holiday stress

What Helps Manage Anxiety During The Holidays?

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The holidays can be stressful. Even if Christmas, Chanukah, Boxing Day, Diwali or Kwanzaa is your favorite holiday, this season can add stress to your life. And stress can invite its more difficult cousin — anxiety — to the celebration.

Because anxiety often makes us feel uncomfortable, many of us avoid or fight the anxiety in an attempt to make it stop. Those strategies might work sometimes, but usually the anxiety returns with greater force and can lead to a panic attack.

Below are some strategies to help you manage the anxiety so that you can enjoy the holidays!

Remind yourself that you’re not alone. A lot of people struggle with anxiety during holiday season. Knowing that you share this experience with others can help you feel less isolated and alone.

Acknowledge your anxiety and allow to be there. Think of the anxiety as a message from your body telling you that there’s some kind of danger lurking. Your anxiety wants to keep you safe. When you ignore or avoid it, it just gets louder, because it wants you to pay attention. Practice saying, “I’m feeling very anxious right now.” Or you can greet your anxiety like an old friend: “Hello anxiety. It’s nice to see you again.” Or, “Here you are again.” Then ask it, “What is it that you want me to know?” You might not find an obvious answer right away, but as you get used to talking with your anxiety, it can make the feelings less intense.

Get curious about your anxiety. Notice where you feel the stress in your body and tune into the physical feelings. Can you breathe into that body part? Does is shift or change? Is it hot or cold? If you could assign it a color and/or shape, what would it look like?

Tune into the present moment

Practice self-care. I’m not talking about facials or mani-pedis here — although they sound like great ideas, too. I’m talking basic needs like eating, hydrating, sleeping, exercising and going to the bathroom regularly. When we get stressed, anxious and overwhelmed, it’s easy to let go of or put off the moment-to-moment needs. So, take time throughout your day to pause. Take a deep breath. Ask yourself, “What do I need right now?” Notice how easy it is to tell yourself you don’t have time to pause or to take care of your needs, and then do it anyway.

Practice mindfulness. When the anxiety gets activated, we can get stuck ruminating over past and future events. When you notice you’re stuck in your head—re-thinking, planning, worrying — slow down and bring your attention to your immediate surroundings. It doesn’t matter where you are. You can pay attention when you’re driving, walking, shopping, laying in bed or at work. Tune into your five senses:

  • What can you see? Colors? Shapes? Lights? Shadows?

  • What can you hear? Horns? Cars? Music? Voices? Wind? Rain?

  • What can you touch or feel? Your feet on the ground? The chair under your butt? Your hands holding your keys or a drink?

  • What can you smell? Food cooking? Exhaust from cars or busses? Scented candles or perfume?

  • What can you taste? Sweet, salty, bitter, sour?

When you allow your anxiety to serve as a reminder that you might need to take care of yourself, it can help you feel less intimidated and overwhelmed when it shows up. I’ve also recorded two podcast episodes to help you manage holiday stress using gratitude, self-compassion and mindfulness techniques.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 




 

 

 

 

Nine Helpful Tips For Stressful Holidays

Handling The Holidays When You Don’t Feel Like Celebrating  

Holidays can overwhelm

Holidays can overwhelm

The holidays are here in full force with all the associated decorations, music, advertisements and crowds. For some, the season is a joyful, happy time; for others it can be difficult, stressful, even painful. Lots of articles focus on how to manage holiday stress — how to fit it all in without feeling overwhelmed. This  isn’t one of them. This post is for anyone who is struggling this holiday season.

Maybe your memories of holidays aren’t happy ones. Maybe you’ve lost someone, and celebrating seems impossible. Maybe you feel disconnected and lonely, or you’re living far from family and can’t get back to be with them. Maybe just the thought of spending time with family makes you anxious, depressed or stressed. Regardless of what you’re struggling with, if the holidays don’t seem like a time to celebrate, the constant seasonal reminders can make you feel pretty terrible. Below are nine tips to help you manage your anxiety or depression through the holiday season.

