Anxiety During the Holiday Season

It’s real and it’s not just you.

Ah, the holiday season. The Thanksgiving with the family, gift giving, Christmas lights, and the crushing weight of anxiety. That’s right. It’s quite common for people to deal with heightened stress, depression, and anxiety in the midst of turkey time and caroling. This leads us to the question of what exactly causes this anxiety during the holiday season and what can we do about it?

Factors That Cause Anxiety During the Holiday Season

We all have our own triggers, but generally, we’re more alike than we are different. Common anxiety inducing factors include:

  • Financial stress: The holidays can be an expensive time of year, with the cost of gifts, food, travel, and other expenses adding up quickly. It hurts more if you’re already struggling financially.
  • Unrealistic expectations: The holidays are often portrayed as a time of perfect family gatherings, delicious food, and endless joy. This can create unrealistic expectations that can be difficult to meet, leading to disappointment and anxiety. I mean, when’s the last time any of us had a “perfect” family gathering? What is that anyway?
  • Social anxiety: Social gatherings can be a source of anxiety for many people, especially those with social anxiety disorder. The holidays can involve a lot of social events, such as parties, family dinners, and work gatherings. This can be overwhelming for people who experience social anxiety. The drain on your social battery can be pretty intense, so be mindful of that as you run the holiday event gauntlet.
  • Grief and loss: The holidays can be a difficult time for people who have lost loved ones. The festive vibe can be a harsh reminder of their absence, leading to feelings of sadness, loneliness, and anxiety.
  • Mental health conditions: People with existing mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety disorders, may find their symptoms worsen during the holiday season. This is due to a number of factors, including the increased stress levels, social demands, and changes in routine.

Outside Factors That Can Cause Anxiety

Not all issues are internal. Many times, it is the things out of our control that impact us the most. The holiday season menu of external factors includes:

  • Family conflict: The holidays can bring families together, but they can also exacerbate existing issues. This can be a source of anxiety for people who are dreading spending time with difficult family members. Because we all can’t wait to talk about why we don’t have kids, trying to explain what we do for work for the 100th time, and discuss politics with people we see once a year at best.
  • Work stress: Many people have to work extra hours during the holiday season to meet deadlines or cover for colleagues who are taking time off. This can lead to work overload and stress. A remote job can blur the line between on/off the clock and see bosses and supervisors asking for assignments to be done while you’re trying to sit down at dinner.
  • Travel stress: Traveling to see family and friends during the holidays can be stressful, especially if you are flying or traveling long distances. The crowds, delays, and traffic can all contribute to anxiety. Compound that with rising costs, and the thought of even booking travel can be triggering.
  • Health concerns: If you are struggling with your health, the holidays can be an added source of stress. You may be worried about being able to participate in holiday activities or managing your symptoms. This was true long before Covid, but the dread of getting Covid or spreading it to older relatives is real.
GIF of Ellen Griswold in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation lighting a cigarette and saying, "I don't know what to say, except it's Christmas and we're all in misery." Truly embracing anxiety during the holiday season.

Ways to Combat Anxiety During the Holiday Season

It is important to remember that you are not alone if you experience anxiety during the holiday season. As we said before, it’s not just you. But we have a few things you can do to try to manage your anxiety, such as:

  • Set realistic expectations: Don’t try to do too much or make everything perfect. It is okay to say no to commitments and to take breaks when you need them. Remember, this is your time off too. Take the chance to breathe a little.
  • Take care of yourself: Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and exercising regularly. These things can help to improve your mood and reduce stress levels. Besides, you don’t want to take that Christmas dinner into the new year with you.
  • Avoid overspending: Set a budget for holiday expenses and stick to it. Don’t feel pressured to spend more money than you can afford. Remember, it’s the thought that counts. . .and the thought should be about your bank account.
  • Connect with loved ones: Spend time with people who make you feel good and who support you. Talk to them about your feelings and ask for help if you need it. Don’t forget, they can’t help you fix it if they don’t know it’s broken.
  • Seek professional help: If you are struggling to manage your anxiety on your own, talk to a therapist or counselor. They can teach you coping skills and help you to develop a plan for managing your anxiety during and beyond the holiday season.

The Wrap Up

The holidays look different for each of us. If you have the big family dinner with generations of people gathered around the table, that’s awesome. If you spend it with a close group of friends, sharing food, drinks, and laughs, dope. Even if it’s just you and your favorite albums with your feet up by yourself, enjoy every last second of it. At the end of the day, the holidays are your time to recharge, reflect on the year that has passed, and hit the ground running on the upcoming year. However you do that, you’re right.

Headshot picture of the writer of this article, Kenneth Medford III, with a muted black and white filter.
Kenneth Medford III

Writer, rhymer, gamer: the easiest way to define the man known as Kenneth Medford. I’m a simple man who loves to learn and loves to help and I wander the digital world trying to find ways to sate my hunger for both. Basically, I’m Galactus but helpful.

Check out my other work here or reach out to me on LinkedIn.


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