The holidays are often romanticized as a time of joy, celebration, family, love, and relaxation. While this may be the case for some, I would guess that for most people this is not the most accurate or complete picture of this time of year. Holidays can also bring about increased anxiety and stress. This can be related to spending time with family, increased financial pressure, work obligations, and heightened feelings of grief after loss. If this sounds more similar to your experience with the holidays, keep reading.
So, how do you know if you’re suffering from holiday-induced anxiety? Here are a few signs to look out for.
Does your sleep feel disrupted?
Are you having more trouble falling and staying asleep or getting up in the morning than normal?
Have you noticed any changes in your appetite or energy levels?
Are you having difficulty concentrating or staying present?
Is your mind spinning with to-do lists and anticipation of future events?
Do you feel more irritable than normal?
Are you having a difficult time enjoying yourself because you feel restless or on edge?
Once you are aware that you’re experiencing holiday-induced anxiety, there are a few simple things you can focus on to feel a bit better!
Prioritize Your Self-care
Instead of falling into the trap of constantly doing what you think you should be doing this time of year, tune into what you actually need. Maybe take a break from the word should altogether! This might look like waiting a little longer than the neighbors to put up holiday decorations to give yourself some time to rest and recharge. Maybe you block off a few days or a whole weekend to do something that fills your cup like having a cozy day at home reading books, spending time in nature, or even planning to do absolutely nothing!
You might also focus on sticking to routines that you know make you feel good. Instead of letting your normal sleeping, eating, or movement habits slip to the wayside, you can prioritize staying aligned with what makes you feel your best. This doesn’t mean you don’t allow yourself to enjoy the delicious food of the season or let yourself sleep in when you want to! But you also don’t completely abandon the things that you know will help manage your anxiety and keep you feeling grounded.
Do you find it difficult to say no to invitations, expectations to host, or other activities that require your energy? Give yourself permission to say no to anything that creates more stress than joy throughout this time of year. Below is one of my favorite quotes for this time of year.
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished” - Lao Tzu
Lean into moving at your own pace this holiday season. This might mean saying no to a few events to prioritize rest and self-care. This can be difficult when you feel bombarded by consumer-targeted messaging that tricks you into thinking you need to have all your winter holiday decorations set up by November 1st or else you’re falling behind. Or that you need to buy x, y, and z in order for this time of year to be a success.
Can you normalize slowing down and actually enjoying this time of year, rather than rushing from one thing to the next and mindlessly spending money because you feel like you have to?
Honor Where You Are At
I know I often feel the pressure to make the holidays feel warm, cozy, merry, and bright. However, most of the time this doesn’t match how I actually feel on the inside. With the days getting shorter and the darkness setting in, you might be experiencing symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
(Curious if you’re experiencing SAD? Check out this article from the Mayo Clinic)
Or maybe you have to work the holidays so instead of feeling excited for them, you actually dread them because you know you will be missing out on special quality time that others get to enjoy.
If you have recently gone through a breakup or lost someone or something you love, the holidays might feel heavier than usual. What I have found most helpful is to simply acknowledge and honor how I am truly feeling rather than forcing myself to feel something I’m not. You might journal about how you’re feeling or find a friend, loved one, pet, or therapist to talk through what is coming up for you this holiday season.
Seek Support From Others
If you find yourself feeling lonely during this time of year, I promise you are NOT alone! The holidays can be extremely challenging if you’ve recently lost someone close to you, your family traditions are changing, or you are unable to be with loved ones due to work, financial, or geographic obstacles.
Rather than feeling connected, you might feel more disconnected than ever. It can be helpful to reach out for support from a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional. Remember, it is completely normal to need support during holidays. Especially when there is added pressure to feel happy, keep up with everyone around you, spend money, and engage in social activities. Sometimes it can feel like too much to handle all on your own, and that’s okay!
If you or someone you know is struggling with holiday-induced anxiety or other mental health challenges, don’t hesitate to reach out today! You can book a free 20-minute phone consultation and be connected to a therapist right here online.
How We Can Help
If you are looking for general support, or if you would like to talk to someone more about how we can help you, follow these simple steps:
Contact us today for a free 20-minute phone consultation
Begin your journey towards a calmer, more relaxed life
Other Therapy Services Available at Catalyss Counseling:
Here at Catalyss Counseling, we want to meet all of your counseling needs in the Denver area. Our supportive therapists provide depression counseling, therapy for caregiver stress, grief and loss therapy, stress management counseling, and more. We also have specialists in trauma and PTSD, women's issues, pregnancy and postpartum depression or anxiety, pregnancy loss and miscarriage, and birth trauma. For therapists, we can also provide clinical supervision! We look forward to connecting with you to help support your journey today.
Juliette Brown is a student intern and a provider for the affordable counseling program at Catalyss Counseling. She works with adults with depression, anxiety, and grief to find new ways of thinking, feeling, and acting so they can experience greater joy and authenticity in their everyday lives. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.