With an endless list of things to do and places to go during the holiday season, we often feel increased levels of anxiety and stress. But is it all in our heads? Well, some of it is. According to a study by Harvard Medical School, the holiday season requires a greater level of responsibility and shifts our brains into overdrive. The high level of demand can harm memory, stall the production of new brain cells, and cause existing cells to die. Fortunately, holiday stress is typically temporary; once the holidays are over, the stress begins to decrease.
You may think you are the only one feeling heightened stress during the holidays, but the truth is you are not alone. In fact, 88% of Americans feel stressed during the holiday season. What is the cause of this? For 39% of Americans it is the holiday shopping and for 38% it is determining how much to spend. Additionally, spending time with family doesn’t necessarily bring about peace and harmony for all, 15% of Americans admit to increased levels of stress when they participate in conversations with their family and friends, with the majority admitting they have to bite their tongue to avoid arguments during holiday gatherings.
Some people anticipate the holiday anxiety and take steps to remove the unnecessary strain so they can enjoy the season – just over 82% of Americans report having “holiday spirit” despite the non-stop action.
How can I thrive during the holidays?
We all want to thrive during the holidays and enjoy our time with friends and family. The holidays are the perfect time to re-frame your thinking and look at it as an opportunity to enhance your mental well-being. Small changes such as meditating, lowering our expectations, and removing unnecessary items can go a long way, but there are a few additional things you can do to feel more optimistic.
- Practice self-care. Taking time for yourself is one of the best things you can do for yourself and those around you. It is important to be mindful and not dwell on the past or worry about the future. Do something that brings you joy – go for a walk, get a massage, read a new book. You will benefit by being present in the moment and recharging your batteries.
- Remember what is important. Sometimes we forget what the holidays are all about. We may spend money we don’t have or make endless commitments that we can’t meet. Remind yourself what is most important – it is your loved ones and enjoying your holiday season without the added anxiety and stress.
- Be realistic. The holidays are not perfect, and flexibility and resilience can be key. Be realistic about your money and time. By setting realistic expectations about what you can do during the holidays will alleviate a lot of your accumulated tension.
- Volunteer. Helping others is a great way to lift your spirits and help put your holiday challenges into perspective. Volunteer in your local community, adopt a family, or take a meal to someone who is ill. Volunteering will bring joy to others who need it and put a warm spot in your heart.
- Have healthy conversations. Gathering with family and friends during the holidays can sometimes be difficult. Instead of engaging in unhealthy talk, take this time to express gratitude and appreciation for each other. When conversations turn negative, turn them around by saying something positive.
- Seek support. Although stress and anxiety during the holidays can increase, you may feel there is something more concerning. Talk to your loved ones about what you are feeling and seek their help in finding the solution. Talking about your issues is key to ending the stigma that often surrounds mental health.
What if my anxiety is not temporary?
Sometimes we may need professional help in dealing with increased levels of anxiety, or even depression that can arise during the holiday season. Reaching out for help can be challenging, but it can put you on the road to recovery.
At Lifeskills South Florida, we offer evidence-based treatment that focuses not just on the presenting problem but targets the underlying disorders that contribute to them. Our caring professionals utilize a comprehensive approach to treatment that addresses all the challenges that clients face.
Individuals suffering from anxiety will often have an accompanying diagnosis such as depression or substance use disorder. When there is a dual diagnosis such as this, it is important to seek help from a professional who can accurately diagnose both conditions and prescribe the proper course of treatment. At Lifeskills South Florida, we work with our clients to make sure we understand all aspects of the dual diagnosis and create a customized treatment plan that meets the specific needs and goals. We offer clinical interventions that are designed to help you change unhealthy behaviors and address emotional issues.
As you go through this holiday season, remember you are not alone, and you have many things to be grateful for. If you need help, call Lifeskills South Florida today or complete our contact form. We can provide you the information you need to take the steps for a successful recovery.