Holidays are considered the best time of the year. Full of joy and happiness. Everything in popular culture dictates that we should feel grateful during the holiday season. Enjoy buying gifts and spending time with our loved ones. However, this is not the reality for a lot of us. Many people experience stress and anxiety during the holiday season. If you do as well, remember you are not alone. To help out during this tough time, here are some tips on coping with holiday-related anxiety and depression.

Why do we get anxious and stressed during holidays?

If you are feeling stressed and anxious during the holiday season you might be wondering why. We are told that we should be happy this time of year. So, stress and depression might lead you to think that there is something particularly wrong with you. However, you are not alone. There are lots of people who experience holiday-related anxiety and depression. Moreover, there is a logical explanation for these feelings.

American Psychiatric Association conducted a survey about holiday-relted stress. And the results are very enlightening. It turns out that there is a variety of issues that arise during the holiday season and cause anxiety. About a fifth of the surveyed people said that they feel stressed (8%), anxious (8%), sad (3%), and nervous (3%). Other important findings of this survey say that:

  • 46% of adults are worried about affording gifts during the holiday season

  • Working long hours is one of the reasons why parents feel anxiety

  • A higher number of young adults (49%) say their stress levels increase during the holiday season

  • 47% of surveyed people said that they feel anxious and depressed because they miss family members

Other reasons behind holiday-related anxiety and depression

All the findings from the APA survey suggest that holiday-related stress is more common than we think. Since so many of us experience anxiety and depression it is interesting to find out the underlying reasons for it.

Holiday-related anxiety and depression are associated with:

  • Overspending on gifts

  • Lack of time

  • Changes in normal schedule and lifestyle

  • Tensions related to family gatherings

  • Exhaustion due to various holiday-related tasks and obligations

The changes that we experience during the holiday season act as stressors and lead us to be anxious or depressed. The leading stressors of the holiday season are a lack of time and money. So, it is natural that our stress levels spike during this supposed jolly time. Stress is a trigger for anxiety therefore, the stressful holiday season leads to anxiety. So, the first tip for coping with holiday-related anxiety would be to acknowledge your feelings and know they are completely valid.

The best tips for dealing with holiday-related anxiety and depression

Tips for coping with holiday-related anxiety are not independent of one another. Coping with anxiety is more of a process, so take every tip seriously and be consistent with self-care activities.

1. Accept the dreadful side of the holiday season

It all starts with acceptance. While holidays can be very enjoyable, the period also has a dark side. Acknowledgement of potential stress is the first step for coping with holiday-related anxiety. Remember that anxiety feeds on itself. This means that we can get anxious about being anxious. This is especially true during the holiday season. The pressure of feeling happy might cause more anxiety. We expect to be happy during the holidays and when that doesn’t happen, we feel guilty and stressed about it. This creates a pattern that guarantees anxiety during the holiday season.

So, to address this issue, accept the stressful reality of the holiday season. Remember, your feelings are valid, and sometimes just being vocal about them can be a huge step forward.

2. Create a preventative self-care schedule

Once you have accepted the problem, you can start coping with holiday-related anxiety. Practicing preventative self-care is a good way to minimize the anxiety and depression we feel during the season.

Due to a lack of time and extra obligations during this time we often forget our basic needs. When we do not take care of ourselves, we are more exposed to stressors. Hence, we are more affected by negative factors than we would be at another time.

Firstly, identify your leading stressors during the holiday season. Holiday-related stressors include:

  • Lack of time

  • Lack of money

  • Toxic relatives and family members

  • The pressure of buying gifts

  • Missing the loved ones

These stressors act as triggers for holiday-related anxiety and depression. Being aware of your triggers will help you create a schedule that minimizes these triggers in your life or gives you more time to deal with them.

Holiday season preventative self-care practices may include:

  1. Setting up a gift budget

  2. Creating holiday-related task schedule

  3. Exercising

  4. Setting up holiday calendar for events

  5. Practicing healthy eating habits

Furthermore, think about what activities make you happy and try to spend more time on them. Increasing self-care during this time is great for coping with holiday-related anxiety and depression.

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3. Prioritize and set boundaries

The holiday season is often packed with activities: dinners, parties, road trips, and more. We are usually pressured into attending all of them and doing everything imaginable. However, this is simply unrealistic and unhealthy. You should not prioritize pleasing family and friends over your well-being. This is a lesson we usually learn the hard way. So, if you set boundaries in advance and list your priorities you will have an easier time coping with holiday-related anxiety. Whenever necessary, politely decline the invitations, set a strict gift budget so you do not overspend, and avoid interacting with toxic people. And lastly, try to communicate your boundaries and plans as soon as possible. This way you can make sure your plans are less influenced by pressure and external factors.

4. Take a walk and get some fresh air

This might seem trivial but this is one of the best tips for coping with holiday-related stress and anxiety. For a lot of people, holiday-related stress collides with seasonal depression. And if you have ever experienced a mix of these two, I don’t really need to explain how damaging it can be. Decreasing daylight affects our mood in all sorts of negative ways. So, taking a walk in the park and breathing some fresh air can make all the difference.

What are the symptoms of holiday anxiety and depression?

Holiday-related anxiety and stress have the same symptoms as regular anxiety. So, it can be confusing to differentiate the two. First of all, let’s see what symptoms to expect during the holiday season:

  • Disruptions to sleep

  • Frustration

  • Sadness

  • Feeling of loss

  • Fatigue

How holiday-related stress differs from clinical anxiety?

As it was mentioned, the symptoms of clinical anxiety and holiday-related anxiety are quite similar. One key difference is that the holiday-related anxiety and depression are tied to a specific period. Therefore, once holidays are over, you should feel better. If you experience the above-mentioned symptoms all-year long, then it would be wise to consult a professional. Furthermore, if you are diagnosed with a specific mental condition, take extra care of yourself during the holiday season.

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