 9 Tips For Holiday Stress

  1. Take care of yourself. When we feel down or anxious, self-care is usually the first thing we drop. Taking care of yourself can be as easy as taking a bath, a walk or a drink of water. Whatever you do, it’s important to be kind to yourself when you’re struggling. If you need tips for practicing self-compassion, you can find some here.

  2. Manage expectations. Whether you’re spending time with family or friends, or you’re alone for the holidays, it can be helpful to manage your expectations. If your family or your friends are dysfunctional, combative, unsupportive or hard to be around, don’t expect them to be different or the holidays to be amazing. If you have friends who don’t connect unless you reach out first, don’t expect them to reach out just because you’re feeling down. Knowing that the holidays won’t provide a happy elixir to make all your troubles disappear can help you let go of the media’s portrayal of what the holidays “should” be.

  3. Create things to do. Whether you’re with family and friends or alone, having things to do can give you a sense of purpose and offer a distraction from holiday “stuff.” Planning a long walk, going to the movies, volunteering or traveling can provide some relief from holiday overload.

  4. Limit your exposure. Take your own car or have a separate mode of transportation, so you escape from a holiday celebration early if needed. Knowing you’re in control of when you leave can be very liberating.

  5. Find support. Reach out to those in your life who provide positive support if you’re feeling depressed and anxious. Connecting with others can be hard to do if you’re struggling, but it can provide a sense of belonging and meaning.

  6. Take time to be mindful. When we’re anxious, it’s often because we’re thinking about past or future events that make us uncomfortable. If you find that you’re rehashing the argument you had during last year’s holidays or worrying about what might happen this year, take a moment to pay attention to where you are. What do you see, smell or hear? What can you touch or taste? Being present in the moment can help get you out of your head and can ground and calm you.

  7. Feel what you feel. Allow yourself to feel your emotions. If you’re mourning a loss, feeling lonely, sad, angry, whatever… try not to push those uncomfortable feelings away. Instead, sit quietly for a moment and try to get in touch with them. Acknowledge and allow the pain, sorrow, loss or anger, and offer yourself, as you would a good friend, some compassion and kindness in this difficult time.

  8. Pause.  Things can get very busy around the holidays. Taking time to slow down, pause and reflect on your environment and your needs can be very nourishing. A great place to do this is in the bathroom. Take a moment to breathe deeply, look at yourself in the mirror, smile and take another deep breath.

  9. Get a good night’s sleep. Your body and mind need sleep to reset. If you’re burning the candle at both ends you probably go to bed stressed and wake up stressed. Make your bedtime routine a priority and try to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Your body and brain will thank you! You can find out more about sleep and stress here.

 

If you feel that managing the holidays seems too hard to do alone, counseling can help. Therapy can give you support, connection and a non-judgmental space to talk about what’s happening for you.

If you’d like help this holiday and aren’t sure if counseling is right for you, email or call (410) 339-1979 to set up a 15-minute free consultation.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

Photo by Johannes Hofmann on Unsplash

 

Using Mindfulness This Holiday Season

Be mindful of your needs this holiday!

Be mindful of your needs this holiday!

In my recent post for Good Therapy, ’Tis the Season to Be Mindful: Manage the Holidays with Less Stress, I share some mindfulness tips to help you if you're struggling with holiday stress.

"If we listen to and tend to what we need, if we take care of our gardens first, we’re better able to help others with theirs because we’re healthy enough and strong enough to do it."

On another note...

This will be my last post for 2017. I’ve been consistently blogging for over two years and I’ve decided to take a break from posting between now and January. I often urge my clients to take care of themselves and taking a break from blogging is a good way for me to care of myself over the next few weeks. I will continue to write and I will post some of my older blogs on my Facebook page. You can also find them  all here!

I hope you have a wonderful, safe holiday season. Please take care of yourself, be mindful of what you need and take a moment to pause when you’re feeling stressed.  I’ll see you in the New Year!


