6 keys to reducing Christmas anxiety in the midst of a pandemic

It is normal to feel some anxiety around Christmas time, it is an intense period that includes both obligations and the desire to enjoy traditional and family holidays.

Anxious obligations can be the preparations for this vacation, like buying gifts, visiting stores, organizing agendas with family and friends, etc. However, this described anxiety corresponds to adaptive and normal anxiety.

It is important to note that anxiety itself, as an emotion, is necessary. We cannot live without anxiety even though it is always labeled as “something negative to be eliminated”. Anxiety helps us prepare for what we think is happening, it helps us deal with a future situation and therefore some level of anxiety is adaptive and necessary.

The problem arises when anxiety is high, harmful, and inappropriate. This type of maladaptive anxiety is disproportionate to the future situation we think will happen, that is, we can assess that it will occur a little more negatively than the actual likelihood of it happening and that we will not be able to cope with it. . So we appreciate the fact that we don’t have the resources to deal with what we think is happening and therefore we start to suffer in the present from something that has not happened.

These symptoms may include rapid breathing, rapid heartbeat, pressure in the chest, and a feeling of suffocation or a lump in the throat.

    Adaptive anxiety this Christmas

    The big difference in this Christmas season compared to the pre-pandemic time is increased cases of maladaptive anxiety. It makes sense that in the end, in addition to Christmas’s own adaptive anxiety, there is elevated anxiety added in the wake of the COVID pandemic. At the PsicoAlmeria Psychology Center, we are seeing an increase in cases related to high and unsuitable anxiety on these dates.

    This anxiety caused by the pandemic results in the increase of negative thoughts that condition us permanently. The most common may be those related to hypervigilance and the fear of being infected or infecting a loved one. And compared to those Christmas dates, we may have doubts about whether or not to stay with family members due to the catastrophic consequences that could arise..

    These thoughts involve compatible emotions, that is, when we have negative thoughts, the emotions that arise are also those related to emotional distress like anxiety.

    And once we experience this symptomatology, our behaviors will be aimed at reducing anxiety, although in most cases these behaviors often don’t work the way we would like and further increase our anxiety. Because? It’s simple: we tend to adopt avoidance and evasion behaviors when faced with situations that cause us anxiety, it works for us in the short term because we will feel relief. But in the long run, the problem persists and the anxiety will come back stronger.

    An example might be this: if I stay with my family for Christmas I might infect someone without knowing it and I wouldn’t be able to live with (thought), I feel bad to think this has happened. product (anxiety and symptoms related to ‘anxiety), then I decide that I will not stay with anyone (behavior and anxiety reduction).

    In the short term, you may feel good about making this decision, and anxiety will play a role. Corn in the long term, you may continue to adopt avoidance behaviors (don’t stay with anyone so as not to confide in), and you will not meet the needs that you still have, such as the need to contact your family and friends. It will increase the amount of maladaptive anxiety you have left over doing necessary and pleasurable things.

      What can we do to reduce anxiety?

      Here are some psychological tips or guidelines that will help you manage and reduce maladaptive anxiety.

      1. Go to a professional

      It is important that you do not neglect your mental health. If you find yourself in a situation that causes you a lot of discomfort and anxiety, it is best to consult a psychologist.

      Psychologist Verónica Valderrama Hernández and your team will help you resolve your maladaptive anxiety. Each person is different, which is why it is important to properly assess the situation that worries you. In this way, they constitute an effective and adapted therapy to regain your emotional well-being.

        2. Internal dialogue How do you speak to yourself?

        Internal dialogue is a technique that can help you in times of anxiety. As stated earlier, thoughts trigger compatible emotions and behaviors.

        If we believe that something negative and unpleasant is going to happen and feel that we cannot cope with it, we will feel anxious and our behavior will be compatible with that anxiety. A good option is a good dialogue with yourself when those automatic and negative thoughts arise that trigger your anxiety.

        Try to jot down these recurring thoughts first, and jot down objective alternative thoughts (more reality-oriented). The difference between automatic and rational thoughts is that the former are usually shorter and more extreme and the latter more objective. These alternative thoughts that you will generate will aim to give you more security in yourself. Once you’ve got them written down, it’s as easy as using them and repeating them when your anxiety begins.

        Consider the following: if you have only one thought, the chances of believing it will be high and you will suffer the consequences. If you have more than one thought (the automatic and the alternative that you created), your mind will not be able to attribute as many probabilities to the negative thought because it offers you different options or hypotheses for a future that you do not know. not really.

        In the example of this Christmas party, it is not the same thing to think “if I stay I will infect a loved one and die, it is better not to see the family”, to offer you this alternative thought: “I can postpone my stay with a relative who can be a group risk and end up with a limited number with security measures ”.

          3. Mindfulness

          The practice of mindfulness is very useful in cases of anxiety; it is scientifically proven to provide benefits and advantages in this regard. Both formal (with audio) and informal (learning to live here and now), mindfulness will help you reduce maladaptive anxiety.

          It’s simple, think that anxiety is keeping your mind occupied with worries that haven’t happened yet, situations that you anticipate will arise. Anxiety is like living in a negative future, finding yourself in an almost permanent state of alert.

          Mindfulness allows you to live in full awareness, allowing you to live in the present. Mindfulness is a skill that trains and you will be able to redirect your attention to real situations that are occurring, it will help you in times of anxiety. At PsicoAlmería you will find audios and videos to practice mindfulness.

            4. Patience

            Anxiety does not go away suddenly, it is an emotion that lasts a certain time, so you have to be patient; little by little you will regain your well-being. He thinks anxiety plays a role in survival, your mind thinks it is protecting you by provoking it (because if anxiety is yours, it causes your mind and body to suffer).

            You will gradually show in your mind that it is good to protect yourself when it comes to adaptive anxiety because it readjusts maladaptive anxiety.

            5. Enjoyable activities

            When was the last time you did something? Take the opportunity and do something different, or do something you haven’t done in a long time. try get involved in things that make you feel good in order to move away from anxiety.

            6. Social and family contact as far as possible

            As we continue to drift away from family and acquaintances, don’t stray too far. If you gradually feel like you are moving further and further away, connect more with your important people, even through technology. It is important on these Christmas holidays where it is traditional to be with our people.

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            And finally, remember that when we are feeling bad we can turn to mental health professionals who will help and understand us, like the psychologists at PsicoAlmeria.

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