This week I am pleased and honored to host four wonderful writers and friends, each of whom, through his or her words and actions, leads a life informed by kindness and generosity of spirit. Over the coming days, they’ll offer their unique perspectives on wellness and wellbeing, and offer helpful advice for staying physically and emotionally healthy through the holiday season.
Please join the conversation – share your own tips and advice in the comments section! If a post moves you, please consider sharing with your family and friends. Thank you so much!
How to Deal With Your Physical Manifestations of Holiday-Induced Anxiety
by Jennifer Landis
The holidays are nearly upon us, and with them come good food, good company and occasionally gifts.
But let’s face it — the holidays are stressful. We find ourselves obligated to attend parties with people we don’t know or don’t enjoy talking to, our to-do lists are spiraling out of control — and, if you’ve got kids, you’ve got the added stress of picking out the perfect gifts for them to open on Christmas morning. Out of nowhere, you find yourself hiding in the back room because you’re shaking and you can’t breathe.
Anxiety is something you think of as being all in your head, but it can manifest in several physical symptoms, as well—shaking or an inability to breathe, for example. Many of these symptoms can feel extreme, which compounds your anxiety and makes it more difficult to handle. How can you recognize — and learn to deal with — the physical manifestations of your anxiety?
What Are the Common Physical Manifestations of Anxiety?
The physical symptoms of anxiety can come in a variety of forms, and may vary greatly for different people. It’s easy to mistake these symptoms for other conditions — chest pain or a pounding heart may have you scurrying to the ER as you worry about a heart attack — but in general, they are not life-threatening.
You may have experienced these before, but the most common physical symptoms of anxiety often include:
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or feeling faint
- Grinding or clenching your teeth
- Shortness of breath, or being unable to catch your breath — even if there’s more than enough air in the room, you feel like you can’t breathe
- Trembling or shaking uncontrollably
- Pounding heart or even heart palpitations — this symptom can also manifest as chest pain or the feeling of a knot in your chest
- Nausea or vomiting
- Hot or cold flashes and/or excessive perspiration
More extreme symptoms can range anywhere from itching and headaches to vertigo and full-blown depersonalization. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know how anxiety is going to affect you until the symptoms start to manifest. Once they have, though, how can you deal with them?
Learn Breath Control
The first thing you need to do when you feel your symptoms coming on is to focus on your breathing.
By slowing down your breathing, you can help the rest of your body feel calmer and more relaxed. As your breathing slows, your blood pressure and heart rate will both normalize, your oxygen consumption will decrease and you will start to calm down.
Start by taking a long, slow breath in through your nose. Hold that breath for a count of three, and then exhale slowly. Mindfulness, or the practice of being aware of the present moment, can also be useful in these cases. You focus on the immediacy of the things you can manage, while ignoring things in the past or future that are outside your control.
Become More Active
We should all strive to become as active as possible, but one of the many benefits of a regular exercise regimen is that it helps mitigate the physical symptoms of anxiety. Exercise releases endorphins, which help naturally elevate your mood. It also helps tire your muscles out, which can make physical anxiety symptoms less intense. Plus, regular exercise keeps the holiday calories from adding up too quickly — you’ll feel less guilty about enjoying your favorite pie or holiday fare!
Of course, during the holidays, we’re all buried in preparations — and when we run out of time, exercise is often the first thing to go. However, a workout doesn’t have to be long to have benefits.
If you’re not an active individual, start small by taking a walk around your neighborhood. Some studies have shown a brisk 10-minute walk can be just as effective for anxiety and other mental health concerns as a vigorous 45-minute workout. Don’t work out until you hurt yourself — just take some steps to start getting more active.
You don’t need to invest in an expensive fitness tracker, but a fitness app can help keep you focused on your goals. Many apps use your phone’s GPS and built-in hardware to keep track of your steps, calculate how far you’ve walked and determine how many calories you’ve burned with your activity. Plus, if you bring your phone along, you can listen to your favorite music, audiobooks or podcasts while you exercise.