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

 

How To Get A Handle On Holiday Stress

The holidays can be a stressful for even the most relaxed person. And even though taking care of ourselves is not always on our radar, it’s important to do so when you’re under added stress. Although I try to pay attention to my own needs at this time of year, they end up at the bottom of my to-do list when I have a lot on my mind or I’m super busy. I’ve put together a few ways to bring more self-care and into your life while managing the holiday craziness.

Practice mindfulness.

Pay mindful attention to your senses

Pay mindful attention to your senses

Paying attention to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and sensations of the season and the holidays can be soothing. So, take a deep breath and pay full attention to your senses. Try to relax your body and find something to appreciate in all of the craziness.

Allow feelings, even the icky ones.

Let yourself feel your feelings. Try not to label your feelings as “good” or “bad.” When you take the time to notice how you feel, and name the feeling either aloud or to yourself, it can help defuse even the most intense emotions.

Take time to enjoy yourself.

No matter which holiday you celebrate, when you get caught up in all that needs to get done, you might forget to have a little fun.

Get a good night’s sleep.

A good night's sleep recharges you

A good night's sleep recharges you

If you take one thing away from this post, I would encourage you to make it this point! A good night’s sleep allows your mind and body to recharge, so instead of starting the day stuck in stressful feelings from yesterday, you can start refreshed.  Sleep reduces stress, is good for your body and does wonders for your outlook on the day.

Eat a healthy diet.

Your body will thank you. Pay attention to what food you eat and, if possible, eat less junk. Your body will appreciate it!

Find time to pause.

Setting aside one to three minutes to take a few deep breaths a couple times throughout your day will calm your mind and body, so you’re ready for the next task or challenge.

Check in with yourself.

Check in with you throughout the day.

Check in with you throughout the day.

I like to suggest to my clients to take a moment when you go to the bathroom to look at yourself in the mirror and ask, “What do I need in this moment?” Pay attention to those needs. If your body is screaming at you to take a break and relax, then do it!

 

Sometimes, no matter how much you try to take care of yourself, you still end up feeling overwhelmed, stressed, depressed or anxious. If you’re struggling this holiday season, know that you’re not alone. The holidays can be a very difficult time and therapy can help you talk about what’s bothering you, grieve those you’ve lost or help you to process the difficult life experiences that keep you from moving forward. 

If you’re thinking about counseling or you’d like to give yourself the gift of mindfulness in the New Year, please reach out.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

Photo by Aliis SinisaluChris Benson, Kinga Cichewicz, Septian simon on Unsplash

 

 

Staying Mindful Through The Holidays

Struggling With Holiday Stress

Struggling with holiday stress

Struggling with holiday stress

Do the holidays totally stress you out? It’s hard to get away from all the TV and radio ads, social media and the decorations and music in the retail stores. I enjoy the season, but sometimes I feel like I’m not doing enough — I’m behind in preparation, and if I could just be better organized, maybe that would ease my stress. In my home we celebrate Christmas, and the constant reminders of how many shopping days are left leave me feeling anxious and overwhelmed at times. But, even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, the hype and pomp surrounding it can make you feel stressed out!

Mindfulness Can Help

Here are a few tips that will allow you to be present in the moment, instead of being caught up in the worry, planning and thinking that seem to be an integral part of this time of year.

Practice mindful awareness.

Practice mindful awareness

Practice mindful awareness

The sights, sounds, smells, tastes and sensations of the season and the holidays can be soothing. I know that frantic shoppers or Christmas music blaring in your ear might not seem very calming, but if you take a deep breath and pay full attention to your senses, you might notice the different colors you see as you shop, or you might notice the smell of a fire burning as you walk outside, or maybe you can tune into the taste of a really good orange, or another delicious food.

When you can get out of your head and take the time to really notice what’s around you, it allows your body to relax. You might find something small to appreciate in all of the craziness.

Manage your negative self-talk and be OK with making some mistakes.

