The holidays this year are going to unlike any holiday season ever.
2020 has been a year of change, confusion, isolation, stress, and anxiety for all of us, and these holidays are going be different for us in ways we’d never dreamed possible.
Things we never thought would change, have changed. Institutions we’ve relied on, relationships we’ve depended on aren’t there for us. And many of us are wondering how it’s all going to work.
We’re not sure how the celebrations are going to look. We’re not sure how it’s going to feel to connect with loved ones on Zoom or from a distance through a mask. We’re not sure how we’re going to make it through the next few weeks.
Truth is, if 2020 didn’t make you anxious, you weren’t paying attention. And if you were already anxious, stress and worry can turn into anxiety attacks and panic.
How do I know?
As a three-time cancer survivor and a licensed psychotherapist, I’m an expert on anxiety. I know how stress and worry can make you feel out of control, how it can limit your life, and keep you trapped in fear.
But as the author of the book, Calm and Sense, A Woman’s guide to Living-Anxiety-Free, I’ve also learned some powerful tools and techniques we can all use to help us get through tough times like these.
And when I realized I was dreading the holidays, I turned to my book to put together a simple plan to help me survive these next few weeks. I decided I’d do five simple things every day to help me weather this storm of stress, fear and worry.
I invite you to look through them and see if there’s something in here that you can use as well:
When I feel stress start to overwhelm me, I’m going to remember to breathe. Just breathe. I offer a number of breathing techniques in my book, Calm and Sense, and the simplest one is what I call the “shrug” or “shoulder” breath. As you breathe in, lift your shoulders as high as they’ll go. Then exhale with a whoosh and let your shoulders relax. As you breathe in, notice that your body tenses; as you breathe out, let relaxation spread throughout your body.
I’m going to remind myself to slooooow down. I’ve noticed that the tempo at this time of year gets faster and faster, and can take us with it, making us run around like crazy people with to do lists that seem to go on forever. But this year, I’m not going along for that ride. This year I’m going to slow down, so I can enjoy the sights and smells of the traditions we can still enjoy. I’m going to eat slowly and really taste that special stuffing. I’m going to move slowly, and lower my expectations about what I can and can’t do. Because, truth is, haste doesn’t just make waste. It also makes us upset cranky, short-tempered and really, really anxious. So, when I start to feel overwhelmed, I’m going to sloooow down.
I’m going to walk every day, which will bring a sense of calm into my life. The research shows that for some people, daily exercise works as well as medication to reduce their symptoms of anxiety. For me, getting outdoors at least once a day to walk is essential to staying centered and calm.
I’m going to make sure I eat a healthy balanced diet, with the focus on plenty of the “stay calm foods” I talk about in my book. And I’m going to make sure I stay hydrated. Not getting enough water to drink can really cause a spike in anxiety.
I’m going to choose to surround myself with positive people. And, when I’m feeling anxious or stressed, I’m going to reach out and ask for some love and support.
So, these are the five things I’m going to do every day to help find a sense of peace, comfort and joy in the holidays. If you’re feeling anxious, too, I hope you’ll give them a try.
One more thought: Just declaring these 5 ideas as my plan for staying calm helped me feel reassured. I encourage you to do the same. Planning ahead for what we see coming can do a lot to give us a sense of control, and that alone can help us find our calm.
If you’re looking for more ideas for managing your anxiety, I invite you to check out my newly published book, Calm and Sense: A Woman’s Guide to Living Anxiety-Free.