The holiday season can be one of the most stressful times of the year. Last minute shopping, in-laws, and everyone on their best behavior…or not.
People with anxiety often count down the days to the merry season with mixed feelings. If you suffer from panic attacks regularly, you are probably well aware of the physical manifestations that you will probably experience as the holidays draw near.
The body’s goal of the fight or flight response is to make you aware of danger, but if you’re having a panic attack, this response can be triggered by a variety of stimuli. Holiday stressors including shopping for friends and family, organizing holiday events, or just making travel arrangements can be difficult to deal with. Here are some effective ways to reduce stress and anxiety over the holiday season:
Try the Symphony Technique:
In my book Panic Away, I talk about how to rate your anxiety on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. The Symphony Technique allows you to imagine yourself as the conductor of a symphony orchestra, and all you need to do is start counting to a rhythm in your head. Just count 1 and 2 and 3 and 4, 1 and 2 and 3 and 4, in your head, and tap your feet on each number and move your hands as if you were a symphony conductor.
Now as you count, tell yourself the following: “I accept and process my anxious thoughts”, “I accept and process my bodily sensations”, “I accept and process my fear of panic”, and “I accept and process my beating heart”. As you say those words you conduct the bodily sensations. You are controlling the whole experience.
This is just a short example of how to use the symphony technique but what you are learning here is how to create inner movement. The inner movement is what helps you release the pent up feelings and allows you to feel more in control. By establishing a sense of control you feel much more confident in managing the anxiety.
Allow Yourself to Feel Anxious
Stuck in the crowds at the mall when holiday shopping?
Dreading a few days with the in laws?
Take a deep breath and let yourself feel the anxiety – this will help you release it. Acceptance is the first step because what we fully accept then goes through a transformation and is easier to manage.
Allowing yourself to feel anxious to the fullest will help you break out of the cycle of fearing your own thoughts, and allow your thoughts to simply flow. This is an important part of accepting your fears, processing them and then moving on. You’ll feel more and more confident each time you do this, and will effectively help you work through your anxiety.