For persons who struggle with panic, anxiety, depression or other mood disorders, the holidays can be more daunting and exhausting than rewarding and exciting. Jennifer Bradtke, Director of Counseling of RUSVM, says some persons can have an increase in anxiety and depression symptoms due to a number of the triggers - be it through hormone imbalance, high stress, seasonal changes, substance abuse or focusing on negative thoughts.
While these tough emotions can be difficult to manage, there are strategies that persons can incorporate in their daily routines to make these stressors more manageable.
Recognizing your triggers is important in managing difficult emotions. It’s helpful to know what your triggers are and what may cause them to increase. You can take note of your triggers by keeping a thought diary and jot down when you experience a tough emotion, where it happened and what happened. You can go a step further and write down coping statements and strategies that can be used in future circumstances where your triggers may spike.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Deep breathing is well known to reduce your body’s stress response. This is especially helpful for persons who struggle with anxiety. Finding a quiet space, sitting down and mindfully breathing while focusing on your breath for five to ten can lower anxiety symptoms. The powerful practice of deep breathing also has similar effects as some antidepressants. You can practice your breathing and meditation through yoga exercises or using apps like headspace to help center and calm you.
Ask for support
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, especially when you are feeling alone or overwhelmed. Reach out to someone who you trust and allow them to support you during this time. If you are not up to speaking to someone face to face, you can always try another form of communication. What matters most is that you push past the desire to be isolated or hide your struggle and let someone in.
Don’t skip self-care
It’s important to always make self-care routines a priority because your life may depend on it if you become overwhelmed with your emotions during the holiday season. Taking good care of yourself may mean looking after yourself physically so that you can feel better internally. Staying hydrated, taking mindful walks and getting adequate sleep are great self-care essential tasks to begin with.
If your depression or anxiety is all-consuming, try playing with or cuddling your pet. Animals provide emotional support especially to persons in need of a mood booster. Your furry and not so furry friends are great companions especially if you are not close to friends and family. They reduce cortisol levels and increase oxytocin - a natural stress-fighter.
It takes time to manage and cope with tough emotions…especially during a festive time as the holidays but with consistent practice, you can make it through the holidays. And sometimes, in spite of your best efforts, being gentle and patient with yourself means getting professional help to support you.