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December 11, 2013

Yuletide Anxiety?

I have met many people who feel anxiety, or feel their anxiety increase, as the holidays take hold. For some, it can be disabling. For many others it is in response to their relationships, stressors, and/or external expectations. Let’s look at several examples.

 
  • Many dating couples who are struggling to maintain their relationship choose to avoid breakups at this time of year because they do not want to hurt the other person. This may seem like a kind decision but, in truth, it becomes a decision that lends to increased anxiety, frustration, and unhappiness.
  • Because anxiety is the flip side of depression, oftentimes people struggling with loneliness, loss or depression begin to get anxious about how they are going to function, or how they are going to get through the holidays.
  • There are many expectations that “you should spend the holidays with your family.” Family is the most challenging environment for most people because it is the primary source of our challenges. That is by design!
  • Often, couples feel they want to experience a loving romantic time with their partner but find there is a conflict in how that is going to happen. They may also feel it’s a futile wish when a conflict ensues. This can trigger anxiety due to the disruption in love and acceptance.
  • Many people think they are anxious about their financials but truly this is coming from the expectations they perceive. They think they have to buy certain gifts, serve certain meals, throw certain parties. None of those experiences are true gifts or expressions of the individual if they are creating stress in order to “do or be good enough”. The same is true when the gifts given are causing anxiety for the giver. One of the most common causes of anxiety is the fear of not being good enough.
  • Because of the social expectations, many people will travel. For those with anxiety about flying or travel this can be particularly difficult and even a double bind. For others, it can be a time of stress that leads to anxiety.
  • If there has been a loss, anxiety may increase or present itself. We may become more aware of the absence of a loved one. This is especially true if it was a traumatic loss.
  • Some will experience anxiety because of taking time away from work or not being able to take time away from work. It may be a business owner who does not trust that the business can survive on it’s own. So he or she feels their anxiety increase. Anxiety may also come from a person who is afraid to ask for time off or for a person who has to work and feels the loss or loneliness of not being with others to celebrate.
  • Finally, some people actually feel anxiety increase as they recognize another year has passed. This can be disabling for some. It may trigger the fear that life is short. It may also trigger fears that result from goals that weren’t met. There are numerous triggers onto which anxiety can grab and then spin a person’s thoughts with fear.
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    In conclusion, there are many events, experiences, or symbols that can trigger anxiety. During the holidays those triggers can be pronounced or multiplied thereby affecting more and more people. If you or someone you love experiences some anxiety, remind them to breathe and to focus on their breath going in and out. Sit with them as they breathe like that for 10 breaths. As they feel some relief, begin moving forward without a conscious focus on the anxiety but a focus on a solution to the holiday stressors instead.

    For more information on anxiety in general, please see previous blog articles:
    Anxiety: What is it, what causes it, what to do about it? Part 1
    Anxiety: What is it, what causes it, what to do about it? Part 2
    Anxiety: What is it, what causes it, what to do about it? Part 3

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