The holidays tend to create increased stress and more time commitments. For some, spending extended periods of time with family and friends can leave us feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Not to mention, some may feel pressure associated with gift giving. Now, with that behind us, we shift our focus on the year ahead. Potentially leading us to think of all we have left to accomplish in such a short time frame. Although we may be optimistic about the new year and think of how we will better ourselves, some tend to fall into a rabbit hole of thoughts - new year, new me? With a new year can come new worries, pressure, and anxiety. How do I make this year better than the last? What will people think of me if I don't accomplish all of my goals by 2022? There tends to be pressure to create new year's resolutions, make big changes, and take immediate action. Not only that but we are still facing the unknown when it comes to COVID-19. Many people believed 2021 would be the year where we would get to leave COVID - closed businesses, supply shortages, sickness, hospitalizations, death, isolation, and quarantine behind us. Now with 2022 here, we may be anxious and wondering is this finally over? What is to come?
Know that you are not alone when it comes to experiencing anxiety during the holidays, the new year, and all the unknowns that come along with it. It is my hope that this article helps to alleviate some of that anxiety and promote positivity by providing you with a few helpful tips.
Implement healthy boundaries
This is easier said than done, but implementing healthy boundaries can play a key role in reducing one's anxiety and stress levels. When gathering with friends and family, we may find ourselves allowing boundaries to be crossed but it is important to communicate our boundaries (needs and/or expectations).
Setting boundaries can help prevent us from taking on too much. Remember, it is okay to say no. Maybe you are asked to take on more at work and you are already feeling overwhelmed at home. This is a very common thing and we may feel obligated to say yes to appease our superiors at work; however, in this situation it may be best to decline in order to avoid additional stress. Regardless of the setting, it is important to communicate your needs and limitations to others, allowing for healthy boundaries to take form.
Implementing healthy boundaries also means allowing yourself to remove yourself from a situation that may be damaging or toxic. Know that it is okay to remove yourself from conflict that becomes emotionally threatening or violent. In addition, we may feel the need to oblige to family gatherings to keep the peace within certain relationships. In this case, it is helpful to have open communication and form agreements which will help reduce anxiety and stress later on. For example, in planning to go to a partner's family gathering, it could be helpful to have a prior discussion about each other's needs and find common ground about how to proceed with attending family events. This could look like negotiating terms and conditions that feel fair to both parties (e.g. the amount of time being spent in a particular location). A new year may come with new relationships, so keeping these tips in mind can help form a good foundation.
Practice Mindfulness - be present and live in the moment as opposed to thinking about all the what ifs
Living in a western society we are typically always on the go and thinking of the next thing on our to-do lists. With the new year among us, we may be compiling a list of resolutions (side note: rather than a list of resolutions it could be helpful to set realistic goals that require smaller commitments) and may later find ourselves going through the motions of life. Take time to be present and live in the moment. Preventing ourselves from being present can lead us to feel stressed and anxious without being able to recognize the source. If we are mindful in our daily lives, we will likely have a better handle on our anxiety and overall emotions.
Here is a great resource to help with incorporating mindfulness:
Acknowledge your feelings and identify when your thoughts are becoming irrational
If you are familiar with CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, this is a great way to combat your irrational thoughts and pull yourself out of that rabbit hole of negative thoughts and what ifs. If you find yourself questioning who you are and who you think you should be, it could be helpful to take a moment, sit with your thoughts and jot them down.
This is a practice I highly recommend, as it allows you time to feel your emotions, acknowledge them, and identify how your thoughts impact how you feel about yourself, as well as how you may act. Once this is done, you can then provide alternatives to those thoughts, feelings, and actions. Ultimately allowing you to recognize that those thoughts and feelings are not facts.
Here is a link to a worksheet that may be helpful as you begin to work on pulling yourself out of that rabbit hole!
Remember, you are not alone in feeling overwhelmed or anxious. It is my hope that you are able to utilize these tips to help alleviate some of your anxiety, stress, and/or negative emotions. As we reflect on 2021, we should keep in mind that it has been a tough year for many. We have experienced business closures, loss of jobs and income, sickness and potential hospitalizations and/or death, distance and isolation from loved ones, and everything in between. Let’s be kind to ourselves and others, while maintaining healthy boundaries and respecting one another's differences.