For those people who suffer from anxiety disorders, all of these holidays creamed into the end of the year can be more jarring than joyful. Luckily, there are some strategies to manage that stress.

holiday stressWhen it comes to the holiday season, there is a lot to do; shopping, weather, baking, meeting and gifting. Questions such as—“did I drink too much at the holiday party?” “Did he spend more than I did on a gift?” “Did she get someone on her list that I didn’t get?” “Did I forger somebody? ” “Is this credit card bill due?”— are going on over and over in your head…so much to do! That is on top of the normal hustle and bustle of everyday existence. It is no wonder that those with general anxiety can learn to dread this time of year.

The holidays are like a perfect storm for sufferers of pretty much any anxiety disorder and there are a few: PTSD, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and generalized anxiety. The social phobias are all listed by the National Institute of Health. This group is among the most common, psychological condition affecting Americans and the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence says that social anxiety disorder affects ten percent of their population.

Social anxiety is described as an anxiety or fear of a social or performance situation that is out of proportion with the actual threat posed by that situation. Basically, we are overestimating how important it is and freaking out about it. You meet your partner’s family, you have to visit the in-laws, you are hosting a big dinner; all of these things can rattle even the most “together” people warranted or not. The key is to learn to help yourself and not hurt yourself.

The main reason we get anxious around the holidays is because of a lack of control. Psychologists say the best way is to relax and breathe. Being aware of our feelings can help us deal with anxiety in a healthy way.

When it comes to spending money, there is something called the “ostrich problem,” where people stop checking their bank balances during the holidays and just buy because they feel obligated. They don’t even look. There is no goal setting. This needs to be turned around. Obviously, this is great for retailers but it’s not the healthiest way to live when it comes to stress. Unfortunately, there is an ostrich problem with our feelings and obligations during the holidays too it would seem. If you stop and think about it, it’s not rocket surgery, it’s shopping! It’s not curing cancer, it’s a dinner!

Obviously, seeking professional medical help is the best way to deal with long-lasting anxiety but temporary relief can be found on a day-to-day basis by pulling our collective heads out of the sand. For example, you are going to be at some dinner and you find highly stressful. Maybe skip the dinner, but make sure you see the family later. That will relieve the stress and give you back some control. Or, go to the dinner and make an effort to keep yourself relaxed. Simply identifying the stressor and making a decision gives you back some degree of that control and it can go a long way in helping you handle the stressful times of the year.

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