Cope ahead for the holidays!

While the holidays are supposed to be a joyful time, often, they fail to meet expectations. Families aren’t families without drama or some suppressed emotions, right? If you’re anything like me, the holidays bring about stress and anxiety, and it might benefit you to keep reading!

Sometimes, if you’re already in a swarm of anxiety, it is difficult to think clearly. That is why I am challenging, and encouraging, you to come up with a plan ahead of time when you are in a more stable emotional state.

Everyone’s situation is different, but I hope that these pointers may come in handy for some of you, like they do for me.

Reflect on what your anxiety looks like.

Anxiety is different for every individual. For me, my symptoms are largely internal. What are yours? Do you get warmth in your face? Do you sweat or shake? Do you have difficulty breathing? If you’re in a calm state right now, and you really thought about it, you could write out a list of the signs of an anxiety attack coming on. I challenge you to do so. Believe me, it will be helpful.

Ponder what helps you in anxious situations.

If you are unsure what can calm you down in an anxious situation, I will have suggestions toward the end of this post. But if you do know what calms you down, jot those down also. 

Here comes the difficult part.

Consider who or what makes you anxious about the upcoming holiday.

For me, it’s simply the fact that there are members of my extended family whose relationships I wish were different. I distance myself from those painful thoughts as much as possible. Considering Thanksgiving and Christmas are such family oriented holidays, the pain comes back in full force. Also, when I’m around my parents and brother, I try really hard to not show any symptoms of my mental illnesses because I’m ashamed of them. That takes a lot of energy to put on the happy face all of the time. I also just feel a lot of shame because I feel like I am not contributing enough nor am I anything for them to be proud of. 

Imagine a situation that could arise this upcoming holiday season. Think of something that would really make you anxious.

Maybe it’s a family fight. Maybe it’s a certain conversation topic. It could be a number of things. But really, specifically, imagine the situation playing out in your mind. You might start to feel a little anxiety picturing it, and that’s okay. Doing this ahead of time ensures success. Imagine the worst case scenario for this potential situation. 

Insert your coping strategies and picture yourself using them effectively in the anxious situation.

Let’s say I imagine myself getting an anxiety attack seemingly out of nowhere after we play a family game, because my thoughts run away with me. I then think about an exit strategy; something I can do to distract myself or calm myself down. I then picture myself utilizing that coping strategy effectively. When the time comes, if the time comes (because worst case scenarios don’t always happen), I assure you you are more likely to remember your cope ahead strategy than if you didn’t come up with one beforehand.

This may seem stupid, but I assure you, it works.

SOME OF MY EFFECTIVE COPING STRATEGIES

  • Leaving the room, even if it’s just to go to the bathroom. Removing yourself from the situation is sometimes all it takes for me.
  • Rubbing a small plush, squeezing a stress ball, or holding something small. Sometimes I have a tiny little Pokemon figure or a mini beanie baby in my pocket or in a balled up fist.
  • Deep, controlled breathing.
  • Counting to ten or some other number.
  • Observing objects around the room. This one is HUGE for me. I’ll count the number of ceiling tiles, or watch a bird out the window, or count how many candles are in the room.
  • Make yourself a notecard that will fit in your pocket. It can have quotes on it, affirmations, whatever would help you. Whenever I’ve had one of those in my pocket, just knowing it’s there is enough.
  • Dunk your head in ice cold water or the freezer, or take a hot shower. This one may seem out of left field, but I will talk about it in a future post. I assure you it’s a lifesaver.

Remember, there is a way out.

You are not obligated to attend family functions, even if you think you are. Nor are you required to stay for any length of time. If you have the means to go home, set a time. Tell yourself you will be there for x number of hours and if at that point you’re spent and you want to leave, you can. Ultimately, it’s about you and your mental and emotional health. If your emotional energy is spent and you need to leave, then leave. I promise it will be okay.

Was this post helpful? I hope so. Let me know in the comments either way. xo

21 Comments

  1. Chloe Chats

    Great coping methods, I definitely use some of them myself. For me even just walking out of the room that everyone is in and going into my bedroom just to do some breathing exercises really helps when I’m feeling really anxious. I like the last part too, it’s so important to remember that, I know we can perhaps feel guilty for missing family functions but if you’re not feeling up to it then it’s okay not to go. Thanks for sharing!

    Chloe xx
    http://www.chloechats.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lindsey

      It was my pleasure. Leaving the room has become huge. The hardest part was telling my family that’s what I have to do sometimes (because when I started doing it they didn’t understand).

      Like

  2. acupfullofmusings

    I really liked this post. I have mental illnesses as well and lately I have been having a rough patch so this was comforting. Your tips are really practical and helpful. I’m sure they will be a big help during the holidays and even in general. I have my exams next month and I will definitely apply a couple of these to keep myself calm, especially planning my coping strategy ahead. Thank you so much. You literally saved me a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety.
    Hope you have happy holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. gmsmith1980

    Nicely written, we frequently use many of these techniques ourselves when in stressful situations. And at the end of a stressful day, a hot shower makes all the difference in relaxing… or in my case 30 minutes in the sauna at our Y.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Julie

    Thank you for this post Lindsey. It makes so much sense to plan ahead and have some coping mechanisms in place ahead of time. Because once in the middle of an anxious episode it can be difficult to think of what to do! I thought alot about and planned for Thanksgiving this year and it REALLY helped. I need to do this for the upcoming holiday as well!

    Liked by 1 person

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