A holiday is meant to be a time of cheer and happiness and good energy, right?! Well, sadly... That is not the case for everyone. Many of us struggle with different things throughout the holidays: depression, eating disorders, anxiety, and so many other things. Over the next week, I'm going to post a blog every few days on mental illness during the holidays and how to help yourself, or someone you know, that is struggling.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of unease or worry in a situation, or prior to it, maybe even after. But anxiety disorder is when a person feels nervous, worried, or uneasy in times where someone without the disorder would not.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Gerneralized Anxiety Disorder: someone who worries all the time, and might not even have a reason. This person could also experience psychical symptoms such as upset stomach, fatigue, insomnia, or restlessness.
Panic Disorder: repeated panic attacks along with fear of having another attack. A panic attack is sudden, overwhelming fear or anxiety. When experiencing one, a person's heart might race and you might get lightheaded and experience tunnel hearing.
Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD): a person with OCD experiences unwanted thoughts or behaviors that seem impossible to control.
Phobia: a phobia is an unrealistic or exaggerated fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that poses no real danger. A severe phobia may lead a person to avoid the activity or situation, however that only worsens the phobia.
Social Anxiety Disorder: fear of being seen negatively by others and humiliated in public. A person with extreme social anxiety may even go to lengths of avoid social situations all together.
Post-Tramatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): extreme anxiety that can occur after a traumatic event. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, startled easily, and withdrawing from other people and things you love.
How Can I Help Myself?
Challenge negative thoughts: don't keep your thoughts inside of you. Write them out. Make a list, write down your negative thought and then next to it why you shouldn't stress too much about it. Do that with all of your thoughts. If you can't come up with a reason not to worry, come back to it later. If you still can't find a reason, allow yourself to worry for a set amount of time. Allow yourself 10-20 minutes a day to focus on your negative thoughts, and challenging them. Unfortunately, not everything in life has a set certainty. Allow yourself to be okay with that, and that life isn't always a straight shot.
Take Care of Yourself: make sure your taking time for yourself! Make sure your eating right (and healthy!), take some time to excercise even just 10 minutes a day, make sure you're sleeping enough, and give yourself some time to just relax. Maybe meditate or do some yoga.
Avoid Should/What If Thoughts: these thoughts are never healthy! Thinking that you should have passes a test when you didn't won't change the situation. Instead, think that you'll study harder for the next test. What if statements aren't good either. Don't think what if you get fired for calling in sick. Instead, think this is only the first or second time I've called in, I'm sick, and I have a doctor note. They will understand.
Helping Someone Else
Do not say it isn't a big deal: when a person with anxiety is having an attack, everything is a big deal. They know it shouldn't be, but it is to them.
Ask what they need: everyone with anxiety is different. Some people need to be alone, some people need you there talking to them, some people need you there to just be quiet.
Ask if they take medicine during an attack: many people take pills when they're experiencing an attack but many times their memory is foggy and they won't remember to ask for it.
This isn't everything you can do to help yourself or the person you love but it's of course some tips. The key is to find what works for you. Remember, you aren't alone! Stay strong this holiday season.