We often have an unrealistic image of what the holidays are supposed to be. We often envision family and friends gathering and just enjoying the time together. But often this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Holidays often bring up unwanted stress, old feelings that we try to suppress and often times continuing conflicts with family members.
This is not to say that we should not celebrate the holidays. Or that we should avoid people or situations. But rather we should enter into the holidays with a plan – Expect – and manage our emotions through the process.
One of the major complaints that I hear from clients is that they get overwhelmed with the shopping and gift giving the process of the holidays. There are a few things that you can do to help alleviate some of this stress are as follows;
By managing the gift purchasing process you will help yourself feel more in control. And you will minimize the longer effects of overspending going forward.
Dealing with family and friends may not be as easy to navigate. We all have that one person we will see around the holidays that has the ability to trigger our anxiety with a single word. The reason this person can get under your skin so easily is that we have a learned conditioned response to this person.
When we engage with this person we have to try to create space within the interaction. I know this is easier said than done, but it does work. When I refer to “space”, I am not speaking of distance, but rather in our minds. Remain open to all possibilities. Do not take things said to heart.
What works well is when we encounter this person, try to pretend that you are meeting this person for the first time. Try not to have any expectations. And be open-minded to the situation.
Often when we have these interactions, we enter into them “knowing” what will happen beforehand. And we get ourselves wound so tight ahead of time, that when we finally see them we instantly get set off.
But this is the way that all anxiety driven behavior works. This is not specific to people around the holidays. We have become sensitized to specific relationships, and our natural “self-defense” mechanism kicks in, all in an effort to control the situation. So we can obsess, have higher levels of anxiety and even experience panic attacks, all because we are exposed to a specific trigger.
Keep tools & techniques on hands. Try to manage your thoughts. When obsessing, use the tools to interrupt the thinking pattern.
Ultimately you want to create a new conditioning for the situation. It will be difficult. But be patient and “try”. You may be surprised by the outcome.
All in all, the holidays can be a wonderful time of year, even despite the stress and rise of anxieties. Try to approach the season with an open mind. And do not be so hard on yourself if you don’t feel all the “holiday warmth” that all the advertising makes us believe we will. We approach events the best we can. Use the opportunities to work on your anxiety recovery.
Be mindful. Schedule your time. “Expect”. Use “tools & techniques”. And do not forget to keep up with “self-care”. Above all else is your well-being. You deserve to remain a priority in your own life. Do not allow yourself to be swept away with “emotional drifting”.
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