Reduce Your Stress
Stress is an often unavoidable part of life, but excessive stresses can also make your anxiety harder to manage. You can, however, take some steps to reduce the stress you can control.
First, avoid toxic people and those who bring unneeded stress into your life. You don’t need to feel bad for cutting these people out of your life – or forgoing holiday visits – the additional stress they cause makes your anxiety worse.
Additionally, try to avoid other stressors such as scary movies, music that triggers your anxiety or anything else—like binge-eating or drinking too much—that causes anxiety symptoms.
During the holidays, we also tend to create our own stress. Between events and commitments, try to leave downtime to rest and relax. Let go of any feelings of inadequacy that make you feel anxious or small. Remember: the picture-perfect families in holiday ads aren’t real: they’re the brainchild of some marketing committee. Striving for perfection is an impossible task—no one and no family is perfect—and only makes us more anxious. By eliminating some of these stresses, you can reduce your chance of anxiety escalating during the holidays.
Some stressors are often entirely unavoidable — such as those related to work or school, or when there are serious health issues in our own lives or with people we love — but if you take steps to reduce the stressors you can control, the ones that are out of your control have less of an impact.
Remember, You Are Not Alone
Anxiety is terrifying. You might think you’re the only one suffering this way, and feel as if you have nowhere to turn for help, but it’s important to keep this in mind — you are not alone. An estimated 40 million people suffer from some form of anxiety in the United States, and everyone experiences it a little differently.
Holiday anxiety is more common than you might think. You can control many of the symptoms with lifestyle changes like the ones we listed above, but if you feel like your anxiety is overwhelming you, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor. He or she might be able to recommend new techniques to help you deal with your anxiety symptoms.
You don’t need to go through this alone. If you need help, there are an enormous number of resources at your disposal to help you manage your symptoms, and live a healthy, productive life – and enjoy a happy, less stress-filled holiday season!
***Stop by tomorrow for David Brown’s post, Running Toward Wellbeing.***
Jennifer Landis is a mom, wife, and healthy living blogger at Mindfulness Mama. She loves yoga, distance running, peanut butter, and spending the small amount of free time she has watching Netflix with her husband.
Follow her on Twitter: @JenniferELandis.
I do yoga to manage holiday stress
Using yoga to help manage stress is a really good idea, Elena!
I would enjoy trying yoga classes to help with holiday stress.
I hope you enjoy them if you get to try them, Barbara!
I really don’t have a lot of holiday stress. There’s only my son, his wife and me. I don’t have a lot of money left after bills so, I don’t do much. That’s just the way it is. I give them things throughout the year when I can.
Sometimes the things we can do mean more – even if they are small things – than any big gesture could, Linda. I’m sure your son and his wife very much appreciate what you do.
I manage stress by working out, and finding enjoyable ways to incorporate activity and christmas traditions like taking a walk to see the christmas lights.
What a lovely way to get some exercise and get in the the holiday spirit!
I use serenity essential oil from doterra to help with stress and anxiety. I don’t sell doterra i just really like the serenity oil :)
I’m glad it helps, Jaelle!
Strong cup of coffee
I read magazines.
i go to counseling and she gives me a tool box but my fav way to distress is music
I love music too, Liza. It’s a great thing to have in your wellbeing toolbox!
I meditate and a cup of tea never hurts ( wink)
Thanks for stopping by here and on Facebook, Katherine!
I would gift my parents and spend a lot of time with them which is what matters the most !
I handle stress by spending my early morning hours doing devotionals, as well as by taking long hot baths and hoarding good books and coffee <3.
Meditate and reading books
I’d like to get a massage to help with stress over Christmas, I might have a spa day with my sister
Managing stress is important to me. I set aside some ME time to relax, usually with a hot cup of tea and a good book to take me away from reality, if only for a short time. This has worked for many years and I will continue doing it.
I manage stress by curling up with a good book.
I always love to practice my yoga. It helps me relax and unwind.
To avoid stress, I just really try to keep it all in perspective. I remind myself that everything does NOT need to be perfect and that what gets done, gets done…and what doesn’t, doesn’t. I make lists of what I absolutely HAVE to do to keep myself on track. A little each day instead of everything all at once.
