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How to manage anxiety during the holidays

At Gosnold, we know a successful recovery does not end with the completion of a treatment plan; we offer ongoing recovery support for our patients and their families.  We are committed to the community and provide family education, school-based counseling, medical care integration, and support prevention coalitions.

Everyone experiences [anxiety]( at some point in life. To an extent, anxiety can be a good thing when it warns us about potential dangers. It’s also natural to experience feelings of anxiousness before giving a presentation, taking a test, or in anticipation of other tasks. 

However, for some people, anxiety is pervasive and problematic and can underscore everything they do. It can sometimes ramp up during the holiday season. The time of year when friends and family gather from near and far, hosting them in your home or for parties, shopping for gifts, and dealing with the temptation to drink can be overwhelming for many people.

Let’s explore more of what holiday anxiety can look like, and how to manage anxiety symptoms in healthy ways.

Managing Holiday Anxiety Symptoms

If your anxiety starts to worsen around the holiday season, you may want to try the following anxiety management strategies:

Ask For Help

Overwhelmed by the task of cooking for a large group of people? It’s okay and even encouraged to ask for help when you need it to better manage anxiety. Having someone help shoulder some of the holiday burdens can make the difference between a good season and a stressful one.

Take Some Deep Breaths

It sounds simple, but it works. Breathe in for a few counts, and then breathe out, slowly. Focus on your breath, and feel your heart rate start to slow a bit to manage anxiety.

Try Aromatherapy

Some smells are associated with feelings of calm and relaxation, such as lavender, chamomile, and sandalwood. Try lighting some candles in these scents, or using scented soap in a warm bath to relax. You can also diffuse these scents in the form of essential oils to manage anxiety.

Go for a Walk

Sometimes the best thing to do in a stressful situation is to walk away from it. Take a brief walk around your neighborhood, focusing on the sparkling lights and festive decorations around you to stay focused on the present. Better yet, walking is good exercise, and exercise is known for its [stress-relieving properties]( for managing anxiety. 

Journal Your Feelings

For those who process their thoughts best in writing, keeping a journal is a good way to manage anxiety. Getting the thoughts out of your head and onto a page makes them less intimidating. You can physically close the book on them once you get them out of your system. Sometimes it can be helpful to go back and reread older entries after some time has passed. You may find that the things that made you anxious back then really were small things, after all. 

Journaling is a good way to put things into perspective. Remember, the holiday season is short, and won’t last forever. If it’s hard to enjoy it, remember that it only comprises the last part of the year, and everything will settle back to normal after the new year.

Identify Triggers

“Triggers” are situations, certain people, sounds, places, or things that jump-start anxious feelings. Perhaps it’s a specific situation, like having someone confront you at a holiday party about why you’re not drinking. Some triggers can’t be easily avoided while others can be limited. Maybe you need to limit the number of invitations you accept this year so you allow yourself time to recharge. 

It’s also worth trying to limit caffeine and sugar intake, as these substances can wreak havoc on anxiety. The holidays are a time for excessive sweets and sugary drinks. Try to reduce these treats to better manage anxiety. 

Talk to a Therapist

Many people find it helpful [to verbally process]( anxious thoughts with an unbiased third party who can help identify patterns in your thinking. A good therapist can work with you to develop other coping mechanisms for specific triggers to manage anxiety and help [change negative thought patterns]( to help you face stressful situations at this time of year.


Mindful meditation can teach your mind to dismiss anxious thoughts as they come up. You can do it simply by sitting quietly in a comfortable position, paying attention to what is surrounding you, and keeping your thoughts focused on the present. 

Spend Time With Friends

Sometimes the cure to manage anxiety is to intentionally spend time with our favorite people, especially those who know us best and make us laugh. Socialization actually helps reduce stress, and being part of a community helps reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. If you have to spend time with relatives who make you uncomfortable, make sure you schedule some time with a good friend after. 

Give the Gift of Time

Sometimes the most effective cure for anxiety is to simply take the focus away from ourselves. Volunteering, perhaps at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter, is a great way to feel better by helping others. Many local charities can use extra hands at this time of year. Check online to see which charities are in need of additional volunteers for November and December. You may find that volunteering is a great practice to continue regularly as the new year approaches.

Declutter and Reorganize

The holidays are about giving, and sometimes we end up with an abundance of stuff we don’t actually need. Decluttering your home can do wonders for an anxious, “cluttered” mind and in managing anxiety symptoms. Any clothes, toys, or other items in good condition can be taken to your local homeless shelter or other charitable organization for new life.

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