It’s not news to anyone that the holiday season is one of the most stressful times of the year, from conflict with family and financial strain to just plain stress about having an enjoyable time and making sure others do, too. In order to better manage the stress of the holiday season, it is important to find ways to lower your baseline anxiety. Lowering your baseline anxiety will help greatly with your ability to regulate your emotions. That is, you will experience less intense increases in anxiety and you will be able to recover more quickly from them.
7 Ways to Lower Your Baseline Anxiety And Manage Holiday Stress
1. Practice mindfulness by tuning into your environment in order to move your focus back to the present and away from your worries. Count holiday decorations in a store, like the number of Santas or ornaments you see while you’re shopping. If you’re at a holiday party or meal, focus on the taste of food. Count how many times you are chewing each bite.
2. Focus on your pet while practicing mindfulness. Spend extra time petting your cat or dog and focusing on the softness of its fur.
3. Reduce overall muscle tension by trying progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) which is when you methodically tense and relax specific muscle groups beginning at your toes and going up to your eyebrows. The theory behind PMR is that during times of prolonged anxiety, your muscles tense up and this can lead to headaches, neck or back problems. When you practice PMR, you (and your body) relearn what it feels like for your muscles to relax. This is one of many YouTube videos that provides a guide to PMR, and you should feel free to use it, or you can search around to find one that you like better.
4. Add self-care to your repertoire in the form of pampering yourself with a bubble bath, enjoying your favorite scented candle, or enjoying a yummy treat. Limit alcohol use and be mindful of its impact on your behavior and thinking. Alcohol is not only a depressant, but it generally reduces one's ability to regulate emotions. However, there is often the temptation to use alcohol to avoid your experience of anxiety. Remember, any form of avoidance of your emotions will only increase their intensity.
5. Try to find ways to keep exercise in your routine as physical activity is essential to managing anxiety and stress. If you do not have time to get to the gym and exercising outdoors is not for you, work on being active at home and give yourself credit for doing so. All of the cleaning and decorating for the holidays "counts." If you live in an apartment with an elevator and taking the stairs is an option, do so. Now is also the time to deliberately park farther away from your destination to get in some extra walking.
6. Lastly, remind yourself that this holiday season and your emotion that you feel in the moment is temporary. Like all emotions, as long as you do not fuel it with avoidance or harmful thinking patterns, this emotion will rise and fall on its own.