The holidays aren’t necessarily the happiest season for all with the added stress, commitment and social gatherings that come with the territory. It’s totally normal for anxiety to flare up so we’re here to provide you with some tools to help you navigate the holidays with some ease and grace. These tools are used by members of the AIYANA fam team and we wanted to share them with you.
Identify Your Triggers
The first helpful tool for reducing anxiety is to identify triggers. Bringing awareness to the signs your body displays when you are experiencing anxiety is especially helpful so you can differentiate between what is anxiety, what is stress and what is just an unfortunate situation. Real life is not always perfect, so remembering that life has ups and downs, twists and turns can be very helpful in placing weight on the general themes surrounding your anxiety while helping you identify what is anxiety and what is, unfortunately, “a part of life.”
Anxiety can look like interrupted sleep, loss of appetite, blushing, heart palpitations, retreating, heavy breathing, sweating, digestive symptoms, guilt and shame. For tracking purposes, it’s important to connect the dots between your symptoms, events that caused them and your emotions throughout the day.
Focus on Logical Reasoning
This might not be exactly what you want to hear when you’re in the midst of an anxiety spiral, but it needs to be said. Logical reasoning is an effective tool when you are stuck in an emotionally negative state. You know that voice in your head that is always telling you what you can't do or what you are doing wrong? Try talking back to it. Challenge the assumptions it’s making. Talking back to your anxiety using logical reasoning can be an empowering tool that helps you visualize overcoming your fears and squashing them instantly upon arrival.
Apply Breathing Techniques
Breathing techniques help your body kick into the rest-and-digest mode and out of the fight-or-flight mode. Box breathing is a powerful tool that can be done almost anywhere, in your car, while walking or even sitting at your office desk. You alternate between breathing in, holding, breathing out and holding for four seconds each. You can repeat this method for however long you need. Make sure to breathe in through your nose and then out with your mouth.
Adopt a Gratitude Practice
Each morning (or night), be sure to write down 3 things you are most proud of that involve you (and you alone). Nothing is too little to be grateful for. Taking time to be grateful for the little things will help put perspective on some of the things you’ve been overthinking. “Today I was a great parent. Today I ate all three meals. Today I brushed & flossed my teeth.” Little accomplishments like this should never be taken for granted. Writing them down and recognizing them can show you that you are committed to getting 1% better every day which has an exponential impact over the course of a year. A bonus of a gratitude practice is that all this positivity will start to take up space in your head and you will be forced to let go of negative thoughts to make room for all of the positivity you are manifesting.
Prioritize Your Health
No matter what, you must do one thing every day for yourself. Whether that be a 5-minute car meditation waiting for the kids at school pick-up or getting up 10 minutes earlier to be able to make your coffee or journal away some of your thoughts before the day’s business kicks in. Schedule in your health time so you are more likely to stick with it. Health time can look like going to bed earlier, saying no to social events, moving, prioritizing three meals a day, or ordering healthy prepared meals so you don’t need to worry about another task.
Step Into Your Senses
Five Senses therapy is a useful tool that helps to ground you in the midst of anxiety. Focusing on sight, taste, touch, sound and smell is a tangible tool that you can use in any environment. Try carrying your favourite essential oil in your bag, splashing cold water on your hands or face, getting outside to breathe in the fresh air and listening to the sounds of your breath. This technique can help you transform the environment you are in, help you stay present and slow your thoughts down so you can have some immediate relief.
Wear Your Favourite Things
This one may sound silly, but wearing clothes that bring you joy and make you feel confident is an important key in making your holiday functions or your limited downtime more enjoyable and less frightening than normal. If you are worried about attending your first holiday work function or family holiday party, wear something that you are familiar with. Yes, this is your excuse to wear the same kickass outfit to every holiday function you attend this year!
Create Your Action Plan
Once you’ve identified your triggers, you can create your own plan on how to reduce the severity of the anxiety. Using some tools mentioned above, you can create actionable plans for your top anxiety triggers. Take your top five triggers and work out a technique that best suits it. Having a loose plan can help relieve some of the immediate anxiety and allow you to feel prepared in the face of a trigger. Some examples include:
“When I’m at a social gathering and my heart starts beating fast and I begin to sweat, I will excuse myself to the bathroom and focus on deep breathing for 2 minutes.
“When I have anxiety after waking up, I will wake up 10 minutes earlier than my family and journal my thoughts or have a quick meditation”.