Why Do Anxiety and Depression Get Worse at the Holidays?

There is no doubt that these past two years have been extremely stressful and caused a great deal of anxiety. The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed all of our lives, and these changes are certainly felt even more during the holidays. But for many people across the United States, anxiety and depression have been occurring during the holidays for years. This is because millions of Americans experience anxiety disorders and depression on a daily basis, with no reprieve on holidays. 

Why Do the Holidays Make Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression Worse? 

No one wants to spend their holidays feeling the effects of their anxiety or depression. Of course, if there was a way to make symptoms disappear with a snap of the fingers, it’s safe to say many people would be eternally grateful. Unfortunately, that is not the reality of this situation. People who have anxiety and depression often grapple with symptoms that make them feel isolated from others, easily overwhelmed, and even sleep-deprived. However, anxiety and depression during the holidays can feel much worse. Some of the reasons why the holidays trigger these symptoms more than other times of the year can include the following:

  • Loneliness – The holidays are all about getting together with loved ones and celebrating. Dealing with depression and anxiety can often make social and familial circles much smaller, meaning that it can be easier to feel lonely during the holidays. Even without any type of mental illness, people from all backgrounds experience loneliness at this time.
  • Painful memories – It is customary to reflect during the holidays, which can be both heart-warmning and painful. Past negative memories related to friends or family members can agitate symptoms of anxiety and depression, especially if an individual is made to celebrate alongside the people in question. 
  • Stress – Symptoms of anxiety and depression can become worse during the holidays because of the stress that is often associated with this time of year. From shopping for gifts and visiting loved ones to finding some down time and celebrating the season, it can be extremely simple to become overly stressed. Those with anxiety and depression are at greater risk for experiencing higher levels of stress.

It is important to understand that anxiety and depression are more than just a few worries and feelings of sadness here and there. While the holidays can provoke anxiety and make someone feel sad, there is a major difference between those feelings and these mental illnesses.

The Difference Between Seasonal Affective Disorder and Anxiety and Depression 

It is not uncommon for people to experience seasonal affective disorder during the holidays. This particular disorder, often referred to as SAD, is characterized by significant changes in mood when seasons change. For example, many people in northern states where winters are long and cold can develop seasonal affective disorder as a result of little daylight, cold temperatures, and constantly being indoors. While they can experience anxiety or depression symptoms at this time, they often dissipate when the seasons change back to their preferred season. 

Regardless of if you are experiencing anxiety and depression during the holidays or have developed seasonal affective disorder, it is imperative to be aware of how to manage these symptoms in order to have a happy holiday season.

Tips for Managing Symptoms

If you have been dealing with anxiety and depression for a long period of time, chances are you have a few tricks up your sleeve to help you better deal with the holidays. But, even if you are already equipped with the right skills, it is always helpful to consider adding more to the arsenal. Those of you who are new to anxiety and depression, or who are experiencing seasonal affective disorder, gathering as many tips for managing symptoms as possible is ideal. Consider the following:

  • Do not neglect your own well being. Getting wrapped up in the chaos of the holidays can cause you to forget to practice good self-care. Continue to do the things that allow you to care for yourself or even increase these things to support yourself during this time.
  • Get comfortable with using the word “no”. The holidays can be so busy that it can seem like you are running from one place to the next. By saying “no” to a gathering, an event, or even errands you wanted to run can be extremely helpful and reduce your symptoms of anxiety and depression during the holidays.
  • Check your expectations. Do not set yourself up for failure by placing expectations on others that they likely won’t meet. Do not put expectations on yourself that you know are unlikely, either. Either focus on making reasonable expectations or decide that you will proceed throughout the holidays without any expectations at all.
  • Do not keep to yourself too much, even if you feel like you want to. It is healthy to see other individuals and socialize. Doing so helps us strengthen our relationships, have good belly laughs, and enjoy the season together. 

If you are still feeling shaky when it comes to getting through the holidays, seeking professional help can be the right choice for you.

Getting Professional Help 

Getting help, regardless of what time of year it is, is absolutely critical if you are dealing with the symptoms of anxiety or depression. Depending on your needs, you may benefit from seeing a therapist frequently at this time or enrolling in an inpatient program. Regardless of the severity of your anxiety and depression, there is help available.

When you get professional help, you are not only learning how to better manage symptoms of anxiety and depression during the holidays, but you are also being seen by someone who is extremely experienced in treating these types of disorders. They can refer you to other providers, such as prescribing professionals, who can assist in enhancing your treatment. 

Anxiety and Depression Treatment in Philadelphia, PA

If you are ready to begin enjoying your holidays instead of being overwhelmed with them, reach out to Wave Treatment Centers in Philadelphia. Our team of professionals is ready to help you identify your triggers, address your symptoms, and help you implement the skills you need in order to be in control of your mental health.

Do not wait any longer. Call us or visit our contact form to get started on a better, brighter future. 

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