The holiday season is here and many find it to be the best times of year. However, for others, this is the most stressful time of year. Resulting in what some have termed “holiday anxiety.”
Still, the stress one feels during the end of the year celebrations isn’t just classified under this condition. It may be experienced in people with bipolar disorder, depression, substance abuse disorder, and more.
Throughout this article, we’re going to take a deeper look at holiday anxiety and the impact it may be having on you. From there, we’ll offer some coping techniques to get your through the celebrations. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
What is Holiday Anxiety?
The term “holiday anxiety” isn’t used to describe a specific mental health condition. Rather, it’s defined as a stressful sensation anyone can experience during the holiday season. ¹
It’s worth noting that people who are diagnosed with a mental disorder are more likely to experience such anxiety. However, this disorder isn’t limited to the anxiety spectrum and can span other conditions, such as attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder (BPD).
Some aspects of the holiday season that may trigger anxiety include:
- Family dynamics
- Heightened tension from group gatherings
- Overspending on gifts
- Past memories (from being with certain people or in certain environments)
- Physical exhaustion (due to errands and other obligations)
- Stress in trying to keep loved ones happy
Naturally, there may also be specific reasons you experience holiday anxiety. For example, if you struggle with a social anxiety disorder (SAD), family and friend gatherings may cause you more stress than you typically feel. ²
Why do holidays give me anxiety?
During the holiday season, there’s simply a lot more going on. In turn, daily life feels intensified and may cause more stress and anxiety.
How to Deal with Holiday Anxiety This Season
The goal of diminishing holiday anxiety is ultimately reducing the stress of the season.
Since holiday stress appears differently in everyone, it’s important to identify exactly what’s causing you anxiety. Through this, you’ll have a much better understanding of what you’ll need to do in order to overcome such stress.
Still, even by identifying your holiday stress, you may feel a bit loss. For this reason, we’ve developed a list of the most commonly effective means of reducing holiday anxiety:
1.) Develop a Holiday Budget
While not everyone is in this position, you may find yourself wanting to buy everyone in your life something special this holiday season. Naturally, we’re all on some kind of a budget and must consider this when gift-giving.
In order to ensure you’re not overspending, here are a few tips in order to get the most of your budget:
- Value Your Relationships – Figure out who’s most important in your life and ensure they’re receiving the most from you.
- Proactively Purchase – Don’t buy all your gifts at once. Spend the whole month of December to purchase at leisure, ensuring you’re making room for everyone.
- Don’t Rely on Black Friday – Research reveals Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals aren’t much of a markdown. While you can use this period as an opportunity, don’t rely on it.
- Be Wise with Your Spending – Consider your budget and divide it appropriately. Don’t overspend as this will only lead to more stress after the holiday season.
2.) Plan Ahead of Time
While not all dates can be considered, chances are you’re aware of your holiday plans by Thanksgiving. Whether this be annual family gatherings or pre-planned vacations, it’s important to ensure your December schedule is laid out in advance.
Beyond social gatherings, this may also include your obligations. For example, you can plan days when you’ll go shopping for loved ones or when you’ll be sprucing up a holiday dish for the party.
By planning out this time, you’re less likely to be stressed when certain events occur. Therefore, reducing your overall anxiety.
3.) Make Sure to Sleep
It’s no secret that sleep is essential for our mental health. In fact, research reveals inadequate sleep is one of the top reasons people struggle with varying conditions. ³
Your average adult needs between 6 to 8 hours of sleep in order to feel refreshed. Furthermore, it helps to sleep on a consistent schedule (i.e. going to bed and waking up at the same time every day).
By getting the right amount of sleep, you’re more likely to feel less stress during the holidays. Naturally, with your pre-planned schedule, ensuring that you do get this sleep shouldn’t be an issue.
4.) Exercising and Eating Healthy
With the holidays comes holiday food. While delicious, it’s no secret it’s not the healthiest around.
Naturally, it’s okay to indulge a little. However, you’ll want to avoid full indulgence. Studies reveal that eating large (or consistent) amounts of unhealth foods (i.e. high-fat and high-calorie) can further our stress. ⁵
On top of this, you’ll want to ensure you’re getting enough physical activity. While exercise is the best option, you don’t necessarily need a gym membership to reduce stress.
By just taking a walk outside, you can do wonders for your stress levels. This is partly due to the lack of vitamin D from sunlight we experience during winter – one of the top causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). ⁶
Still, even if you can’t get outside, at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day is ideal for mental health. This helps to release endorphins within the brain which help to improve your mood. ⁷
5.) Remember, Others May Be Struggling Too
Holiday anxiety can feel very isolating – leaving us to assume we’re the only ones experiencing it. However, chances are your loved ones are also going through the seasonal ropes.
It’s okay to talk about the stress you’re going through and it’s key to let others know they can talk to you about it. Building such a support system during this time can truly make all the difference.
Understand Your Stress Symptoms
Beyond the coping mechanisms we’ve laid out above, it’s important to understand what’s causing you stress. Through this understanding, you’ll know the steps you need to take in order to overcome it.
For example, if you’ve experienced symptoms of depression for more than two weeks, chances are you should consult a medical professional.
Naturally, if you’re already on a treatment regimen for a condition, it’s also important to stick to this throughout the holiday season. With so much activity, it’s easy for many of us to forget our path of recovery.
Since holiday anxiety only comes once a year, there’s a chance many of us just ignore symptoms until the time comes to an end. However, being the specialty of the occasion, there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy the holidays like everyone else.
The steps we laid out above are more than just guidelines for overcoming stress. They’re an opportunity for you to enjoy happiness with those you care about most.
Still have questions about holiday anxiety?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further knowledge to share – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ Department of Homeland Security (DMS): Managing Holiday Stress
² Columbia University Irving Medical Center: Curbing Social Anxiety During the Holidays
³ Preventing Chronic Disease: Effect of Inadequate Sleep on Frequent Mental Distress
⁴ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Getting Enough Sleep?
⁵ HHS Public Access: Stress and Eating Behaviors
⁶ National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH): Seasonal Affective Disorder
⁷ Brain Plasticity (IOS Press): The Effects of Acute Exercise on Mood, Cognition, Neurophysiology, and Neurochemical Pathways: A Review