Coping with Stress This Holiday Season



By Constance Ray

The holidays can be fun and frivolous, or they can be a catalyst for feeling anxious, depending who is experiencing them. If you’re prone to holiday anxiety, the mere thought of the upcoming holiday season can send you into a tizzy of stress.


If you have social anxiety disorder, the holidays make you want to avoid social situations, which are often abundant during December. But avoiding them can often make the anxiety worse. Even for those without anxiety disorders, the long list of shopping, cleaning the house, attending family functions, cooking for the family and friends, decorating the house and all the other stressors associated with the holidays can weigh heavily on most of us.


If you’re likely to suffer from anxiety or depression during the holidays, there are ways to ease the fear and get through it. Maybe you’ll even have some fun while you’re at it.


  1. Ease your expectations — Sometimes, the world expects too much of us, and sometimes we put the expectations on ourselves. The desire to create the “perfect” holiday for everyone else can cause us to lose sleep over the tiniest detail by stressing about getting everything ready. The truth is, nobody will notice if the napkins have halloween pumpkins on them or the turkey isn’t certified organic. If they do notice, that’s their issue, not yours.
  2. Don’t ease your anxiety with drugs or alcohol — Looking for relief in substances can only cause more issues than it relieves.
  3. Lean on your dog — Your dog wants to spend time with you, and having him nearby will ease your stress. Even if your dog isn’t certified to treat anxiety or be a service animal, his loving cuddles will brighten your day. He will give you 100 percent love and affection without judgment, and petting a dog can ease your stress, lower blood pressure and calm anxiety. People with depression will often stay in bed and hide from the world, but a dog forces them to get up and take care of their furry friend, thereby pushing the sufferer into action. Taking him for a walk is better for your physical health (and the dog’s) and can help ward off depression and anxiety.
  4. Say no — Though it often feels like it, there’s nothing that says you have to attend every holiday event. If you’re too overworked and overwrought from all the hubbub, just say no. “I’m sorry but I won’t be able to make it this year,” is a perfectly legitimate answer. Don’t avoid all events because being with friends can be good for the soul, but save your energy for the events that will have true meaning in your life, such as family holiday gatherings or small visits with friends.
  5. Ask for help — Delegate tasks to family and friends as much as possible, or hire help to get things done. Want your house to sparkle? Hire a maid service. Want the decorations to go up on time? Ask your family to help. If you have children, giving them a small task to do can make them feel important to the process. If life gets too overwhelming and you just can’t cope, go to your doctor or join a support group that specializes in anxiety. You aren’t the only one dealing with this, so it can help to surround yourself with others who know how you feel.

Whatever you do, don’t let your anxiety ruin your holidays. Get through it with a little extra self-care and understanding. Having anxiety is only a part of your life — it doesn’t define you.

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