Thriving During the Holidays: Part 2

In our prior blog post, we talked about the stress that holidays bring. So much stress, in fact, that nearly half of Americans would rather skip Christmas altogether than endure the anxiety and tension that tends to accompany it! We also talked about some of the stressful factors that come along with the holidays - specifically, we covered scheduling, finances, and family dynamics, plus gave you some of our best tips on combating these problems. Those three aren’t the only issues people report at the holidays, though! 34% of Americans are sometimes stressed about travel during the holidays. That’s no surprise as 47% of Americans plan to travel during the month of December this year.  With travel expenses only being part of the worry, families have to worry about the potential of harm while traveling (that is, car crashes, mechanical problems, losing luggage, etc.) as well as the stress of coordinating travel plans. This may explain some of the 30% of Americans that sometimes stress out about their children during the holiday season. Additionally, those with mental health concerns year-round may find their symptoms increasing during the holidays. For example, depression and anxiety tend to worsen during the month of December. 3% of the population may experience depressive episodes only in certain seasons - this phenomenon is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. You may have heard it referred to as Seasonal Depression. Wondering how you can combat some of these top-stressors to survive the holidays? Check out our favorite tips from Therapy Beyond Healing! Combating Travel Concerns Travel can be hectic at any time - late or early airplane takeoffs, long and crowded car rides, boat or train trips that go awry - but with the influx of people traveling during the holidays, it can be even more stressful. Try these tips:
  • Plan, plan, plan!: let’s face it: it is exceedingly hard to “wing” an airplane trip. You shouldn’t expect to show up to any travel agency and book a ticket for a trip on the same day. That means, you’ll need some planning! Even if you don’t have to book a ticket like in the case of a road trip, you should still plan out what hotel you’ll be staying at and what you’ll need to pack.
  • Travel before or after the holiday: Most people who travel for the holidays travel either the week before, during, or after Christmas (December 25th). If you have the flexibility in your schedule, plan to travel to see family either before or after the holidays and make your own celebration then. Christmas on January 15th will feel just as good as Christmas on December 25th!
  • Remember, no is an answer: many times we travel out of obligation, not out of excitement. If you feel like staying home would be better for your mental health, say no to travel. 
Combating Holiday Anxiety Even those without year-round anxiety may feel anxious during the holidays. Diagnosable anxiety, however, can produce worse symptoms during the winter. Try these tips for your anxiety:
  • Pack medications or supplies on trips: speaking of travel and planning, remember: if you’re on medication for your anxiety, bring all your meds on your trip! If you aren’t on medication but have supplies like fidget toys or a journal, pack those, too. Come well prepared for family gatherings!
  • Try affirmations for self-compassion: a huge factor of holiday anxiety is feeling the pressure of perfection - the gifts have to be perfect, the decorations amazing, the gift wrap precise, the baked goods tasty. Instead, try to remind yourself - your value isn’t determined by how well you perform. Christmas is the same with every detail perfect as it is without. Family is here to see you, not see how well you do. If it helps, write your own affirmations!
  • Talk to your therapist: we’d recommend you doing this year-round! Your therapist can help prepare you for those holiday visits, and can likely do a check-in call with you if you’re feeling particularly anxious. Remember your support system!
Combating Holiday Depression Depression is especially prevalent in December - it’s something about long nights and cold days! If you’re struggling with depression this winter, remember:
  • Incorporate outdoor movement: we get it - you probably don’t want to be outside, particularly if you hate the cold. The days are shorter, so night creeps up faster. However, even a 15 minute walk during lunch can help stave off depression. There’s a lot to be said just for breathing in fresh air, seeing the sun, and getting a little movement in!
  • Hone your mindfulness skills: mindfulness is a great tool for depression! If you haven’t tried mindfulness now, try a meditation such as this one to help bring yourself to the current moment and stop your depression spiral in its tracks.
  • Reach out to your support system: your support system is vital if you’re battling depression. Reach out to your team - whether that be your therapist, psychiatrist, family, friends, or, heck, your dog! Surround yourself with love, compassion, and care in the winter.
We hope these tips provided you with some valuable information about navigating the holidays through tips for your travel plans, anxiety, and depression! At Therapy Beyond Healing, our counselors are ready to hear about your holiday concerns. We’d love to support you to get you ready to practice those skills! Reach out today; we look forward to hearing from you!