Social media, radio, and TV would have us believe we should be filled with nothing but joy and laughter during the holidays. However, for many, that’s not the case. Many people experience anxiety, sadness and loneliness during the holidays. Coping with anxiety during the holidays is a real challenge for many folks.
Some common reasons people experience anxiety feelings during this time of year are:
Financial hardship: If your bank account is overdrawn or your credit cards are maxed out, it can be hard to buy presents for loved ones, especially your children. This feels awful. Often, the story we tell ourselves about this contributes to diminished feelings of self-worth and guilt.
Stress: It’s easy to become overwhelmed from the added stress of shopping, meal planning, and travel. This can be particularly true for women. This is because women are usually the ones holding the burden of managing all of these responsibilities. Not always, but often.
Grief and Loneliness: People tend to feel incredibly lonely during the holidays. Whether it’s from being single, recently divorced, or having just lost a love one. Sadly, the holidays are often a reminder of what we don’t have or what we wish we did.
Strategies For Coping With Anxiety During The Holidays
1. Feel Your Feelings – Don’t Try To Ignore Them
If you are grieving a loss, it’s important to be honest about your feelings. Your instinct may be to put on a brave face for family and friends, but forcing yourself to be happy for the sake of others will only make matters worse. Furthermore, it often leads to feelings of resentment towards others which further complicates relationships. Sadness and grief are a part of life, no matter the season, and it’s completely OK to feel your feelings. And if someone in your life has a problem with that, avoid them.
2. Give Something Besides Money
If finances are the primary source of your mood, look for other ways to give. You can volunteer at a local non-profit organization. If you like to cook, offer to cook for friends and family. If your talent is writing, write your kids a bedtime story. If it’s painting, paint a mural on a canvas as a gift. At the end of the day, thoughtful and creative gifts from your heart will have the most impact and will be the most cherished.
3. Decide Who You Want To See
Too many people get stuck spending time with those they’d rather not spend time with over the holidays and end up creating more anxiety. Decide who you want to spend time with. Who makes you feel the best when you’re around them? Who brings out the best in you? Who makes you laugh and makes you feel good about yourself?
Spend time with those people – whether they’re family or not.
4. Prioritize Your Values
It may sound simple, but many of us often lose sight of our priorities during the chaos of the holidays. Pause and take a few minutes to reflect on what you actually want to get out of this time of year. Is it time with family? Is it a break from work and the responsibilities that weigh on you throughout the year? Is it to get reconnected with your spirituality? Once you have the answer, create a plan to support your priorities and follow through.
5. Focus On Self-Care
Many of us (especially parents of young children) forget to put on our oxygen mask first during this time of year. Take a break. Slow down. BREATHE. Take care of yourself first so you can be your best self. Exercise, eat (mostly) healthy, drink plenty of water. Read your favorite book again or watch your favorite movie. Catch up with an old friend. Participate in random acts of kindness.
Life is short and (fortunately for some), so are the holidays. But if you’re struggling to cope with anxiety during the holiday season, find an awesome therapist your like and trust to help you get through the holidays in one piece!
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in Greater New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.