Tips on dealing with Anxiety & Grief

The stockings are hung, Christmas lights are up and it's supposed to be the best time of the year, right? Well for everyone it may not be. As someone with anxiety, I know I am not the only one that can be triggered or have difficulty during this time of year. If you are grieving any type of loss, this time of year can feel particularly difficult as well. I thought I would share what I've learned to do to help myself deal with my own anxiety and grief. 

Tips on dealing with Anxiety & Grief 

This list is by no means the only way to help, it is just what has worked for me in the past. Both anxiety and grief can come and go and we all have different triggers. I hope this can help and maybe inspire some other ideas for you. 

Let Yourself Feel

First and foremost give yourself the room to feel however you feel. Just because it is a happy and fun time of year doesn't mean you have to feel happiness and joy all of the time (or any of the time). While this may sound like a simple concept but it is something that can be a really big struggle for many this time of year. Try to push aside what the expectations of how this season should go and allow time and space to feel whatever may come. Many, like myself, don't want to bring others down or create any heaviness with our feelings. 

I find that when I would force myself to be happy or push down the sorrowful feelings, it actually made it worse. It took me years to learn to not suppress them. I wouldn't allow myself to have a "bad" day because I felt that it wasn't ok during the holidays. During many Christmas celebrations I would really struggle because doing many of my family traditions after my mom passed felt wrong. It would make me miss her so much more and I hid that. Now when I let myself grieve or feel anxiety, I actually find that my low-spirits don't last as long as when I try to ignore them. Concealing my feelings also sometimes sparked an uptick in my anxiety.

Understand Your Limits

This time of year in particular can bring up lots of obligations. Beyond the typical responsibilities in our life, many new things come up with the Holidays. It is very important to know how much you can handle and to say no when you have reached it. Your limit may change throughout the season or even daily. Holding strong to what you can or can't handle is of the utmost importance. There are many times that I have to say no to things on my schedule because I know that I won't be up for it. 

This year is a little different, because many events with our families and friends aren't happening. But in other years, I learned that sometimes it is okay to leave events early. It doesn't change how much I love or care about everyone, it is just that a social event may be more than I can handle if I'm struggling with anxiety. 

Schedule Time for Yourself

While we schedule everything else in our lives, it is just as important to set aside time specifically for yourself. And most importantly make this time something for you. Whether it is alone time or doing something with someone, it should be a non-stressful activity that replenishes you.

Reach out to Friends & Family

Find a few friends or family members that you can reach out to on your bad moments. However you contact them, having a few people that you can count on is important. Knowing ahead of time who "your people" are is crucial. It has helped me in the past to already identify who I should reach out to when I'm feeling low. Then I don't feel as though I am unloading on someone and am more likely to reach out. 

Create & Utilize A list of Items/Activities that Help

This idea came from my therapist. I have created a list of activities or things that help calm my mind or distract me during anxiety and grief. Many times when you are in the middle of the tough moments, it is hard to remember what can help. This is when you'll be thankful for a list, I keep mine as a note on my phone. Your list may seem random and that doesn't matter. All you have to focus is on finding things that make you feel better and/or less overwhelmed. Some items on my list are: Reread a book, Spend time alone & watch Grey's Anatomy.

Take Care of Yourself

This is something we all know and doesn't need much of an explanation but it is true: When you take care of yourself, you are better able to battle grief and anxiety when it comes up. Eating well, exercising and resting all are crucial components in helping towards your mental health. This is one of the best preventative measures. 

As I said before, this is by no means an inclusive list. If you have any other ideas on how you combat anxiety and grief this time of year, please share in the comments. 

Kara Krittenbrink

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