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How to Mindfully Deal With Anxiety About Thanksgiving and the Holidays

While the holiday season can often be referred to as "the most wonderful time of the year", it can also sometimes feel like the most stressful time of the year. During the holidays, we are often so focused on what everyone else needs from us - friends, parents, spouses, children - that our own needs get pushed to the wayside. Booking holiday travel, gift-buying and making time for extended family can often seem to take priority over all else. However, neglecting our own needs can lead us to feel anxious, depressed and certainly overwhelmed. The chaos of the holiday season makes it a time that it is especially important to be mindful of taking care of our own needs - because frankly, if we're not intentional about it, it likely won't happen.

A few tips for managing anxiety related to Thanksgiving and the holidays:

1) Don't over-schedule yourself.

This may look like saying "no" to that neighborhood holiday party or fundraiser, alternating which side of the family you'll spend Thanksgiving with (instead of trying to see both), or blocking off one weekend day to spend at home. Constantly running around to give everyone else in your lives what you think they want from you will ultimately leave you feeling burnt out, exhausted, and maybe even resentful, which will ultimately be detrimental to those relationships anyway.

2) Make time to take care of your health.

When you're feeling overwhelmed and over-scheduled, oftentimes personal exercise, sleep and nutrition routines can be the first things to go. But exercise, eating a balanced diet and getting restful sleep are not only good for your physical health, but mental health as well. Regular exercise can not only help with management of stress, anxiety and boost your mood, but dedicating that regular time for yourself sends the message to your brain, "I'm worth it". When you're feeling grounded, you will be in a much better headspace to tackle that stressful family gathering.

3) Take a moment to breathe.

Part of the reason the holidays can seem so chaotic and stressful is because you find yourself constantly rushing - to meet that work deadline before break, to find gifts in time, to pack before an early-morning flight. All of the rushing and “doing” can leave without a moment to pause, be present and take a deep breath. Trying to find a few moments to breathe and be present can slow down your nervous system and have a huge impact on physical tension and anxiety. This can be at the end of a busy workday, in an airport bathroom or even carving out a few moments for quiet and solitude while staying with a relative. Cut yourself some slack and make peace with not being “on” 24/7.

4) Set realistic expectations.

Do you put a lot of pressure on yourself to find the “perfect” gift, host the most festive holiday party, or have meaningful conversations with every single relative? This kind of pressure will often leave you feeling frazzled and unable to really be present for the time you have with your loved ones. It can be helpful to ask yourself, “who am I really doing this for, and why is it important to me?” Is it realistic that your friends won’t enjoy your party if the decor isn’t perfect? Does your nephew really need every item on his wish list? The best holiday memories are often those that are filled with laughter and quality time with loved ones. Taking some of that pressure off and lowering expectations for yourself can be a game changer in feeling less anxious and more present.


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