Why Is There Depression and Anxiety During the Holidays?
For many people, the holidays are a time of joyful celebrations with family and friends. Many others, however, experience an increase in depression and anxiety during the holidays. Holiday stress can be caused or increased by a number of mental health conditions and other factors. These include:
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also called winter depression, has the same symptoms as major depression. These include depressed mood, low energy and lack of interest in activities that would otherwise be enjoyed.
Social Anxiety Disorder
People who find social situations stressful are faced with difficult decisions during the holidays. There are many gatherings and events that they feel obligated to attend when they’d prefer to be at home.
Those who like to connect with others but find themselves away from or without friends and family around the holidays may experience new or worsening depression.
Many people have a vision of the “perfect” holiday season in their minds. When that ideal image doesn’t come to pass, they may feel stressed, anxious, or depressed.
Reflecting on Past Events
The end of the year is a time when people tend to look back at the year that’s concluding. If it was difficult for one reason or another, those thoughts can create feelings of sadness and regret that trigger a state of depression.
Increased Alcohol Consumption
Beer, wine, and spirits are common at holiday celebrations. Increased consumption of alcohol can have a negative impact on mood and overall sense of well-being.
Difficult Family Relationships
The holidays may bring together families that only see each other at that time of year. If family members have strained relationships, the anticipation of, and the fallout from, these gatherings can cause holiday anxiety, stress, and depression.
Adjusting to the Loss of a Loved One
People who have lost a family member or friend during the year can find being without them especially sad and depressing around the holidays.
Coping with New Family Dynamics
Situations like a recent divorce or the forming of a “blended” family can cause anxiety and stress in both adults and children.
Being aware of these triggers and taking action to address them can lead to a more stress-free holiday season.
Tips for Coping with Holiday Depression, Anxiety and Stress
While emotional issues are common around the holidays, there are tactics for dealing with holiday stress and depression. Try these holiday stress management tips this season:
Maintain a Consistent Sleep/Wake Schedule
When friends or family members are visiting, it’s tempting to stay up late chatting and catching up. However, the disruption in your sleep schedule can impact your mental health. Try to go to bed and wake up during the holidays at the same time you normally do.
Set and Stick to a Gift and Entertaining Budget
Overspending is a major cause of holiday stress. Choose a figure you’re comfortable with and don’t exceed it. Then, as you spend within your budget, remind yourself that the money is already accounted for and simply enjoy making the purchase.
Eat a Healthy Diet
It’s alright to indulge in some holiday treats. Just be sure that you’re eating nutritious meals as much as possible between holiday events.
Practice Self Care
No matter how busy the holidays get, carve out time to take care of yourself. Work out, take a walk, read a good book, meditate or do whatever it is that makes you feel rested and centered on a regular basis.
Avoid Isolating Yourself
Sometimes the reaction to being asked to do too much is to refuse to do anything. A healthier response is to connect with others, but only to the degree that has a positive impact on your emotional health.
Get Professional Help
If the strategies above aren’t working, don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor or therapist. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you’re having trouble coping with holiday depression or anxiety. You definitely aren’t alone.
Learn More About Managing Stress, Anxiety and Depression Around the Holidays from Baptist Health
Keep learning about different aspects of mental and behavioral health with Baptist Health’s blog. If you’re looking for treatment or more information about your behavioral health, please contact a behavioral health provider with Baptist Health today.