The holiday season is an exciting time that involves festive decorations, family get-togethers, parties with coworkers, gift exchanges, and more.All of this hustle and bustle results in an increased stress level for all of us. But for many people, this time of the year can be very difficult and can produce intense anxiety, depression or both.
Here are some tips for coping with anxiety and depression during the holidays:
1. Make yourself a priority: Don’t get caught up in the whirlwind where you forget about your health, physical and mental, where you start to suffer. Maintain a good sleep schedule and eat healthy.
2. Avoid feeling guilty: Remind yourself that it is unrealistic to please everyone. You may not be able to get everything that everyone wants and you may not be able to be everywhere people want you to be. Take the pressure off of yourself from the beginning.
3. Stay connected: If you don’t have family to spend the holidays with or if the plans aren’t lining up for whatever reason, don’t isolate yourself. Reach out to your supports in other ways via phone calls, texts, social media, etc. to have that personal connection.
4. Listen to your feelings: You may love your family but can be stressed out by being around them. Knowing your true feelings prior to going into social settings can help prepare you.
5. Have a game plan: Whether it is going into a busy store or to a family function know what you want to do then verbalize it to the ones you’re with so they can have an idea of what to expect. If you want to spend several hours lingering there or a quick-to-the-point visit have those expectations known before going in.
6. Acknowledge differences: Try to realize and understand that others in your family and even those in public may also be going through stress, anxiety, depression, struggles, etc. Set aside grievances and approach misunderstandings with an open mind.
7. Take a break: Schedule a 10 to 15 minute break during the holiday hustle and bustle to reduce your stress by clearing your thoughts, taking deep breaths, and doing something that you find enjoyment.
8. Learn to say “no”: If you start to feel yourself get too anxious or depressed then learn when and where you can say “no.” If there are situations where you simply cannot say no, as in mandatory overtime at work, then re-evaluate your schedule to see where you can let go of something else to lessen your load.
9. Engage in mindfulness: As your anxiety peaks try to utilize your five senses to ground you back to the here and now moment and out of your racing thoughts. Think about what you can see, smell, taste, hear, and touch that could ground you.
10. Stick to a budget: You don’t need to buy people’s love and affection or have the newest gadgets to be considered with the “in crowd.” Focus on gifts that can be memory making items or have special meanings. Budget on other items such as eating out, extra travel and possibly suggest gift exchanges instead of buying for everyone. Be creative and think outside of box.
Author's Note: Renee Leber, LISW-S, is a therapist with Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, 282 Benedict Avenue, Medical Park 2, Suite C in Norwalk on the Fisher-Titus Medical Center campus. She offers psychotherapy services to all age groups, addressing abuse, trauma, adjustment disorders, disruptive behaviors, social and family issues, anxiety and depressive and bipolar disorders. For more about Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, visit https://www.fishertitus.org/behavioral-health.