The holiday season is often portrayed as a time of joy, togetherness, and celebration. Oftentimes, this time of year can bring up many different emotions for people including sadness, fear, loneliness, and anxiety. We typically refer to this form of anxiety as “holiday anxiety." If you think you suffer from holiday anxiety, it is more common than you may think. In this post, we will explore what holiday anxiety is, its common causes, and how to manage it, so you can make the most of this holiday season.
What is Holiday Anxiety?
Holiday anxiety, also known sometimes as the holiday blues, is a term used to describe the emotional and psychological discomfort that some people experience during the holiday season. This anxiety can manifest in various ways and may include feelings of unease, restlessness, sadness, or even panic. Understanding its causes and recognizing its symptoms is essential in effectively dealing with this issue.
Common Causes of Holiday Anxiety
Holiday anxiety can be caused by a number of different factors including grief, loneliness, family expectations, and financial stress. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons you may have these feelings of holiday anxiety coming on.
The holiday season often comes with social expectations, such as attending gatherings, giving gifts, and participating in various festivities. Some of these expectations are set by friends, family, or even our own internal expectations we place on ourselves. These expectations can put unnecessary pressure on you, especially if you’re introverted or have social anxiety in large groups.
The costs associated with gift-giving, travel, and holiday activities can lead to financial strain on many people. The pressure to overspend can contribute to anxiety about money and create undue financial stress. Although it may seem counterintuitive, think about yourself first. Don’t put yourself in financial hardship just to meet the expectations of the holiday season.
Spending time with family can be a double-edged sword. While the holidays are an opportunity for connection, they can also bring forth family conflicts and unresolved issues, causing emotional distress. Just because it’s the holiday season, always respect your boundaries that you have in place with your family members and prioritize your own mental health first.
Not everyone has a close-knit family or a social support system, and for some, the holidays can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and isolation. Just because you may not have family or friends you can celebrate with, that doesn’t make this season any less special. Don’t forget, you can still celebrate on your own and have a great time!
The end-of-year rush to complete work or other responsibilities, coupled with the additional tasks that come with the holidays, can lead to time-related stress. Whether it be end of year projects for work, getting personal errands taken care of, or something else, don’t worry about trying to cram things in before the end of year. Always remember, it’s okay for deadlines to be pushed out to the next year.
With the events of the past years, concerns about health and safety can also contribute to holiday anxiety. If you’re someone who has a weakened immune system or some other health condition, don’t put yourself in unsafe situations that could compromise your health. It’s perfectly fine to explain to friends and family that you need to stay home to protect your own health.
Managing Holiday Anxiety
Holiday anxiety is more common than you may think. Now that we've identified some common causes of holiday anxiety, let's explore strategies for managing it and getting through this holiday season.
Set Realistic Expectations
Don't feel pressured to meet idealized holiday standards to succumb to people pleasing behaviors . Adjust your expectations to what's manageable for you and your circumstances. Understand that no holiday or family gathering is perfect, and it's okay to have imperfections. Don't compare your celebration to those portrayed in movies or on social media. Embrace the uniqueness of your own experience and focus on the positive moments, no matter how small.
Plan and Budget
Creating a holiday budget can help you stay on track financially. Start by listing all the potential expenses, including gifts, decorations, travel, and special meals. Allocate a specific amount for each category and stick to it. Consider practical gifts, experiences, or homemade items that are thoughtful but won't break the bank. Never underestimate how meaningful a DIY or handmade gift can be to someone in your life.
Family dynamics can be particularly challenging during the holidays. If you anticipate tension or conflict, consider having a pre-holiday discussion with your family. Express your feelings and concerns, and encourage open dialogue. Setting boundaries is essential – let your family know your limitations and what you're comfortable with. This can help reduce misunderstandings and stress.
Prioritizing self-care during the holidays is crucial for managing anxiety. Regular exercise can help release endorphins, which boost your mood and reduce stress. A balanced diet provides the necessary nutrients for your body to function optimally. Make sleep a priority to ensure you're well-rested. Additionally, consider relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or even a warm bath to unwind and alleviate stress.
If you're feeling lonely or isolated during the holidays, remember that you're not alone in feeling this way. Reach out to friends, support groups, or local communities that host events or gatherings. Participating in volunteer activities can provide a sense of purpose and connection, even if it's not with family. You may be surprised at the new friendships you can form during the holiday season.
Effective time management can alleviate stress associated with feeling overwhelmed. Create a to-do list that prioritizes tasks, starting with the most important. Delegate tasks when possible; you don't have to do everything yourself. You may feel as if you can get everything done, but you may just be dealing with high-functioning anxiety. Learn to say no to additional commitments if it would overextend you. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in the time you have available.
Seek Professional Help
If holiday anxiety becomes too burdensome, don't hesitate to seek professional help. Therapy can provide you with effective coping strategies and a safe space to discuss your feelings and concerns. Therapists can help you navigate the holiday season and develop long-term skills to manage stress and anxiety. If you’re interested in exploring therapy as an option, you can click here to book a free consultation with me.
Holiday anxiety is a common and valid experience during the festive season. Understanding its origins and adopting practical strategies for managing it is essential for preserving the joy and meaning of the holidays. Remember that self-care and seeking support are not signs of weakness but demonstrations of self-awareness and strength. By implementing these strategies, you can navigate the holiday season with greater ease, making it a time of genuine joy and togetherness.
Get Help with Holiday Anxiety!
If you're in Houston, New York, or California and you need help navigating anxiety this holiday season, click here to learn more about how I can help.