Letting perfectionism go can be liberating; we also need to be kind to ourselves. When you forget to order something or forget to be somewhere you were supposed to be, know that you are not alone. Thousands of us out there are forgetting things, too. Instead of beating yourself up, offer yourself some words of comfort and allow that you’re human. It goes like this, “Wow, I’m being really hard on myself for _____. I probably could have done that better, but it’s OK. I made a mistake, but we all do, and it’s OK.”

Practice feeling gratitude.

Practice feeling gratitude

Practice feeling gratitude

Feeling gratitude can improve your mood and your outlook if you practice daily. An easy way to bring more gratitude and thankfulness into your life is to write down one thing you’re grateful for each day. You can write in a journal, in the notes of your phone, or just make a mental note to yourself when you find something to be grateful for.

If you struggle with finding something to be grateful for, you can say, “I am grateful for this moment right now.” Or, “I’m grateful for this chair I’m sitting in, or the ground I’m standing on.”

To give your gratitude practice an extra punch, you can share whatever you’re grateful for with someone else. Saying it out loud and sharing it reinforces the positive feelings within you and creates connection with others. Two amazing benefits!

If you’d like to bring more mindful awareness into your life after the holidays, groups are forming now for January 2018. You can find out more here or you can call me at 410-339-1979.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

Photo by Heidi Sandstrom.Clem Onojeghuo and Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Handling Holiday Stress When You Don't Feel Like Celebrating

The holidays aren’t always joyous and happy, and the expectation that they should be full of comfort and joy can make you feel more anxious and stressed out. When you’ve lost someone, you’re far from home, your family isn’t supportive, or your memories of past celebrations don’t look anything like the “perfect holiday” portrayed in the media, this time of year can be especially difficult.

Connect with others to reduce holiday stress

There was a time in my late teens - early 20’s that my parents and I didn’t see eye-to-eye (and that’s putting it mildly). I was living at home, dating a guy they hated, and I was pushing boundaries and breaking lots of rules. My relationship with my parents was very strained and they told me I had to move out. I was upset and hurt and I’m sure my parents were too. I decided that I needed to spend time away from my family so I didn’t go home for the holidays for a few years. It was a painful time and really hard. I remember my sister calling me, pleading with me to come home, although she said she understood why I felt I couldn’t. Feeling alone and disconnected I reached out and found support through friends and my sister.

I share this because I understand what it’s like to be alone, to not feel like celebrating, to struggle during the holidays. If you’re having a hard time and wonder how you’ll survive between now and the New Year, connecting with others can help. Connect with friends, partners, counselors, family (if they’re not the ones causing you stress), or your family pet. Instead of focusing on what the perfect holiday should be, making the holidays about connecting and getting support can make a big difference.


If you’d like some other ideas on supporting yourself through the season you can check out the article I wrote for the Severna Park Voice. In it I share some more tips to help you survive when the holidays don’t feel like a celebration.


Elizabeth Cush, MA, LGPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose.

Photo courtesy of Toa Heftiba for Unsplash.com.

Preventing Stress This Holiday Season

Making yourself a priority can be difficult anytime, but it's even harder during the holidays. This week, my post focuses on ways you can take care of yourself while managing the season's craziness. I posted 30-tips to help you make it through New Year's a couple of weeks ago and over the next month I'm breaking it down by topic. Last week’s post provided tips on keeping you organized and your life under control to help you reduce stress and anxiety during the holidays and this week is all about taking care of yourself.

Practice mindfulness

Paying attention to your senses can calm the mind.

When stress overwhelms you, the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and sensations of the season and the holidays can be soothing. I know that frantic shoppers might not seem very calming, but if you take a deep breath and pay full attention to your senses, your body can relax and you might find something to appreciate in all of the craziness.

Allow feelings, even the icky ones

Let yourself feel your feelings, and know they, too, will pass.

Take time to enjoy the holiday

If we’re caught up in all that needs to be done, we forget why we’re celebrating.

Get a good night’s sleep

A good night's sleep reduces stress, is good for your body, and does wonders for your outlook on the day.

