For people in San Francisco trying to cope with stress and anxiety, the holidays can be a challenging time of the year. This is especially true during the pandemic. While a certain amount of stress and anxiety is normal for the present situation, there are ways to manage excessive feelings of worry. Try using one or more of the five tips below to help manage the stress and anxiety that comes up during the holiday season.
Sleep is foundational to help reduce stress and anxiety. At Good Therapy SF, a therapy and wellness center in San Francisco CA that specializes in talk therapy, this is the first area of improvement recommended for clients experiencing chronic anxiety issues.
To maintain a healthy sleep schedule, prioritize waking up at the same time every day (including weekends!) and only go to bed when you are ready to sleep.
Sleep experts also strongly recommend a regular sleep routine that begins an hour before bed. This routine can include calming activities such as reading or journaling, and should avoid screen time. Disconnecting from devices before bed, while difficult, is especially helpful for those with anxiety issues.
Encouraging yourself to incorporate some type of movement or exercise during the day is vital to managing stress and anxiety.
There are a number of ways physical activity helps the brain and body, but overall exercise helps reduce stress and signs of depression by increasing the production of endorphins and other neurotransmitters that improve our mood.
At Good Therapy SF, we encourage clients to try and “break a sweat” for at least 20 minutes, three times a week.
Avoidance behavior is one of the most common anxiety traits and something we work on in talk therapy. The more we avoid something, the worse it becomes. We all know this, so why do we keep avoiding?
Biology is partly to blame. When we are expected to do something unpleasant (even if it is something we want to do, like exercise) there is a release of norepinephrine. This surge in norepinephrine causes us to physically feel agitated. As a result, we avoid doing the task that triggered this internal sensation. The cycle is then repeated over and over, often unconsciously, creating a regular pattern of avoidance.
To change the pattern, simply stick with the unpleasant task for a few minutes. As the norepinephrine levels drop, the feeling of agitation will drop as well. Staying with the situation until it becomes easier is called “Urge Surfing.” The idea is to ride or “surf” the initial unpleasantness, knowing the wave will eventually go down.
Limit Social Media and News Coverage
Moderation is the key component to social media and news consumption. It is important to feel connected to others and remain informed, but “overdosing” on these platforms increases stress and anxiety, lowers our mood, and creates symptoms of depression.
To keep social media and the news in moderation, try leaving your devices in another room for an hour each day, turn off notifications, or have something planned each day that does not involve screen time.
Focusing on deep breathing, or relaxation breathing, is another effective tool to manage stress and anxiety and reduce signs of depression. Taking deeper, controlled breaths increases oxygen to the brain and helps change the nervous system from an anxious “fight or flight” state to a calming “rest and digest” state.
Box breathing, also called square breathing, is a popular relaxation breathing approach. Try the technique by slowly inhaling through the nose for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale out the nose for 4 seconds, and pausing for 4 seconds before inhaling again. Repeat this cycle five times, as often as needed throughout the day.
For more information on stress and anxiety management during the holiday season, or if you are seeking talk therapy in San Francisco to deal with holiday related stress and anxiety, reach out to Good Therapy SF.