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Holiday Anxiety Meltdown, How I Keep From Having Them by Madilynn Dale

Post pandemic, our world experienced an increase in anxiety. For those of us who dealt with it pre-pandemic, it got even worse. Those little things that nagged at me before the pandemic became big things, and pushed me to seek help. Seeking help in itself is hard, but getting started on medication to help manage my anxiety made a huge difference. This doesn’t completely stop the anxiety from happening, but I no longer shut down when it does.

I’ve also had some therapy to work through some of it via an online therapy group. Getting help to manage anxiety and mental health in general is a huge step but an important one. From my own personal experience, I noticed changes in how I handled things, and I now notice when something starts to trigger me.

The holidays are always a major trigger for my anxiety, depression, and stress. Ever since I can remember, my family has always traveled a ton during the holidays, to attempt to get all of the family time in. Now with my own small family, we do some traveling but not near as much. Some situations are trickier than they used to be before marriage and my husband, and I have learned to compromise on many things regarding holidays.

Before I get to my method of what I do to back myself off the edge of a cliff that leads into an anxiety meltdown, I want to talk about what some of my triggers are. This is not the entire list because some of them I’m still figuring out but maybe it’ll shed some light on triggers for others. The purpose of this post is to share my experience in hopes that it will inspire others to address their own anxiety and seek help if needed. Mental health is an important issue that I would like to shed light on, especially in the creative community. There is not enough focus on it currently, and we all need to take care of ourselves with good practices to keep ourselves mental engine running.

One of my triggers during the holidays, is the guilt that comes crashing in as soon as November hits. This is the time of year where the U.S. starts getting in gear for Thanksgiving and the craziness that comes after. There is Black Friday shopping, getting Christmas gifts, decorating, food prepping, and more.

The guilt though, doesn’t come from all the prepping as much as it comes from family members. One portion of my family hasn’t been happy with the way holidays have shifted over the years. Being the oldest out of my group of 8 cousins, with this side of the family, I get all the saltiness for not being available on a specific day to do things like we did when I was a kid. Specifically, we no longer do Christmas day with them but instead spend it with my in-laws. Not living in the area anymore makes it extremely difficult for my family and I to do this. We like to let my son open presents from Santa, Christmas morning, at my own home. This consists of me, my husband, and son doing the morning slowly and having fun. Choosing to do this and removing the feeling of trying to please them all has made a significant difference in how we feel after the holidays, but it’s not without the guilt. Turning that feeling off is challenging and even though it feels less so each year, it’s still there.

Another trigger is not knowing what to wear for certain holiday gatherings. I’ve never been one to keep up with the latest fashions and prefer to stick to my jeans and t-shirts. Christmas though, some of the family like to do themed things. This is something I’ve adjusted to over the years, because I never did that growing up. We were always required to dress nice to attend family functions during those days. So figuring out what I’m supposed to wear and what to put my child in sends my anxiety spiraling. Getting my child in clothes is a challenge in and of itself but trying to match characters from a movie with what I have is too. Especially if its from a movie I’ve only seen a handful of times. I manage to figure it out most of the time but not without that extra bit of stress.

A layer of sadness hangs around during the holidays for me as well due to family members lost over the years. It feels like a heavy weight pulls on my heart that doesn’t like to go away. I know we’ve all lost someone and miss them around the holidays, but this mixed with the seasonal depression that moves in can be a freaking pain. I will say though, this has gotten better since I began taking my anxiety medication and actively fighting it. Getting outdoors regularly when the weather is good, exercising, staying hydrated, and eating good foods are all good ways to fight back against it. I’ve even started sitting in a window for long periods of time to soak up sunlight to combat it.

So my method to bring myself back down off the anxiety jumping platform involves a few things. Music, deep breathing, mindfulness, and sometimes taking my PRN medication are the top. These are the methods I used that worked for me. This won’t work for everyone, and I am not a professional with dealing with anxiety.

When my anxiety gets high, I don’t always go for the PRN medication, I try to use other methods first. I do take anxiety medication daily at night. The PRN is for an as needed thing, which is essentially what PRN means. If the other methods don’t tackle it, I add this in there. I do talk with my doctor frequently about my anxiety and where I’m at with it. I highly recommend talking with a health professional regarding your anxiety to set up a plan to help you manage it.

For me, first, I stop myself from letting my thoughts get away from me and focus on my breathing. Deep breathing is something I’ve picked up over the years with yoga and better methods of calming myself. Breathing in and holding it for a few seconds, filling my lungs to max capacity, then slowly letting it out, helps a ton. It calms my heart rate and helps me focus.

This is where the mindfulness comes into play. I focus on one thing outside of me while I’m getting dressed or focus on my breath. While applying makeup I’ll move slowly focusing on my breath and taking my time as I put eyeshadow on or lipstick on my lips. I do the same thing with my hair and then my outfit. It takes longer when I do this but when I’m done I’m not as anxious.

I also play some music when this happens, and for my almost meltdown on Christmas day I pulled this list up and did the routine mentioned in the above paragraph. I’ll share the link below with the music I’ve put together. It is one of the few I go to for anxiety issues and listening to the various sounds speaks to my soul. It takes me to a different mindset, and I feel like part of me sinks into the earth and grounding begins. It’s also great background music for yoga or meditation.

So the actual process I used Christmas day, because I had a ton of anxiety, were as follows: PRN medication, deep breathing, playlist, and mindfulness. It brought me back from the anxiety meltdown and I was able to move forward and do all the Christmas things. I had to occasionally do my deep breathing later in the day but overall, it got me moving and kept me from getting stuck.

If you are someone who also has anxiety issues, what do you do for things like this? Do you have similar practices to control your anxiety? Drop your thoughts or comments below. Feel free to ask me more. I’m not an expert at dealing with anxiety and everything I’ve shared has come from personal experiences. I recommend talking with your doctor about your anxiety and setting up a plan of action. Don’t let it control you.

My Calming Playlist on Spotify:

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