3 Causes of Holiday Anxiety and How to Cope

Updated: Dec 6, 2021


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When you have anxiety, it seeps into every aspect of life, from your relationships with others to your relationship with yourself. While you’ve developed the tools to cope with anxiety in day-to-day life, the holidays present a whole new set of triggers that can send your anxiety sky-high.


Managing holiday anxiety requires a careful balance of preparation and keeping anticipatory anxiety at bay. On one hand, it’s important to understand the challenges you’ll face and how to handle them. On the other hand, overthinking makes anxiety worse, not better.


To help you prepare for a low-stress holiday season, Impact has compiled this list of common holiday anxiety triggers, as well as smart strategies for coping with them.


Family Conflict

If you foresee a possible family conflict, plan ahead to create an environment conducive to wellness. This might include some simple changes, like adding a layer of soothing scent to your home with a diffuser, and incorporating a few houseplants into your decor.

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Other proactive measures can include improving your diet and exercise, as well as some downtime for reflection and meditation.

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Likewise, to reduce stress, tap into some time management tips from ZenBusiness to get you in the right mindset before the holidays.


Organize your plans with a to-do list the night prior, make a schedule, and avoid activities that drain your time without being productive. Then, you’ll be better equipped to handle whatever comes your way.


Even visiting a family you adore can be stressful during the holidays when expectations are high, but for people with strained family relationships, the holidays are an especially trying time. The most valuable thing you can do when dealing with difficult family members is to remind yourself that you can’t control how other people act -- only how you act.

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Instead of engaging in heated discussions or letting needling remarks get to you, have a plan for separating yourself from anxiety triggers. You may volunteer for dish duty, go for a walk, or The Daily Meal suggests keeping a list of topics in mind for rapidly changing the subject. What you shouldn’t do is turn to alcohol for relief. When it comes to anxiety, drinking causes more problems than it solves.


You should also make sure you have easy access to your support system back home. Being thrust into a new environment can make little things seem harder to deal with, and having that lifeline is a smart strategy for ensuring you respond to triggers in a healthy, measured manner.


If you appreciate seeing a friendly face when far from home, make sure your phone plan offers plenty of data for video calling so you don’t get hit with unexpected overage charges.


Finances

It doesn’t require strained relationships for family holidays to be stressful. The costs of traveling home and buying gifts for extended family is enough to send some people’s anxiety spiraling. Finances are a common anxiety trigger, but worrying about your money isn’t productive; planning for it is.

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To avoid overspending, come up with a figure for what you can afford to spend this holiday season. Establishing a number in advance keeps your anxiety from spiking every time you enter your credit card numbers and helps you deal with the guilt of not spending enough on gifts.


Once you have a number, calculate what you can afford to spend per gift and shop for presents that fit your budget. If you can’t afford something, don’t buy it. Otherwise, you’re just setting yourself up for more financial anxiety down the line.


Travel

Sometimes, it’s not the holiday itself that triggers anxiety, it’s getting there. The holidays are the most stressful time of year for travel. Driving comes with icy roads and traffic jams, while flying to your destination means long lines, crowded airports, and lots of stressed-out travellers sharing a small space.

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You can’t avoid the inconveniences of holiday travel, but you can make it easier on yourself. If flying, Travel + Leisure says to choose an early morning flight and, if you can’t fly direct, opt for a connection that gives you plenty of time to get where you need to be.


Gather your travel documents before arriving at the airport, dress comfortably, and bring plenty of snacks and distractions for the flight.


If driving, ensure your car is road-ready before departure, check the forecast to avoid driving in inclement weather, and schedule time for breaks.


Don’t let stress and anxiety ruin your holidays. Instead of heading into the holiday season with your anxiety at an all-time high, use these tips to develop healthy coping strategies for your holiday anxiety triggers.

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Whether you’re dreading the flight there or the dinner table conversation, going in with a plan will help you get through the holidays with your mental health intact.


Written by Harry Cline of newcaregiver.org


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