Coping With Holiday Anxiety

The holiday season is here, and with it comes plenty of reasons to be stressed out and anxious. For many people, the biggest source of holiday stress is family, the dinner, the obligations, the possibility of arguments and the burden of tradition. If you’re fighting clinical depression or anxiety, or if you’ve had problems in the past, holiday stress can trigger more serious issues.

Causes of Holiday Stress

What about the holidays gets you down? Once you get through the vague sense of dread and identify specific problems, you can deal with them. For many, holiday stress is caused by:

Unhappy memories

For many, holiday memories are more bitter than sweet. You might remember what was inadequate during your childhood or what was always missing. Maybe you associate the holidays with the loss of a loved one or a previous depression. If so, this time of year will bring back those memories and negative feelings.

Toxic relatives

Holidays can put you in the same room with relatives you avoid. Those struggling with depression might also face stigma, as some relatives won’t believe you’re depressed. Many people think depressed people are just lazy or that the problems are all in your head, and this can be extremely damaging.

Things that have changed

Whether it’s a divorce, a death in the family or a child returning home after starting college, the holidays highlight everything that’s the same. Any of these things can add stress to a holiday gathering.


The monotonous sameness of the family holiday gatherings might depress you. The same faces, same jokes, same food, same problems, same arguments– it all just might be overwhelmingly repetitive.

Lowered mental and physical defenses

During this season, you’re more likely to be stressed by obligations and errands. It’s also cold and flu season, so your immune system is under attack. It gets dark earlier each day, you’re eating worse, sleeping less and drinking more. By the time the holiday gathering rolls around, you’re worn out, stressed and fragile. Holiday stress makes it harder to cope with your family.

Control the Stress

Holidays can make people feel out of control. We’re at the mercy of our relatives and overwhelmed by the force of family tradition. The key is to take some control over the holidays. If you find obligations overwhelming, ask yourself “Why am I doing something that makes me miserable?” Instead of feeling obligated to do everything, make a pro and con list about holiday traditions.

Change your outlook. If you enjoy the holidays differently this year, what would happen? If you don’t go to a dinner or participate in a tradition, what will actually happen? Maybe you can find alternative ways to celebrate that are less stressful and time-consuming. Don’t just do things because it’s the way you always do them. If the old traditions aren’t working, do something different.

Never expect too much and don’t overdo it. There is so much pressure on the holidays, but nothing is ever perfect. Once you realize this, it can alleviate your stress and allow you actually enjoy the holiday season.

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