don't replace negatively distorted thoughts with positively distorted thoughts. Replace irrational thoughts with more rational ones.

For Example

Distorted Thinking
    You should always say “yes” to get-togethers or when asked for help.
    The last few years, the family get-together has not gone well. Not learning how to say no last holiday season resulted in your being overly tired and sick.
Rational Thinking
    There is so much pressure for everyone to get along and for things to be perfect in just a few short days. Accept your relationship with your family. Try spending more time with your family throughout the year, so there is less pressure during the holidays. Mix up tradition. Switching it up can distract family and potentially avoid the opportunities for “hot button” conversations. Make your “to-do” list and examine how you can simplify. Know when to say no.
Distorted Thinking
    You must buy the gifts that your loved ones have told you that they want. It does not matter whether or not you can afford them.
    Previous years you were still paying off holiday gifts in July and your loved ones didn't remember the gifts.
Rational Thinking
    Know that money is tight for just about everyone these days, so instead of stressing over what to give, make a date to spend some time together. The experience will be more memorable than a gift. Drawing names can also simplify gift exchanges.
Rational Thinking
    Believing the holidays only come once a year, so you can let everything else slide.
    Discontinuing your regular healthy habits can leave you feeling tired and disorganized.
Rational Thinking
    Most Americans gain between three to five pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years. Don't let the effect snowball. Healthy food and exercise better prepares you to handle stress.

Make a conscious effort every day and these techniques will ultimately pay off. When anxiety spills over to everyday problems, you should consider seeking medical advice. Try our FREE Find-A-Doctor service at 818-908-8677, 24-hours-a-day.

Behavioral Health Services at Northridge Hospital

Our team of experts specializes in recognizing, treating and managing psychiatric disorders and chemical dependency for adults, seniors and adolescents. Under the supervision of a board-certified psychiatrist, we embrace each patient as a whole person—guiding them toward a path of healing in a sensitive and dignified, yet structured environment.

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