Though a joyous time for many, the holiday season can take a toll on others. Holidays can carry the weight of high expectations, uncomfortable situations, and forced activities that happen in the name of “tradition.” Some people love this part of the holidays, as it’s generally happy and it can be nice to gather with family and friends. Others may feel sad or anxious about the holidays, who they are gathering with if they are gathering, and experience anxiety about the whole season.
Mitigating Holiday Anxiety
Managing anxiety over the holidays can be draining. Anxiety can be particularly overwhelming when coupled with the expectations that may be placed on you as you prepare. For those who struggle with social anxiety, the thought of gathering with lots of people can be extremely stressful. Large social settings can feel claustrophobic or uncomfortable, and it can feel like you’re never meeting others’ expectations. What is important to remember is you are not there to meet others’ expectations, you’re there to enjoy yourself regardless of what others expect from you. Here are some ways to mitigate your anxiety through the holidays.
- Acknowledge your feelings about holiday expectations. You’re entitled to your feelings, and hopefully, you can share them with someone you trust. Maybe this person can relieve some of your anxiety with reassurance and their consistent presence during the holiday events.
- Create a safety plan in your head. If you know you’ll run into times you need space, have a designated area you can go to be alone and decompress for a little while until you’re ready to rejoin the festivities.
- Learn the schedule for the event beforehand. If this is a general holiday gathering where you know the routine, you may be able to schedule yourself time to decompress. If you don’t know the schedule, ask someone if they know.
- Take any prescribed medication for anxiety. Don’t skip it for events where you know your anxiety may be heightened.
- Hold your boundaries. “No” is a full sentence, and you do not have to participate in events that you’re not comfortable with.
- Meditate. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try to find a quiet place to meditate and collect yourself.
- Stay in the present moment. As you observe your surroundings try to focus on where you are physically in the moment, what is around you, how you’re feeling, and how this affects your actions.
- Breathe. Take deep breaths if you are starting to feel overwhelmed.
- Have a fidget toy or gadget to play with to expel some anxiety.
- Leave. If your anxiety is too overwhelming, use your exit plan. Say goodbye if you can, and leave. This may mean taking a walk and returning or going back home.
How to Help Holiday Depression
The holidays are meant to be happy, but depression doesn’t play by holiday festivity rules. Depression may sneak up on you during the holiday season, or be a constant companion. Some people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), meaning that the fall and wintertime are a particular struggle for them. SAD can easily overshadow the holiday season. There are ways to help lessen depression symptoms during the holiday season.
- Get plenty of rest. The holidays can be draining. Try to give yourself breaks.
- Continue any prescribed depression medication. Again, don’t skip your medication on the day of or in the days leading up to a gathering.
- Try to get some Vitamin D. Taking a walk outside in the sunshine if possible or eating foods rich in Vitamin D may help with depression symptoms.
- Keep healthy hygiene routines. It can be extremely difficult to keep healthy hygiene habits when depression is at its worst. Take baby steps. Just getting in the shower is a big deal worth celebrating. See if someone can help brush your hair or pick clothes to lessen some of the pressure.
- Ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help from loved ones.
- Tell loved ones beforehand if you’re having a depressive episode. When you do, let them know what you need. You may tell them you need space, or you may tell them you need them to initiate conversations or closeness. Communicate your level of fatigue and tell them in advance if you think you’ll need to leave early. Communicating these things early will help them understand so you can avoid conflict.
The holidays can be notorious for conflict. If you need space from that, it’s okay to leave. You don’t need to be subjected to negative experiences in the name of the holidays. You don’t owe anyone your autonomy, expensive gifts, or exception to your boundaries. If the holidays provoke debilitating stress, call your doctor or therapist to talk through options for treatment.
The holidays can be extremely stressful for teens who feel obligated to go to gatherings and fulfill a role they find uncomfortable or worrisome. As they grow and change, this can feel stifling or unnecessary. Some teens may also experience anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns surrounding the holidays. Trauma victims, especially if the source of trauma is within the family, may have a particular fear and aversion to holiday gatherings. Having respect for your teen’s boundaries and communicating safety is key for your teen’s mental health during the holidays. If you need more help managing a child’s mental challenges during this season, call Havenwood Academy. At Havenwood Academy, our professional and experienced staff can help your child work through trauma, mental health concerns, and even keep them caught up in school. Our trauma-focused facility will be a safe space for your child, and a place for them to thrive. Call Havenwood Academy at (435) 586-2500.
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