December is a full-on time of year for most of us. Our calendars fill up fast with parties, presents to buy, food to make, family to visit — and all while wrapping up work projects in time for the holidays (if you’re fortunate enough to have one).
The pressure to create the “perfect holiday experience”, coupled with a busy social calendar, financial strains, and complex family dynamics, can take a toll on your mental health. It can also be a highly emotional time, for many reasons.
Social media doesn’t help either. With the Insta-aesthetics pile on, an influx of Christmas advertising bombarding your feed, and the general burnout of getting to the end of the year, what can you do when holiday anxiety starts to surface?
In this article, Dr Jodie shares practical tips from The Mind Strength Method to help you prioritise your mental wellbeing and keep things joyful this holiday season.
1. Holiday season stress and self-awareness
The festive period tends to stir up a range of stressors, especially off the back of the unexpected challenges over the past few years, from COVID to the cost-of-living crisis and the devastating impact of global instability.
Take a moment to introspect on your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Are they tied to fear, anger, or a low mood, or do they align with your purpose and values? This self-awareness will help you unpack how you’re feeling.
Here are some ways stress might show up for you:
- Constant worrying
- Social withdrawal
- Body aches
- Sleeping problems
During the festive hustle, honing in on how stress manifests in your body becomes an important tool. Having heightened awareness of the triggers behind these symptoms is a powerful way to navigate and manage your holiday anxiety and stress.
2. Ask yourself “why?”
Once you’re clear on some of the primary triggers causing your stress and anxiety, it’s time to navigate a path that aligns with your purpose and values. In the holiday rush, find time to slow down and ask yourself:
“Why am I doing this?” or “What is important to me?”
Reflect on what brings you the most meaning and fulfilment. What are your values? Connecting with loved ones? Giving thoughtful gifts? Moments with family? Understanding these values will connect you with a sense of purpose and happiness.
3. Mindfulness for holiday stress relief
To get through the holidays with less stress and anxiety, resilience is your best friend. After identifying your stressors and values, now turn to mindfulness techniques, and incorporate them into your daily routine for much-needed holiday stress relief.
Try this mindfulness practice:
Breathe: Combat stress by focusing on slow exhales. Inhale deeply, exhale slowly, releasing tension with each breath.
Observe: Shift your focus from worry to the present moment. Engage all your senses — listen, see, smell, feel. Mindfully observe both internal and external experiences, creating distance from fear-driven thoughts.
Proceed: Following mindful breathing and observation, acknowledge that not everything is within your control. Whether you’re caught in the hustle and bustle, stuck in traffic, queuing at the shops, or anticipating a stressful work Christmas dinner, recognising that some things are beyond your control enables you to move forward. As soon as you accept that you can’t control them, the sooner you can relax and enjoy the holiday season.
4. Take action
While you can’t control every circumstance, you can choose how you respond to stress. Aligning your actions with your values and purpose allows you to create a values-driven plan for the holidays. Finally, keep your self-care and mental health front of mind so you can enjoy the festive season while minimising stress and anxiety.
Need to talk to someone about your holiday anxiety?
If you feel your anxiety heightening in the lead-up to the holiday period, talk to one of the clinical and registered psychologists at The Anxiety Clinic. We have in-person and online therapy for adults, kids and teens.