Holiday anxiety can creep up on everyone. Even though the holidays are supposed to be the ‘most wonderful time of the year,’ they are often anything but that. When you consider the financial burden, travel and social obligations that the holidays require, it’s easy to see why they are stressful. And, if you’re dealing with a recent death or recovery from a mental health issue, the holidays can be even more draining.
Since it’s easier to fall into old habits when you’re feeling stressed, it’s important to practice good self-care over the holidays. Below are some everyday habits you want to avoid to keep your mental health in check. While some people use them to feel better, these habits actually worsen anxiety.
1. Too Much Caffeine Can Increase Holiday Anxiety
Many people depend on a cup of coffee (or three) in the mornings. But coffee may not be the best thing to start your day with. According to several studies, people who suffer from anxiety can worsen their symptoms by drinking caffeine. This is the case because caffeine increases anxiety and nervousness, and decreases production of the feel-good chemical serotonin. Instead, try starting your morning with a cup of decaffeinated tea or lemon water.
2. Spending Too Much Time on Social Media
It’s hard to ignore social media, especially when you know a simple click of a button will show you everything that everyone is doing. But checking social media 24/7 is not good for your mental health. Your anxiety levels may rise as you experience FOMO and compare your life to what you’re seeing online. The more time you spend on social media, the greater the effects, so limit your time to 30 minutes or less a day.
3. Drinking Alcohol Can Increase Holiday Anxiety
If you are used to drinking alcohol to numb your emotions, you’ll want to be extra careful over the holidays. Alcohol is typically offered at holiday parties and events to relax, unwind and socialize. But the truth is that alcohol makes anxiety worse in the long run by rewiring your brain to be more anxious. Plus, people who are already anxious tend to have more negative thoughts when drinking. Protect your recovery by wisely choosing events and saying no to alcohol.
4. Skipping Meals
It’s easy to skip meals during the holidays, because your schedule is different and you’re running from one place to the next. But avoid doing this. Stick to your normal routine and ensure you’re eating small meals throughout the day. This will maintain your blood sugar levels and avoid the highs and lows that can make you feel anxious.
5. Eating Too Much Sugar
Not only should you be eating throughout the day to keep your energy up, but you should also be eating the right foods. You’re likely to see more sweets and treats popping up at work and home, but be careful about over indulging. Sugar is a contributor to anxiety, because it causes your blood sugar to go on a rollercoaster of spikes and crashes. Then when your blood sugar crashes, your mood drops and your anxiety rises.
The holidays can be stressful, but avoid falling into these coping mechanisms to survive. Make sure that you’re also staying connected to your support network, attending your self-help groups, and practicing good self-care. If you need support along the way, Awakenings Treatment Center can help.