Anxiety and the Holidays
It’s that time of year! Almost everyone’s anxiety increases as the holidays approach.
Can you relate? Do you put pressure on yourself to cook the most amazing holiday meals? Or maybe capture the picture-perfect photo for your Christmas card? Perhaps you find it easy to overcommit during the holidays wanting to attend every event possible. Or maybe this is your first holiday season without a loved one? All of these things can cause our anxiety to increase. So, what can we do about it? I’m offering some suggestions to help reduce the stress of the holidays.
Spend some time thinking about what causes your anxiety to increase at this time of year. Once you’ve identified what contributes to those anxious feelings, make a plan. For example, if your tendency is to put pressure on yourself to prepare meals even Betty Crocker would be proud of, how might you scale that back a bit? Maybe you purchase part of the meal instead of preparing the entire dinner yourself. Or maybe you allow others to contribute to the meal? The meal doesn’t have to be perfect to be delicious.
If this is your first holiday season without a loved one, anticipate what might be the hardest part of it. Is it that your father-in-law always sat at the head of the table for Thanksgiving dinner and you dread seeing his empty chair? Maybe offer a toast in his memory or prepare his favorite dessert as a way of keeping his memory alive. You might be surprised how healing a simple thing like this can be.
Begin with the end in mind.
By this I mean, think about what you will remember most when the holidays are over and let all the rest go. Will you remember the perfectly set table when you look back on the 2022 holiday season? Or the fact that every ornament on the tree was meticulously placed? Will you think about the hours spent searching for the perfect gift or the look in the person’s eyes when they opened that gift? When it’s all over, most people remember the moments when they were fully present. They may be moments of shared laughter with a family member, a time where they encouraged someone who may have been struggling, or maybe just being aware of how delicious the pecan pie was this year!
Spend some time outside.
Research has confirmed in study after study that nature has a calming effect on the body. Being outside is relaxing. It improves mental and emotional well-being. It lowers our stress levels and reduces cortisol levels in our bodies. Increased cortisol levels have been linked to anxiety and depression. It also improves our mood as we receive vitamin D from the sun. I understand in today’s hectic world, it may be difficult to find time to get outside.
Consider bringing your lunch outside or try walking in a local park in lieu of hitting the gym. And leave your phone inside. In order to receive all the benefits available to you by being outdoors, it’s important to step away from devices. In fact, screens defeat the purpose of being outside. Checking your smartphone too frequently actually releases cortisol into the body. So, get outside but leave the phone indoors.
Remember the reason for the season.
Though it may sound cliché, it is no less true. Ultimately, we celebrate the holidays to remember what God has done for us. Christmas is celebrated to remember the perfect plan God put in place 2,000 years ago when he came to earth in the form of a helpless babe to become the payment for the sins of mankind. This is why we have a cause to celebrate.
If you find Christmas has become too commercialized you are not alone. Here are a few suggestions for keeping Christ at the center of Christmas. Think about a service project. Do you have an elderly neighbor who could use some help? What about a single mom who would love a break for a few hours? If you have children, consider starting a new tradition. Bake a birthday cake for Jesus or play the game Finding Jesus (similar to Elf on the Shelf, but with the baby Jesus from a nativity set). Whatever you do, it doesn’t have to be elaborate or complicated. Usually, the simple things are the ones enjoyed the most.
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