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Holiday Stress and Panic Disorder

How to Manage Your Anxiety the Holiday Season


Updated December 07, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

The holiday season can be a fun and exciting time that's often filled with plenty of social gatherings, gift-giving occasions, religious events, and more. Of course, there's also a down side to all of the hustle and bustle that surrounds this time of year: many people experience heightened stress, anxiety, and other unpleasant emotions amidst the busy holiday season.

This time of year can be especially hard on those who are living with panic disorder. Excessive stress and worry can cause panic disorder symptoms to flare, but these feelings don't necessarily need to put a damper on your holiday spirit. The following offers some simple steps you can take to have a happier holiday season.

1. Be Proactive and Manage Your Stress

Some major issues tend to arise this time of year, such as trying to find the prefect gifts to give, financial stress, tense family interactions, or feelings of grief and loneliness. With all the possible problems that can come up, it's no wonder that stress can get the best of you. As stress levels rise, so may your feelings of panic and anxiety.

Stress and anxiety are typically felt on physical, cognitive, and emotional levels. For instance, one may experience excessive worry, uncomfortable somatic symptoms, and negative thinking. Fortunately, these feelings can be managed, even during this busy time of year. By learning to cope with feelings of stress, you can be ready to face any difficulties that may come up during the holidays.

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2. Handling Difficult Situations with Family and Friends

The anticipation of attending social gatherings can lead to fears and feelings of nervousness. For example, family may have questions about your condition or perhaps some loved ones want to give you advice on how to handle your symptoms. Even though family and friends typically have your best interest in mind, they may be unaware of how they are affecting you. Learn to navigate through difficult situations with family and friends regarding your condition, and you may be able to limit unpleasant interactions with loved ones.

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3. Coping with Agoraphobia and Feelings of Loneliness

Even though the holidays are often a time for get-togethers, many people are faced with feelings of loneliness. You may feel left out if you aren’t invited to any holiday events; additionally, agoraphobia can make it too difficult to attend social gatherings. You may also feel that your panic attacks prevent you from seeing loved ones during the holidays.

Agoraphobia and loneliness do not have to keep you from participating in life or enjoying the company of others: there are ways to get past theses feelings and become more connected to others. By taking care of yourself, working towards recovery, improving your self-esteem, and building a positive support network, you can begin to cope with agoraphobia symptoms, including loneliness.

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4. Learn to Slow Down and Let Go

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we are unable to mend broken relationships, purchase all the gifts we would like to, or happily attend holiday events. At these times, it may be valuable to learn to forgive and let go. Forgiving yourself and others can break you from the chains of pain that are keeping you from your happiness.

Letting go can also occur from learning how to relax. Relaxation techniques are skills that can assist you in combating stress to feel more calm and energized. Some common relaxation techniques include breathing exercises, meditation, and visualization. Start to let go and slow down this time of year by learning some new relaxation techniques and practicing forgiveness.

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5. Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

With an overabundance of gifts, food, and decorations, the holidays can seem like a never-ending time of consumption. At times, all of these outside influences can add to holiday stress. As anxiety builds, it's easy to lose perspective of what is truly important. For instance, in years to come, you may not remember the presents you bought, but you will have memories of those you spent this special time of year with.

When feeling overwhelmed during the holiday season, try to change your perspective and cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Instead of spending time thinking about what makes you unhappy, try refocusing yourself on what you appreciate in your life. Paying attention to what you are grateful for may help you move past fear and dissatisfaction, while shedding some light on what brings you joy.

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6. Look Ahead and Make Choices for Your Future

If you're feeling overwhelmed by holiday stress, it may be helpful to look past the holidays and start planning for your future. Are there any goals that you hope to start on before the end of the year? These goals may revolve around your career, relationships, and health. You may even have goals that involve coping with panic disorder, such as attending therapy. By focusing on goal setting, you can stay motivated and inspired despite any holiday stress.

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  5. Holiday Stress and Panic Disorder - How to Manage Your Anxiety During the Holiday Season

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