Christmas is a time of comfort and joy, but the reality is it can also be a time of stress and worry. If you experience anxiety or depression, this time of the year can exacerbate your symptoms and make holiday celebrations a real challenge.
So what can you do to deal with anxiety during the holidays? Rhonda Martin, a licensed professional clinical counselor, stopped by Morning Air® recently to share some strategies for making the Christmas season less about stress and more about celebrating.
Rhonda first emphasized that mental illness is not a moral failing, a result of not praying enough, or something you need to be ashamed about. But it is important to acknowledge how the stress of the holidays can affect your anxiety, and take active steps to find peace and balance.
Rhonda explained, “Around 30% of our population struggles with anxiety or a similar type of concern. And they are already having worries about the what ifs of that – the days, the nights, the gifts, the activities, the interactions, a person that maybe they’ve struggled with getting along with in the past. And so rather than this time of the year thinking and anticipating all the great things to come this season, they’re already in the worrying mode. So I believe that it’s those individuals that we want to reach out to this morning.”
Rhonda suggested an exercise that is often helpful for those suffering from anxiety, and anyone who is feeling a bit more worry this time of year.
“One thing to do is make sure that you do a little exercise we call ‘what if 24 hours later…’,” she said. “And so what that means is today write down five or six things that you feel worried about, anxious about, upset, depressed about. And rate them on a scale of 1-10 how much you really feel anxious or depressed or stressed about that. Twenty-four hours later, go back and read on a scale of 1-10 how much of a concern that was really.”
“What you learn about yourself is that on day two, when you go back and you re-evaluate, you rate each of the each of the items so much lower,” she explained. “And so what it teaches us is that we overreact with anxiety and depression by a certain amount of levels. So, if today I write down five different topics that really get me upset or anxious, and I say that I’m a nine on all of them, I have been really upset today. But tomorrow, when I’ve had 24 hours to process and get through and rethink it, I’m reading them just a two then. One thing I learned about myself is that, boy, I really go up seven levels when I’m worried and these things really aren’t the type of topics I should be worrying about. So it’s just an exercise that we can use to teach ourselves not to worry so much.”
One reason the holidays can bring so much worry is because you’re out of your normal routine, and with so many activities and commitments it can seem as though you’re being pulled in a million different directions. Rhonda offered another exercise for those who are feeling overwhelmed by the lack of control that Christmas commitments can bring.
“A second technique, especially as we go into Christmas, is to pick two or three activities that, no matter what, you have complete control over and you know that they’re going to bring you joy. And they can be just simple activities. Certain activities that, though they be a half hour or an hour this season, that there’s something that you know you can count on to be every bit the experience that you want it to be.”
Learn more tips for dealing with anxiety during the holidays by listening to the full conversation with Rhonda Martin below: