How to Cope with Anxiety Around the Holidays
The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes a lot of merriment and, unfortunately, anxiety for many of us. Learn the best methods and treatments available for coping with anxiety this winter, so you can also experience some of that holiday spirit.
What to Know About Holiday Anxiety
Primary Causes for Holiday Anxiety
Anxiety is a condition characterized by a variety of emotional and physical symptoms. People with anxiety disorders can feel fear, worry and dread about typical, everyday scenarios. Anxiety may feel like panic, dread, or a foreboding feeling that you can’t explain. Physically, anxiety can deprive you of sleep, cause skin conditions like hives and acne flare-ups, and panic attacks. Panic attacks are intense psychological and physiological responses to stress. The holidays can bring out anxiety for a number of reasons. Even people without anxiety disorders experience higher levels of anxiety and stress around the holiday season. Between planning parties or holiday travel, parties, gatherings, gift-giving, and the pressure to “be merry,” it’s no wonder the holidays are the most stressful time of year. The winter also can trigger intensifying depression and anxiety simply because you’re not getting enough sunlight. Called seasonal affective disorder, this condition is likely caused by abrupt changes to our circadian rhythm by reduced daylight hours. When you add up all of these factors, it seems like the holiday season really isn’t on your side when it comes to stress.
Strategies for Coping with Anxiety Around the Holidays
There are many different ways a person can cope with anxiety this holiday season, ranging from things you can do at home to therapy with a mental health professional. The first and best way to reduce your holiday anxiety is to take stock of what the holidays are to you. Are you over-committing to too much party planning, travel, cooking, or hosting? Learning to say no, and recognizing when you’re spread too thin is the best way to prevent holiday anxiety. If you feel pressure from your family, being transparent with your abilities, time commitment, and financial circumstances can feel awkward. But setting boundaries early and firmly will prevent that awkwardness in the future, and you can actually enjoy your holidays. Even yoga and practicing mindfulness can do a great deal of good when it comes to holiday anxiety. Focusing, finding your center, and getting exercise are all going to help you feel less anxious, even if everything around you is stressful.
Whether your anxiety is worsening due to stress or seasonal affective disorder, or something that’s new to you this year, counseling can help. Group and individual counseling for anxiety are both excellent tools for reducing your anxiety and learning new strategies to demystify and cope with its symptoms and triggers. Group therapy can be especially helpful around the holidays when discussing anxiety because you can learn how others cope or prevent anxiety. Maybe someone has an anecdote about telling a loved one they need to take on less responsibility. You can learn from them what to say, how to say it, and what you might expect when sharing that anxiety with another person. Individual counseling has been used for anxiety for decades. Knowing you have someone on your side who will listen to your personal problems confidentially and offer advice on how to handle your specific concerns is immensely calming. You can set goals with your therapist, plan for the future, and analyze past events that may be contributing to your anxiety right now.