The holiday season is full of delicious food, carols, presents, and lots of family and friends. For many, this is a time of joy, love, and celebration.
If you suffer from anxiety or nervous breakdowns, however, it can quickly turn into a nightmare.
Being bombarded with visitor after visitor is unavoidable during the holiday season. This fact of life seems even more insurmountable if you are typically the host of family gatherings. This introduces a whole other set of issues: party planning, cooking, cleaning, etc.
First of all, before committing to holiday visitors, evaluate your personal health. If you are not ready to host family or friends during the holiday season, please accept the fact that you are under no obligation to do so. For anxious or nervous people, there must be a shift toward acute self-awareness to overcome their respective disorders and trying to please their mothers-in-law or grandparents instead of honoring their mental health isn’t going to do anyone any favors. Please get the help you need before committing to any holiday events that might negatively impact your recovery.
If, however, you have dedicated an appropriate amount of time and energy to your own self-awareness, then visitors or hosting a holiday gathering could be a positive step toward regained normalcy. Here are some key factors to keeping your anxiety or nervousness in check during a typically stressful time:
- Organization, organization, organization. It will be time-consuming but keeping everything from your invitations to grocery lists clearly labeled and organized will help keep you calm and in control. Clearly mark all important dates on your calendar, download organizational apps on your phone, and keep a calculator on hand for all budget calculations.
- Don’t overextend your budget, your home, or your mental health. Start small. Overcoming anxiety can be a long, painstaking process and you want to surround yourself with positive, supportive people. So, for your first holiday gathering, keep your invite list small. You don’t have to impress anyone. You don’t need to invite everyone on your spouse’s side of the family. This gathering is about bringing you one step closer to mental peace; don’t compromise your health by trying to spend too much money or have too many visitors.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask your spouse to help you in the kitchen or cleaning or whatever other tasks before the holidays. Put “BYOB” on the invitations. Make it a potluck. The holidays are a time of giving and I promise that your friends and family will want to help you keep your time together stress free.
Now, you can do everything right in the organizing and planning. But, mental health is a long journey and it is possible that the situation could be too much. Maybe when your guests arrive, you immediately become exceedingly anxious or stressed. If you do suffer from an anxiety attack or breakdown during the holidays, here are some tips:
- Do not drink alcohol. It can be tempting to go for the holiday punch but don’t. It can make your attack worse and doesn’t do anything to help your recovery in the long run.
- Go to a quiet, closed-off space and practice some of your self-help anxiety attack treatments. These include writing down your worries or anxieties at that moment, mindful mediation, and special breathing techniques. Take as long as you need. Remember: this is about you and your health.
- If a quiet space doesn’t work, go for a walk or practice yoga. For some individuals with anxiety, exercise is the best cure. Once again, take all the time you need.
- Ask for help from a family member or friend. Sometimes getting a loved one to distract you from your anxiety can help ease your symptoms.
- If you can’t see yourself calming down anytime soon, don’t be afraid to cancel the gathering. Your loved ones will understand and be proud of you for prioritizing your mental health.
Going through the holidays with anxiety can be difficult, but not impossible. The key is to know you and to challenge yourself just enough to find recovery. Remember: operate on your own timetable and yours own alone. If you are just starting your journey toward healing your anxiety, wait until next year. Or the next. Or the next. The holidays are also a time for you not just your visitors.
Heather Preston is a binder-making ninja with a caffeine bloodstream and a tendency to plan parties. Being organized, finding easy-to-use party retailers like PaperStyle, and surrounding herself with loved ones, helped her overcome her own social anxiety.