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Talk Tuesday - Ep. 10: Coping with Anxiety During the Holidays

December 8, 2020
Dr.Howard

Stefanie:

Welcome, everyone! Thank you for joining us today. 

My name is Stefanie and I'm part of the team here at MyVirtualPhysician. We are a direct to consumer, multi-specialty, telemedicine provider operating in multiple states. 

It is Talk Tuesday and we are back with our weekly educational series, talking with our experts, exploring some common healthcare concerns that we see, and hopefully answering some questions you may have.

Today our physician expert is Dr. Daniel Kessler and one of our telemedicine providers. We are talking about coping with anxiety during the holidays.

Stefanie:

Well the holiday season is upon us and I know that this year has been challenging for many, so some people are already stressed or anxious and not looking forward to the holidays. Is it normal to have anxiety during this time?

Dr. Daniel Kessler:

It can be common to have feelings of anxiety during this time. 

The Oxford dictionary defines anxiety as feelings of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an event or something with an uncertain outcome that may be coming. These can be normal and natural. Many people have these feelings from time to time. During the holidays, Americans may feel financial strain as it can be a season of shopping and gift-giving. They may have to come together with family members that they don’t often see or grieve separation from loved ones and relationships can be challenging or cause anxiety and worry. Many adults have unrealistic expectations for the holiday and that can create anxiety. And already busy schedules can feel the burden of holiday events and activities that can make you even more busy, anxious, or restless.

Stefanie:

That makes sense, the holidays can definitely cause anxiety, the worry, nervousness, or unease. So when is anxiety abnormal, or when is it a problem?

Dr. Kessler:

In some cases, those thoughts or feelings become intense and excessive, or individuals may become focused on common everyday events or situations that generally should not produce those feelings or at one time did not make the person feel that way. This type of anxiety usually causes physical symptoms such as sweating, racing heartbeat, or even weakness and feeling tired all the time. 

This second more extreme sense of anxiety may be out of the norm, and may require evaluation by a healthcare professional.

Stefanie:

Are there other symptoms, other than the intense feelings you mentioned, that someone could look for or identify as signs that they should get help, or someone they know or care about should see a physician?

Dr. Kessler:

Symptoms of an anxiety disorder can vary from person to person so if someone is concerned they should talk to their doctor. 

But some other signs or symptoms could include:

  • Uncontrollable or intrusive thoughts
  • Fears that prevent someone from doing things like driving, going to certain places, or being alone
  • Worries that interfere with school, work, or family responsibilities
  • Sudden episodes of panic
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Episodes of Dizziness
  • Frequent upset stomach or diarrhea
  • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping

Stefanie:

So Dr. Kessler, these may be reasons to talk to your doctor about your anxiety. But for our listeners who may experience some mild feelings of stress or worry around the holidays, and maybe they are reluctant to talk to anyone about them yet, can you tell us about coping with anxiety, and specifically for coping with anxiety during the holidays?

Dr. Kessler:

Sure, There are definitely some steps you can take to manage mild anxiety. 

Probably the most important thing is self care and self awareness. Many people overlook taking care of themselves during this season, which is often about giving to others. But you have to be aware of how you’re feeling, and take care of your mental and physical health during this time. 

So here are 6 things that we can all do, to try to stay healthy and happy this holiday and keep anxiety at bay.

Number 1 - Adequate hydration

Don’t forget to drink 8-10 glasses of water each day. When you are dehydrated, you won’t feel your best. Also keep in mind drinks like coffee and alcohol may contribute to anxiety so it can be helpful to limit or cut out caffeine and alcohol for a time.

Number 2 - Good nutrition

Stress can cause changes in your metabolism, or how you burn energy.  Skipping meals leads to spikes and drops in blood sugar that can wreak havoc on your system. It is important to eat regularly and maximize your nutrient intake with healthy foods. Taking a multivitamin won’t hurt either.

Number 3 - Get enough sleep

National Sleep Foundation guidelines say that the average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep. Staying up late at holiday parties and getting up early to wrap presents can be detrimental to your health. Practice good sleep hygiene by setting a bedtime and sticking to it when you can.  

Number 4 - Exercise

Studies show that physical activity is excellent for mental health. If you find yourself anxious or worried take a walk or a jog, practice yoga, whatever physical activity that you find enjoyable. 

Number 5 - Stay connected to others

Social isolation can be a symptom of anxiety and may also trigger it. During the holiday season, make it a point to stay connected to family and friends. Communicate by phone or in person when possible. When separated from loved ones, look for settings where you can volunteer. Many charities offer opportunities to serve. Being with others can suppress feelings of anxiety or depression. It is helpful to share feelings with others and reach out when you can.

Number 6 - Be intentional with your schedule

Set boundaries with your time, and don’t feel about declining invitations if they cause stress, anxiety, or depression. Limit events that cause excessive worry. You want to be connected, but you also want to be selective in some way, and make the best of your holiday season. It can also be helpful to stick to your normal routine. Change can cause stress so just be aware of that.

Stefanie:

Thank you Dr. Kessler, you have given us some great tips for coping with anxiety during the holidays. 

I appreciate you joining us for Talk Tuesday and telling us what we need to know about anxiety. For everyone else joining us as well, this has been Talk Tuesday with MyVirtualPhysician. If you would like to talk with one of our board-certified physicians about your health concerns, you can check out our website at www.myvirtualphysician.com. We look forward to talking with you again, and we hope you have a great week.

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