For some, the holidays are not as happy as they ought to be. Dealing with problematic relatives, managing surprise expenses, organizing get-togethers, and traveling can all strain a person’s mental health, and this time of year tends to demand all of these things from us.
Anxiety is a common symptom among people who struggle financially, who have trouble within their family, or who find themselves displaced all of a sudden. It’s a natural feeling that arises when things seem dangerously uncertain. But there are times that dwelling on feelings of anxiety can create a vicious cycle of negative thoughts, causing further stress and anxiety when it’s uncalled for. This, in turn, can detract from your overall health, so it’s best to have strategies in place to deal with these stressors before they develop into a chronic condition.Most of us have a lot of obligations around this season. How do you manage them all without losing your mind? Here are five steps to maintaining tranquility through the holidays.
Step one is to develop a roadmap of the next few months. Make a list of everything that you need to do and when it should be done by. Don’t act on this list right away though; just make sure that it’s complete. At that point, you can start working on a strategy that focuses on the big picture. Think of milestones and goals that you can commit to reaching by a specific time. Putting your plan in writing can be helpful, as it will remind you of and hold you accountable to the decisions you made while your perspective was on the big picture: your sanity.
This is an important part of the plan mentioned above. Knowing how much money you have, how much of it you’re willing to part with, and for what purpose is crucial. Sometimes you can’t afford to travel, or spending on gifts has to be curbed. If you determine from the start exactly where your money is and where it can go, it won’t weigh on your mind as you deal with other challenges that might arise throughout the holiday season.
This is similar to budgeting in a way. There is only so much time to act on your holiday plans. Although you shouldn’t pass off all of your responsibilities onto your friends, don’t hesitate to ask for help when you really need it. Also, it’s best to make arrangements ahead of time rather than unloading tasks onto unsuspecting loved ones at the last minute. They’re trying to make it to January too.
This might seem like silly advice. Meditation doesn’t knock anything off of your to-do list. Remember, however, that our priority is not to do the holidays up to the nines while they last; our priority is managing our anxiety until the holidays are over. Meditation is one of the most effective ways to keep yourself even-headed under any circumstances.Meditation is a skill that can be used at any time. It’s just a willfully established internal balance. But as an act of will, it requires practice. It’s not necessarily a state of inactivity, but you might find that it’s easiest to do in a quiet environment. The thing is to establish a routine and to get started at it sooner rather than later. When your family is in a row, your dog is sick on the carpet, your packages arrive damaged, and you get snowed in on Christmas day, you’ll know exactly what to do as long as you can put yourself in a calm and attentive state. That’s all meditation is for.
It’s helpful to know certain controlled breathing techniques for worst-case scenarios. These techniques are surprisingly effective at curbing panic attacks and intense, prolonged bouts of anxiety, and there are many to choose from. Again, planning and practice are key, so give them a spin before you absolutely need them.One technique is to inhale for four seconds, hold the breath for seven seconds, and then exhale slowly over a period of six seconds. Focus as intently as you can on the act of breathing itself, like there’s nothing in the world except the air in your lungs. If you’ve never tried controlled breathing before, I suggest doing this exercise now. You might find it more difficult than you expected. If so, do it even more often to train your diaphragm.
Go Forth and Do Good Things
Now you have a beginner’s toolkit for handling stress and anxiety this holiday season. You have a grand plan, numerous sub-goals, and an overview of where your time and money will be spent. Ideally, these will all be written down. Having this plan in place will prevent any foreseeable anxiety-inducing scenarios. For emergencies and unexpected disasters, you have a meditation routine and at least one breathing technique to prevent a total meltdown. These latter two need to be practiced so that they will be second nature to you when things seem to be in chaos.As a word of parting, don’t forget to make time for celebration among all of the things you have to get done this season. You made it through an entire year! Take a deep breath and give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve earned it.Happy holidays!