Thriving Through the Holidays: A Psychotherapist's Guide to Managing Anxiety

Thriving Through the Holidays: A Psychotherapist's Guide to Managing Anxiety

Chances are good that for most people, going home for the holidays elicits a slew of emotions, ranging from genuine excitement to severe apprehension, and everything else in between. It’s never an endeavor that is quite as simple as just spending quality time with family and friends. 

“Home” is a place that by nature is complicated and full of opposing energies; solid and frayed relationships, memories of ups and downs, personal and family priorities, not to mention the often disorienting nature of the passage of time through which we experience our loved ones, and ourselves, growing older. These dynamics, coupled with the inherent excesses of the holidays, can get the better of us and lead to a whole host of undesirable outcomes. However, there are concrete steps that you can take to make going home a healthier, more balanced and fulfilling experience. 


Tip one to manage anxiety Marcela Amaral Psychotherapist

Begin by taking time to slow down and connect with yourself. Embrace feelings and thoughts that are uncomfortable. If you try to avoid them now, they will most likely arise in a moment of greater stress and vulnerability. You might want to try accessing them through journaling, meditation, breathing exercises, or simply taking a long bath or going for a walk. Whatever medium allows you to dive into your emotions in a safe place. If the idea of exploring difficult feelings on your own is too overwhelming at the moment, do not hesitate to seek out professional help to support you through this process. Starting therapy is not a sign of weakness, it is actually the extreme opposite. It’s a sign of self-awareness, and courage to face your deepest challenges and insecurities. The benefits are priceless. 


Tip 2 to manage anxiety Marcela Amaral Psychotherapist

Secondly, manage your expectations and accept that you cannot change anyone except yourself. Challenging family dynamics might take you back to old patterns of behavior that you’re not even conscious of, but remember that you are an adult with more internal (and external) resources to deal with unpleasant situations and past triggers. Additionally, try to accept the fact that just because you came from far away to visit does not mean that others will prioritize seeing you and giving you the attention you expect and desire. Keep in mind that we all have a lot going on and others might not be aware of how much you want to spend time with them. If you expect less from others, you’ll naturally put less pressure on yourself to meet others’ expectations. You do not need to compensate for the time that you’ve been away and for what you’ve missed out on. 


Tip 3 to manage anxiety Marcela Amaral Psychotherapist

This leads to my third point. Set boundaries and aim to avoid situations and conversations that might negatively impact your mental health. Be aware of your feelings and distance yourself if needed. An intentional break might be not only refreshing, but also allow you to gain a different and more grounded perspective. 



Lastly, plan ahead. You certainly can’t control everything that will unfold when going home for the holidays, but you can foresee certain scenarios and difficult conversations. Think through how you can best manage these situations in advance. Consider talking with a trusted friend to access a different point of view on the familial, social, and emotional landscape of your home. In doing so, you're likely to not only feel lighter, but also to discover that you’re absolutely not alone in facing the many challenges that we all can experience when going home for the holidays. 


Marcela Amaral is a child, teen & adult Psychotherapist at Central & Stanley Wellness. To book an appointment, contact us today.

You can also book a free discovery call with Marcela.


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