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Tips for coping with anxiety and stress as the Holidays approach

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There have been many stressors for people this year during the pandemic with numerous turbulent causes that have left people feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, just as the holiday season arrives. 

Now, Utah is in the midst of the largest COVID spike just as we are entering the holiday season. This can take a toll on the mental well-being of people everywhere, according to Travis Mickelson, MD, a behavioral healthcare specialist at Intermountain Healthcare

How do we notice and address building anxiety concerns? Here are three ways Dr. Mickelson suggests that can help us with this: 

1. Inform 

Discuss the physiological elements of anxiety. It’s important to understand anxiety is a survival mechanism hardwired into our brains. It’s normal to automatically scan for dangers and to feel fear in the face of a perceived threat or uncertainty. Every time the brain is asked a question, it attempts to provide a solution. When presented with fear, it responds with a Fight or Flight response. Depending on childhood and life experiences, some may have a stronger response than others, said Dr. Mickelson. 

2. Observe
Watch for the signs and symptoms of anxiety. When Symptoms go beyond a couple of weeks, it is time to seek therapy and professional help.

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety 
Physical Behavioral Cognitive 
Increased or heavy sweating Acting out Concern over specific life events or experiences 
Difficulty sleeping Avoidance Difficulty focusing or thinking clearly 
Nausea Hypervigilance Enhanced fear of impending danger or death 
Performing certain behaviors repeatedly Introversion Feeling out of control 
Rapid breathing, heart rate, or palpitations Irritability Nervousness 
Stomachache or gastrointestinal distress Lethargy Obsessions about certain ideas 
Trembling or muscle twitching Restlessness   

3. Validate and Encourage  

Find the balance between acknowledging and validating feelings and fears and encouraging healthy behaviors to confront what is causing anxiety. Make a plan and execute it. When our fight or flight response is high, our thinking brain turns off. It’s important to not attempt to have highly logical conversations in these moments or make any big decisions until calm has returned. 

4. Seek help 

It’s important to address your mental well-being. Talk to your doctor or seek out a therapist. Intermountain has a free Emotional Health Relief Hotline, that is available daily from 10 am to 10 pm at 833-442-2211, where anyone can contact a specialist to talk through concerns and seek assistance.  

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