Reclaim Your Holiday Season! A Glimpse into Holiday Anxiety

By J.P Consiglio, LMHC

You would assume that when one is wished a “Happy Holidays,” it would be met with
excitement, cheer and maybe even a childlike anticipation. This season is commonly perceived
to be one for individuals to look forward to spending time with their families and loved ones.
However, holiday anxiety is far more common than originally thought, leaving many to actually
dread this time of year rather than find a peace in it.

As many as eight in ten people find the holidays to be stressful, with almost a
third of these individuals noting that they will experience high symptoms of anxiety like lack of
sleep, changes in appetite and an overall increase in rumination and worry. This begs the
question, of what exactly may cause someone to have their anxiety heighten over the holidays?
Common reasons for increased holiday anxiety include, but are not limited to:

● Panic attacks while in an unfamiliar area.
● Potential negative travel experiences, such as plane crashes or foreign illnesses.
● Biological risk factors (loss of required medications, efficient restroom access,
access to food and drink, etc.)
● The cost of going on holiday.
● Previous negative experiences, such as food poisoning, delayed flight, etc.
● Fear of the unknown of a new place and not knowing what to expect.
● General fear of flying.
● Hearing of travel ‘horror’ stories in the news.
● Worry about things like packing (and forgetting) or missing home.
What I am sure stands out about this list, is that many of these stressors are
often unavoidable due to the nature of the holidays. So even just the impending knowledge that
you will have to face them is enough to ramp up that anxiety. If you experience any degree of
holiday anxiety, these tips may be useful for you!

First and foremost, insight is power. Knowing what your stressors may be is the
first step towards working through them. Next, we want to avoid avoiding. The worry that we
might feel anxious in a situation is enough to make us feel anxious anyway. Essentially allowing
that “what if” scenario to start to feel like a guarantee and make us pull away from it. Working
toward a solution rather than turning away from the issue will result in less distress over time.

Once you have both come to terms with your stressors and committed to working through them,
a cope ahead plan can create a world of difference. If you have a plan in place that is meant to
cover the “worst case,” then you can be ready to handle the stresser(s) if they were to manifest.
The skills included on a cope ahead plan can vary and can include Mindfulness breathing,
utilizing the five senses to keep yourself grounded, getting personal space, speaking to a friend
or loved one, taking a walk, problem solving steps or even getting moderate exercise. It should
always be noted that a professional CBT or DBT trained clinician can be a massive support to
both learn and implement effective skills to further lower distress and manage emotions in a
constructive way.

So again, if you or someone you love have an increase in anxiety
symptoms during this time of year, please take steps necessary to help make this season as
relaxing and joyous as it should be. Be safe, and Happy holidays to all!

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