Eat healthy

Your body will thank you. Eating junk food can make you feel lethargic, bloated and uncomfortable.

Take time each day for self-care

Taking care of yourself can reduce stress.

Self-care can be as easy as reading for pleasure or taking a walk, just spend some time doing things that nourish your spirit.

Find time to relax

Calming your mind and body can help recharge you for the next task or challenge.

Fit exercise into your to-do list

Burning off that excess energy and stress does wonders for anxiety.

Check in with yourself

When stress and anxiety hits ask yourself, “What do I need in this moment?” and pay attention to those needs. If your body is screaming at you to take a break and relax, then do it!

I hope you have a happy holiday, but sometimes, no matter how much you try to take care of yourself, you still end up feeling overwhelmed, stressed, depressed or anxious. If you’re struggling this holiday season, know that you’re not alone. The holidays can be a very difficult time and therapy can help you talk about what’s bothering you, grieve for those you’ve lost or help you to process the difficult life experiences that keep you from moving forward. 

If you're wondering whether counseling is for you and you would like to talk about it please reach out. 


Elizabeth Cush, MA, LGPC is a therapist in Annapolis helping adults and adolescents manage their stress and anxiety. She owns and operates Progression Counseling — 410-340-8469.

If you'd like more self-care tips during the holidays check out Laura Reagan's LCSW Therapy Chat Podcast episode #61.

Photos courtesy of Samilla Maioli and Kash Goudarzi for Unsplash.com.

Keeping Anxiety In Check While Keeping Up With The Holidays

The holidays can be a stressful time. Whether you’re hosting an event, attending holiday parties, spending the holiday alone, traveling, or you have a long list of presents to buy, the holidays can create or ramp-up anxiety. Recently, I posted 30 tips to help you survive the season but over the next few weeks I'm breaking them down by topic. This week my tips will help you feel more organized and in control this holiday.

Keeping to-do lists short and can reduce holiday stress

Keeping to-do lists short and can reduce holiday stress

Keep to-do lists short

Limit your lists to items you can realistically accomplish within an allotted time frame. If needed, allow yourself to let some things go. Looking at unfinished items on your list can add to your stress.

Organize your to-do lists by location

If you have three stores to visit, try to group your errands so you’re going to places that are near each other. Or you can organize your trip by the things you need to buy. For instance, if you’re grocery shopping for the week you can also stock up on the non-perishables needed for the holidays like stuffing mix, or turkey broth.

Budget your money realistically to reduce future stress

You don’t want to go into extreme debt trying to create a perfect holiday, only to find you are totally stressed out later because of all the bills.

Budget your time

Set time aside some time to do a little each week. If you put off everything until the last minute, you’re only causing yourself more stress and anxiety.

Focus on the task instead of worrying about what's next

Worrying about what you need to do tomorrow, or the next day, or the next can be paralyzing. Try to stay in the present moment and focus on what you need to do today. “Whatever is going to happen will happen, whether we worry or not.”
Ana Monnar

When you’re stressed, take a moment to breath deeply a few times

Imagine a soothing presence as you breath in, and a letting go of the stress as you breath out. Focusing on your breath can ground you and help your body relax.

Keep it simple to avoid holiday burn-out

It’s easy to over think things, and get stuck worrying about making everything “just right,” but this can lead to holiday burnout. When deciding what gifts, food, or decorations you need, try not to get too caught up in finding the perfect ______ (you fill in the blank). 

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to avoid or manage the holiday stress and anxiety, it can still overwhelm us. If you're struggling and feel you might need additional support, counseling can help. Counseling provides a safe, supportive, non-judgmental space to talk about what's happening. It also helps you find strategies to manage your stress and anxiety that work for you. Please call or email me if you think therapy might help you manage the stress of the holidays.


Photo courtesy of Olu Eletu for Unsplash.com.

Elizabeth Cush, MA, LGPC is a licensed therapist who works with high-functioning adults and adolescents experiencing anxiety and stress. She owns and operates Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md.