Feel overwhelmed? Of course you do. That’s the downside to this time of year: gift shopping, house decorating, coordinating schedules, planning meals, attending events. It all adds up, leaving you riddled with anxiety.
“Anxiety during the holidays is much more than in ordinary life,” says master meditation teacher Guru Ranjit Deora, founder of Charlotte Meditation, which has a program focused on treating anxiety. “There are more activities happening in your personal life, your social life, your work.”
One major source is holiday get-togethers. They often spark anxiety because so much is in play, Deora says. “There are people who are shy. They are not outgoing. They think, ‘my sister-in-law is going to say something to me I don’t like.’”
Or someone might feel inferior, that they won’t be treated as an equal, a common family-dynamic struggle. They might think, “If I make a pie, maybe no one will like it,” Deora says.
And there are those who fear things that might not even occur to another person: “Oh no, I have to go to my friend’s house for Christmas. She has two big dogs. I’m not comfortable with dogs,” he says.
The list of triggers is endless. The steps to combat them, thankfully, is shorter.
Deora suggests using mindfulness: “thinking or doing something with a purpose in the present, without judgment.”
“If you think something is going to be a problem, how can you avoid or solve that problem?” Deora asks. “Anxiety is fear of failure in the future. We are worried about the future: What will happen? How am I going to take care of it? If you use your mindfulness, you can find a way to handle it.”
In sum, people often feel anxiety because they believe they can’t get a handle on something. “Your mind is working. The mind wants something to think about,” Deora says. “It is the job of the mind to think. Whether you think negative or positive, it’s up to you.”
Here are three mindfulness solutions to anxiety-ridden scenarios Deora has found common:
1. Be nice
Anxiety inducer: You don’t get along with a family member.
Mindfulness solution: “Instead of expecting some sort of negative thing and worrying about it, be nice to that person,” Deora suggests. “If you’re extra nice, the other person will have an extra hard time not being nice.”
Anxiety inducer: Your friend’s friend demands lots of attention, always talking (let’s be honest: bragging, maybe even makings things up) about himself.
Mindfulness solution: “Listen, accept, let it go,” he says. “Purposely, just listen to the guy, accept whatever nonsense you think he’s saying, and let it go. Everybody wants to tell their own story.”
3. Make an effort.
Anxiety inducer: Your boss is a bear, always faulting you, and now you’ve got to spend out-of-office time with him at a party.
Mindfulness solution: “When the boss is nasty, you avoid him, and you don’t want to talk to him,” Deora says. “But you are creating more of a barrier. It’s better to engage.” And it can be simple: Start today, by walking by your boss’s office when you get to work. Say “good morning.” Say “good night” as you leave work. You’ll likely see a shift within two weeks, Deora says. If your runway before the office fete is much shorter, nourish your new habit during the festivities, going out of your way to say “hello” and “goodbye.” It’ll make the party more pleasant, and then you can reap the rewards of your cumulative effort in coming weeks.
Journalist and yoga teacher Mitra Malek regularly writes and edits content related to personal health, including for Yoga Journal, where she was an editor. Learn more at mitramalek.com.