7 Ways To Control Your Anxiety So It Doesn't Control You

If you regularly struggle with stress and anxiety, the holidays might take your angst up a notch. Let's see: holiday parties, hosting duties, cooking, parties at your kids’ school, shopping for gifts, spending more money, getting your cards in the mail in time, traveling ... YIKES!

This time of year can be stressful even for a person with the brightest outlook. The holidays tend to shine a light on our lives and if you already feel anxious (or if your life is a far cry from a Hallmark Christmas movie), the holiday season can be even tougher. How can you find some enjoyment and keep your anxiety in check? Try my seven steps for a less anxious you. (Use these tips year round, too!)

1. Stop comparing yourself to others.

When you compare your life to others, you are giving up your power. Everyone is on a different path. People have wins or hardships at different points in their lives. People have difficulties they don’t share. You might think others have it better, but you don’t have the full story. It can be easy to compare your life to others with social media showcasing what everyone is doing at every minute of the day (and usually people post about the good things!), but I have an easy trick to take your power back.

Next time you begin to compare yourself to someone else, tell yourself this: “I only compare me to me.” And switch your brain back to focusing on you. Only compete with yourself to be a better you or have an improved life. How can you be a better you? Ask yourself: What’s a better thought you can choose? What’s a positive thing you can tell yourself? What are you doing right? How can you do more of that? Comparing yourself is passive and gets you nowhere. Focusing on you is active and can get you where you want to be.

2. Don’t disregard gratitude.

You might be groaning about gratitude as it’s a word that pops up a lot (especially this time of year), but gratitude is the secret to a happier, less anxious you. When you focus on what you have instead of what you don’t have and take time to relish in all the good things in your life, you can’t help but feel good. When you practice gratitude, you start training your brain to scan for all the wonderful things about your life and doing so improves your mood little by little.

3. Make sure you aren’t going around trying to please everyone else while sacrificing your wants and needs.

It isn’t selfish to set boundaries, say no when you need to, and lead the kind of life you desire. You aren’t good to anyone else if you're running on empty. Take care of you and make sure you invest in your own well-being. When is the last time you did something that you enjoy? Can you even name three things you love doing and the last time you did them? Get them on your calendar today.

4. Forget perfect.

I call myself a recovering perfectionist. Today I focus on my priorities and what matters to me most, and I toss the notion of perfect out the window. Perfection is elusive and not obtainable. Pursuing perfection sets you up to feel defeated. Accept that you'll have days that are far from perfect and learn to laugh at the funny things that go wrong at exactly the wrong time. Life is so much more enjoyable when you expect it to be flawed and fabulous than roll out in some tidy perfect order. Let go and enjoy.

5. Grab that journal.

You may view journaling as a touchy-feely thing that you aren’t into. Maybe you have no idea where to start. Yet studies show the act of writing down our thoughts and feelings can be extremely cathartic. Just start writing, even if it’s a list of your thoughts. Pen and paper can help you process what you're feeling and provide you with a non-judgmental place to vent, express, or gain awareness. You really can write your way to a better mood!

6. Move your body. You never regret a good sweat.

I'm not just saying this as a fitness coach. Exercise is scientifically proven to elevate your mood. It releases endorphins and it can give you mental clarity. If anxiety is driving your moods, it might be more challenging to get yourself to exercise, but once you do, I guarantee you'll feel better—especially if you commit to exercising regularly. There is just something about exercise that gives you a sense of accomplishment that you can use to tackle other challenges in your life.

7. Connect with other people.

If you struggle with anxiety, you may not feel like putting yourself into social situations or being around other people, but isolating yourself socially is the worst thing you can do. Connecting with other can help you realize that everyone has struggles and people are there for you. Isolation can make a negative mood worse. See a friend, call a family member or just smile at strangers passing by. Connection can give you an outlet to talk and an immediate lift.

Try these seven things, plan for seven hours of sleep and fuel your body with good for you food. Actively working to reduce your anxiety level will put you in the control seat and give you hope. You can find ways to enjoy the holidays this season if you proactively take steps to reduce your anxiousness and stress. Your holiday may not be perfect—but here’s a little secret: No one’s holiday is perfect. Aim for enjoyable moments and find joy in life's small pleasures.

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