The holiday season can be a time for fun and celebrations. It is awaited by many as it brings an opportunity when one can plan on spending quality time with family and friends. However, it can be a stressful experience for some, as the festive period also can be a source of pressure. For instance, being obliged to socialize more than usual, worrying about how you will pay for everything, or feeling apprehensive about family gatherings can encourage stressful situations or conflict, resulting in anxiety and impacting your mental health.
Although experiencing some level of holiday anxiety is not unusual. However, suppose it impacts your general well-being and prevents you from enjoying the festivities and living life to your full potential. In that case, there's merit in learning to recognize and manage the stressors.
Here are the most common signs of holiday anxiety and some ways to manage the symptoms.
1) Constantly Feeling Tense or Nervous
If you're prone to seasonal anxiety, the holiday season can be a source of stress. From hosting and attending parties to a packed social calendar, too much activity may cause you to feel overwhelmed during the holiday season. It may seem like a normal part of the holiday season, but it can actually be a sign of anxiety. Not only is the stress of planning parties, buying gifts and baking cookies enough to make anyone feel anxious, but it's also common for people with an anxiety disorder to experience increased symptoms during this time of year.
Anxiety disorders are not just about nervousness; they're often accompanied by physical symptoms such as sweating, feeling sick to your stomach or having trouble sleeping. If these symptoms persist for more than six months without any reasonable cause—like having exams coming up—it's worth speaking with your doctor about what's going on in your life and whether there are things that could be causing your anxiety.
One way to handle the above is by knowing your limits: If you are already anxious about managing a hectic social calendar, avoid adding more events to your schedule. There is no need to feel obligated to attend every event. It can be helpful to have healthy boundaries, for instance, letting people know that you may need to leave an event early or excuse yourself for a break if required. Clearly expressing your needs can be a beneficial way of managing stress related to the holiday season or gatherings.
2) Avoiding People or Family Gatherings
Family visits and holiday parties are familiar sources of seasonal anxiety. From planning and hosting events to a packed social calendar, too much activity may cause you to feel overwhelmed during the holiday season. If you often make excuses to avoid social gatherings and family functions as it makes you anxious and stressed, it could very well be a sign of holiday stress.
However, suppose you avoid social gatherings altogether and ignore invitations or make excuses to avoid them. It may lead to more anxiety in the long run. Studies have shown that isolating oneself regularly from social events and one's friends and family may also be linked to low mood and heightened anxiety.
If you tell yourself things like, "I just don't want to deal with people right now" or "I don't want them to see me like this," it might be helpful to speak to a therapist and work on managing holiday anxiety more constructively.
Learning to recognize and manage these stressors is essential for overall well-being. More importantly, if you experience that these stressors continue to impact your day-to-day. Perhaps, you could seek professional help where a registered psychologist can work with you to navigate your feelings and manage your symptoms through healthy coping mechanisms.
If you're looking for help in managing some of these symptoms, working with a psychologist might be helpful for you. At Ward & Associates Psychological Services, we offer counselling in Sherwood Park. We specialize in individual counselling for adults, teens, and children and couples counselling and trauma counselling for first responders. We also offer online therapy for clients residing in Alberta. Contact us to learn more about our services or to book an appointment.