12 Days of Self Care: Planning For Anxiety

On the second day of our 12 Days of Self-Care series, Take This volunteer Ryan Skimmons digs into the subject of holiday anxiety.  For more helpful tips on coping with common stresses of the holiday season and the transition into the new year, check back every day.

During the holidays, we all experience some amount of anxiety.  Whether it’s discomfort around social situations like office parties or feeling like there’s not enough time to visit everyone you want to see, it’s normal to feel some degree of anxiety this time of year.  It can lead to avoiding situations we might otherwise enjoy, being rude to those we love, or something more substantial like panic attacks (I’ve been there!).  Luckily there are a few steps you might be able to take which could alleviate some of this holiday-inspired unease!

Plan Like Batman

For many people, anxiety comes from feeling like things are out of your control, so one step you might take is planning out your time.  If you know that you have parties or visits to make, write it down!  Make a list/chart/calendar/graph/infographic or whatever you need to do to visually organize your time so that the big events are in front of you.  Now even though you’ve laid out the broad strokes, things might (and probably will!) come up that you didn’t anticipate.  Just remind yourself that this is okay and try to be flexible.

Breathe In…and Breathe Out

What works for you under other circumstances?  For some people it’s deep breathing, quiet time, playing a video game, spending time with an important person or any other number of activities.  Understand that feeling anxiety is a normal thing and take inventory of what helps you deal with it at other times of the year.  Make a conscious choice to block out time for this each day and be kind to yourself.

Just Say “No”

This one can get a little tricky, but it’s important to remember that it’s okay to say “No” sometimes, especially when our schedule is already packed to the gills.  So many people have a hard time doing this because they don’t want to make other people feel bad or they feel obligated to “do it all”.  But all that ends up happening is that we spread ourselves too thin.  Prioritize the things that are important to you and respectfully and lovingly decline the rest.  Your loved ones will understand and you can sleep better knowing that you took a big step to care for yourself.

Don’t Forget to Have Fun!

Just like you should block out time for your other anxiety-management strategies, try to block out some time for things you enjoy doing!  If this means ducking out of the house for a few hours to meet your gaming friends and get involved in a campaign, then allow that for yourself.  Sometimes a short break from a stressful activity can recharge our batteries and reduce anxiety.

Remember, it’s okay and normal to feel anxiety sometimes and forgiving yourself for this can be a big step in helping to manage it.  Please be aware that these tips might be effective for some people but not for others.  Everybody is different, find what works for you!  There is no one right answer.  Finally, if you feel like what you’re going through is too much to handle alone, reach out for help.  Involve your therapist in conversations or check out our resources on how to find a therapist if you’re lost. Throughout all of the family, friends, and holiday madness, don’t forget to be kind to yourself and do your best to enjoy the special times and people during this time of year.

Ryan Skimmons is a therapist and director of a residential program serving individuals with schizophrenia in the Philadelphia area. He graduated from Villanova with a Master’s in Psychology and has over a decade of experience working in the mental health field with a variety of populations. He resides in Philadelphia with his polydactyl cat, blue-eyed dog and a collection of comic books.
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