Combating Holiday Anxiety

The holidays are just around the corner and while the temperatures are dropping, anxiety levels among many are rising. Many of us experience anxiety throughout the year, but the holiday season can conjure up certain stressors that can take its toll emotionally and physically.

Anxiety is a normal physiological body response to fear. One of the reasons that we feel increased levels of anxiety during the holidays is that we often have increased demands in our personal and work life as the year starts to wind down. Another reason holiday periods can cause increased feelings of anxiety is due to the high expectations around being happy, jolly and connected to others.

How can you manage stress and anxiety this season? Follow these tips:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings
    If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, it’s important to acknowledge those feelings of sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. Feelings are what they are: they do not respond to logic or reason.2. Relationships: Can’t live with them – can’t live without them
    Family misunderstandings and conflicts can intensify during the holidays — especially if you’re thrust together for several days. If this is a trigger for you, think of some ways that you can head these feelings off before they get to be too much. Plan time for you to get out of the house for a few hours, or even for the whole day. Think of some things to do in advance, so you’ll be prepared with ideas when tensions and boredom run high.

    On the other hand, facing the holidays without a loved one can be tough and leave you feeling lonely and sad. Think of things you can do that will help you meet new people, keep you occupied when you’re feeling lonely, and, in the long-run, all build up to a healthier lifestyle!

    3. Finances: Getting a handle on the holiday output
    With the added expenses of gifts, travel, food and entertainment, the holidays can put a strain on your budget — and your peace of mind. Not to mention that overspending now can mean financial stress for months to come. Set a clear budget before you go shopping: know who you are buying for, and how much you are willing to spend. If you can, jot down a couple gift ideas for each person within this budget. It will make for less stressful shopping experience and help you prevent the anxiety that comes with overspending and shopper’s remorse.

    4. Don’t skip out on your therapist
    You’re busy, have way too much to do… and you may be tempted to cancel an appointment with your therapist or counselor. Instead of looking at your appointment as another obligation you must uphold, try looking at it as some “me time”: an opportunity to evaluate your feelings, how you are coping with them, and really check in with yourself.

    5. Schedule some down-time
    Even die-hard holiday enthusiasts may find that the extra shopping and socializing can leave them wiped out. Being exhausted increases stress. Exercise and sleep — good antidotes for stress and fatigue — may take a back seat to chores and errands. To top it off, burning the wick at both ends makes you more susceptible to colds and other unwelcome guests.

    Decide which events are important and which you can gracefully decline. Make sure to take care of YOU!

    6. Don’t abandon healthy habits
    Yes, we are all very busy during the holidays. But, that doesn’t mean that we can throw a year’s hard-work to the curb! Overindulgence only adds to stress and anxiety. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity. Watch the drinking, too: studies show that over-consumption of alcohol can lead to depression.

    7. Modify Your Expectations
    Sometimes, our expectations for the holiday season do not match our reality. Hollywood, and our own memories or daydreams from childhood, leave us with images of friendly family get-togethers, perfect gift exchanges, and romantic moments by the fireplace.

Examine your expectations for the holidays. Are they realistic? Perhaps some readjustments are necessary in order to meet your reality. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.

  1. Practice Acceptance….
    When we are depressed or overwhelmed, we tend to measure our life by the number of bumps in our road, rather than by how we navigate those bumps. Life does not always happen the way you want it to: Look at your reaction to situations that don’t work out the way you had planned and see if you can change your reaction to one of opportunity for something better rather than one of failure.
  2. …And forgiveness
    The holiday season is a great opportunity to take a look at our life and relationships with a new perspective. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression too.

The anxious feelings that often come this time of year can come from many things: financial stressors, anxiety over family get-togethers, and pressure to attend social functions are just some of the things that could send one into a pulling or picking episode. It’s important to arm yourself in advance of these overwhelming feelings: with a little planning and preparation, you may find that the holiday season isn’t so bad, after all!