Updated: Mar 18, 2021
My anxiety always went through the damn roof around the holidays.
Does anyone else struggle with this?
The normal holiday stressors of gift-giving, finances, social situations & family dynamics turned into nightmarish scenarios that would often leave me drenched in sweat with a pounding heart and blurred vision, desperately trying to fight off a panic attack.
All I wanted was to be able to enjoy the holidays, but I couldn’t just enjoy the time with my family & friends without overthinking every-damn-thing.
BUT that was THEN.
Now I’m chillinnnn, eating all the delicious holiday desserts (yes even the ones with dairy&gluten&sugar) because I have a crystal clear game plan and know EXACTLY what I need to be doing every.damn.day. over the holidays to keep my anxiety far far away 💃🏻
NOW I’m a pro at cruising through the holidays anxiety (& stress) free 💁♀️ because I do these four things.
Keep on reading to learn my 4 tried-and-true-must-dos for squashing your anxiety during the holidays so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy being with the people you love most.
Holiday stress gets CRANKED up when you have an anxiety disorder.
Which makes it even more important to use the power of food to calm your anxiety.
And I’m not going to tell you to skip out on those holiday sweets and treats… because I sure don’t!
One of my favourite things about the holidays are my aunt’s snowball cookies and my mom’s decadent chocolate pecan pies. And those babies sure ain’t gluten free, dairy free OR refined sugar free.
To prevent the inevitable blood sugar spikes and crashes that come with these three mood killers I have a few tricks up my sleeve.
I make sure that I eat protein and fat at every single meal. No exceptions.
I’m all about indulging, but in moderation.
Protein is a non-negotiable for building neurotransmitters that keep anxiety under control & fat is essential for keeping the hormones that impact your mood, balanced.
Carbohydrates are the main reason why hormones, namely glucose and insulin, spike and then plummet, which can lead to severe mood imbalances.
To fight those fluctuations I make sure that I get a good dose of protein and fat with every meal, even if it means whipping out a bag of nuts & popping a few in my mouth before (or after) the snowball cookies.
If it will keep me from feeling anxious, I have noooo shame.
Unsalted, raw nuts and seeds are an amazing source of both protein and fat.
I suggest you take a page out of my book and do the same.
My boyfriend and I have this running joke that his cookies are full of fibre.
They’re not, but one time he made a really good effort at trying to convince me they were.
One of the biggest things about holiday food is it often lacks fibre.
In fact, most people don’t actually know what foods are high in fibre.
Even if you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables you still might not be hitting your fibre goals.
Veggies like spinach, squash, asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, although VERY good for you and filled with vitamins and minerals you need, aren’t really that high in fibre.
If you want to keep your gut bugs producing those happy, anti-anxiety neurotransmitters we need to bring in the heavy hitters.
Liiikee parsnips, almonds, chia seeds, blackberries, avocados and beans! Lots and lots of beans.
All those delicious cookies, pastries, cakes, pies, chocolates and christmas candies ain’t got no fibre…. Unless it’s Smart Sweets (which I love and are crazy high in fibre!).
If you’re feeling clogged up this holiday szn you NEED to up your fibre.
I can’t stress enough about how important fibre is not only to feed your gut bugs but to keep your hormones balanced.
Excess hormones and toxins only have a few ways to leave the body, one of which is your 💩. So if you’re not passing a bowel movement every 12-24 hours your body is actually reabsorbing all the toxins and excess hormones!
And there’s one hormone in particular we’re concerned with: ESTROGEN.
Under normal circumstances, estrogen is processed by the liver and excreted through your bowels (fibre binds to estrogen in the colon), but if you aren’t making regular trips to the loo or aren’t eliminating completely, the estrogen is circulated back into your system.
And with estrogen, too much of a good thing isn’t really ideal…
High estrogen contributes to anxiety, depression, memory problemz, PMS, low libido and sleep disturbances.
I always make it a priority to hit my fibre goal every single day over the holidays, even if that means downing two whole avocados or bringing some beans to throw on top my stuffing on Christmas Eve (yes, I’m that girl).
I do what I gotta do, my family is pretty used to it by now.
What the fibre goal you ask?
25-35g of fibre minimum every day.
Every single year, for about 5 years, the holidays would test me.
The cooking, the shopping, the baking, the socializing, the hosting, the cleaning, the drinking … I LOVED it all. My anxiety did not.
One year I had a panic attack on the way to an ugly sweater Christmas party with all my friends. I had to turn around, pop an Ativan & spent the rest of the night sobbing in bed.
The holidays are stressful for everyone, especially those who experience regular bouts of anxiety.
The next year, and for many years afterwards, I made sure to schedule myself extra therapy sessions around the holidays.
And whatever “holiday homework” my angel therapist gave me … I DID IT.
I talk a lot about how the reason therapy may not be working for you is because you haven’t addressed diet, but that doesn’t mean therapy DOESN’T work. I’ve been in therapy for a decade and it has changed my life.
Therapy is not only for those experiencing mental illness or going through a massive interpersonal issue like a divorce or marriage counselling or whatever “period of crisis” you’re in.
I still work with my therapist, even though my anxiety disorder, panic disorder and depression are long gone.
Therapy taught me and continues to teach me how to sit with my feelings and emotions. How to accept them. How to not be debilitated by them. How to better understand and communicate them.
Therapy taught me self-awareness and self-compassion.
But I think the biggest takeaway I’ll forever be grateful for is how therapy helps me discover my true wants and needs. That has been a game changer.
So if you aren’t in therapy I highly recommend it. And if you are working with a therapist try and schedule in some extra sessions around the holidays 💜
No pun intended 🙃
My anxiety freedom journey was anything but linear.
Healing never, ever is....
Besides nutrition and therapy, there was one more thing that really helped me finally give anxiety the boot.
Which was mindfulness.
Mindfulness is simply the act of learning how to be present.
I know it’s totally unrealistic to tell you that you should be present at every waking moment--I’d be a total hypocrite if I did.
But being present in the moment changes everything when it comes to your mental health.
We lead such busy lives that we’re always on the go, always concerned with something that’s going to happen, stressing about something that didn’t happen, or who knows what else, that when it comes to what’s happening now, we’re totally disconnected.
Keeping my sanity during the holidays and keeping my anxiety locked away is partially dictated by how present I stay.
When I’m super distracted by everything that’s going on, I forget about keeping my mental health in balance and keeping myself healthy.
This holiday season, I’ve made it a priority to put time aside for ME.
That means taking time off work. Deleting my Instagram app off my phone to avoid mindlessly scrolling or engaging in work-related activities. And really focusing on being with the people and things that bring me happiness.
Without distractions, I’ll be able to focus on enjoying time with my boyfriend, my cats, and the few family members that I’ll be seeing over the break.
I challenge you to do the same.
Figure out things that stand in your way of really being present in the moment. Social media is a big one for most of us.
Make a conscious effort to put them aside and tend to your mental health and what’s happening in the here and now. Not what happened yesterday or what is happening tomorrow. What is happening now.
It’s challenging, but I know you can do it.
I hope these tips serve you this holiday season and I hope you have a wonderful holiday - whatever that looks like this year ♥️✨