This is a wonderful approach to managing your self-care and limiting your stress!
I listen to music, bundle up for a walk through the park, realize it’s not that important and let it go.
I love this approach, Bernice. It’s not always easy to let go, but when we can it’s so much better for us!
To manage stress, I like to take walks to unwind and relax.
I workout in the gym to relieve streas
Something different I am trying is shopping online, but not sure if it’ll be delivered by the 23rd, but hoping.
I volunteer at the school as much as I can. All the schools could use a hand at volunteering to help like read to them a paragraph then have them read it back to you. help with certain ones with letters numbers ect…
That’s a wonderful way to give back!
What are some good activities to do with my in-laws?
Hi Crystal, depending on how active your in-laws are, I always find a walk a wonderful way to enjoy time together, particularly if they’re visiting and you can show them some new sights along the way!
Something I currently do to deal with stress is mindful breathing – 5 slow deep breaths. I remember thinking it would do nothing for me the first few times I did it, but now it’s become apart of my daily routine. I also do yoga and baby yoga with my newborn and it truly makes a difference in our day.
Baby yoga sounds amazing, Jessica! What a wonderful thing to do with your newborn!
I take a little time each day to meditate, it doesn’t take long but it certainly helps.
I like to spend time with my animals to release some stress! My cats and dog always make me feel better!
That’s so nice to hear, Lisa! Animals bring such joy and fun.
I love to sit by the fireplace and watch a movie or a TV show.
I love this idea!
I manage holiday stress by going to the gym every morning to exercise.
Red wine is great for my holiday stress!
Make time for yourself. You have to be happy and healthy to keep up.
I’d like to try some new recipes this holiday season.
I’ll be honest…I don’t really get stressed around the holidays, but one things that helps me relax generally is using lavender in my essential oil diffuser in the mornings and evenings…the scent is so calming.
I will g on my phone and play a game of boom beach or have me a drink to relax if I get too upset.
My stress reliever for the holidays is a big glass of wine, and a warm spot to read!
i GO SHOPPING
Reminding myself that I can only control my reaction to things, not the situation itself. Also, remembering that perfection does not exist, it is not worth chasing.
I try to avoid holiday stress by planning ahead-WAY ahead. I like to have everything planned out and ready to go at least two weeks in advance.
One year I will definitely be this disciplined, Lyz!
Meditation for me.
Over the years, I’ve learned take it easy this time of year. I don’t cook a big Xmas dinner, I go out! And keep the present giving to a bare minimum.
Love this approach, Catherine! If I didn’t love the cooking so much, I’d definitely consider it!
We’re managing stress by skipping all but Christmas dinner. No big gifts–just a few “tokens”
That’s a fantastic idea! Christmas is wonderful but it can become so stressful.
I try to get my mind off of whatever is stressing me by working all types of puzzles. This occupies my mind and steers it away from my stress.
This year I started shopping early.
i work out almost daily to manage stress year round
i like this blog <3
To relieve holiday stress I make the most of important family moments. I focus on what truly matters.
I make sure to keep up with my yoga practice to stay sane over the holidays!
I read, and I read a lot, I had the whole week off this year for Christmas and I read 4 books, and not short books either. I managed to read well over 50 books this yr (my goodreads goal was 20) and that was quite the goal for me as in the summer months when my workplace wants me , I do up to 15hrs of OT per paychq
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I’ve been simplifying my life and it’s made it so much less stressful for me!
To manage holiday stress I just take a deep breath and tackle what needs to be done. It helps to plan ahead and stay organized too :)
I manage stress by keeping track of everything I need to get done in my planner.
I cook and clean… Like from the manual… lol
I relax with a cup of tea and a good book
I enjoy burning candles, watching the flame dance/flicker is relaxing to me
For next year I’m going to start shopping earlier!
I knit. The constant clicking of the needles and repetitive movement is very calming to me.
I try to get things done one day at a time and not let things pile up. This goes for year round, not just the holidays.
I read Facebook and play internet games.
I take a long hot bath. This gives me some relaxing time.