Once again it’s that time of year for holiday music, joyful giving, and memorable parties. Unfortunately, however, holiday cheer is not always as easy to find as one would think. In fact, the holiday season is often the time of year that anxiety, stress, and depression is highest for many people.
It makes sense when you think about some of the factors that come along with most people’s holidays. Consider these triggers, which can cause a spike in anxiety and holiday stress during this festive season:
- Going home – Returning to your childhood home can bring up associated unhappy memories and old anxieties.
- Relatives – Most people have at least one family member they avoid throughout the year because of the toxicity that person brings to social interactions. Family gatherings during the holidays often mean these less-than-cheerful reunions will occur.
- Life changes – This is the time of year where people tend to reflect on the previous year and the major changes that have happened, such as divorces or deaths in the family. The seasonal cheer and happiness often opens the door to anxiety and depression when these thoughts come up.
- Holiday parties – This is the time when we are expected to attend office parties or get-togethers with friends and neighbors. Crowded rooms and large groups of people can be difficult to face for anyone, but these types of gatherings can be especially difficult for those suffering from social anxiety disorder, even if they are not the center of attention.
- Routine – While focusing on changes are difficult for some, focusing on routine and the sameness of family tradition can be a struggle for others. Visiting the same homes, going through the same conversations, and having the same dinners can demonstrate a monotony that makes people feel like their lives are stuck in a rut.
- Lowered Defenses – The holidays come at a time when the weather is changing, flu is rampant, and holiday engagements leave us sleep-deprived. It’s no wonder that our body’s defenses are not up to the rigors of fighting the anxiety that can come around at this time.
- Travel – People have to face the crowds and travel issues that make them avoid traveling the rest of the year. And, for someone who suffers from social anxiety disorder or a fear of flying, holiday travel can bring up extreme distress and worry.
Holiday Coping Mechanisms
While it’s easy to see how this time of year can provoke anxiety and stress in a number of people, there is good news. There are a number of holiday coping mechanisms you can use to ease your way through the holiday stress:
- Accept imperfection. Oftentimes, we idealize the holiday season and envision a movie-like perfection to how it will go. Perfection is not reality and realizing this early will go a long way in preventing holiday stress.
- Don’t look to alcohol or drugs for relief. While this may seem like an easy solution in the moment, it often makes things worse in the long run.
- Reach out to others. When holiday depression starts to sneak in, look for relief in the company of others. The holidays are filled with religious and community events that often make it easier to seek social support.
- Maintain healthy habits. People correlate the holidays with weight gain and unhealthy eating but it doesn’t have to be that way. Loading up on baked goods and fattening meals can lead to negative self-thoughts. Look for healthier alternatives instead.
- Stick to a budget. Financial concerns are one of the leading stressors for this time of year. Whatever your financial situation is, set a budget and stick with it to maintain control of your situation.
Coping with Holiday Travel Fears
One of the most anxiety-inducing aspects of the holidays is the dreaded travel to family events. Traffic delays, crowded airports, and overflowing train stations can bring about an entirely different type of stress, especially if you already suffer from a fear of flying or of crowds. Just like with any other anxieties, however, there are ways to confront and overcome these fears:
- Plan and confirm all details – Organization is the best way to ensure your travel plans will go as smoothly as possible.
- Think ahead – Oftentimes, giving voice to your anxiety is the best way to address it. What are you stressing about? Make a list of all your concerns and pre-plan ways to overcome them so you’ll be prepared if the worst happens.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help – If you’re flying and claustrophobic, don’t be afraid to ask for an aisle seat. If you have a fear of flying, let the flight attendant know when you board so they can help make your flight more comfortable. Asking for help can provide more relief than suffering alone in silence.
Ultimately, if you find holiday stress is becoming overwhelming despite the recommendations listed above, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Your holiday season does not need to be ruined because of stress, anxiety, or depression. If you or someone you know is unable to cope with the holiday burdens, it may be time to reach out to a professional.
To get more information and help for holiday stress, anxiety, or depression, please contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.