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Managing Holiday Anxiety and Depression


You may be feeling a build-up of anxiety this holiday season. Thoughts of all the events and gatherings with family, coworkers and friends may fill you with anticipation along with a little angst.

On top of the inevitable complexities and tensions of family relationships, you may be feeling the pressures of holiday shopping, gift and travel expenses, hosting stress and a packed calendar of holiday events that make you feel like you are the high-wire act at Cirque. High expectations from loved ones or loneliness for those who aren’t with loved ones this year can add to the stress.

Here are a few coping tips to help you before the holiday season begins to bolster your mental health during the holidays.

Practice Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness can be a valuable mental wellness tool. Mindfulness practices can be particularly helpful if you are traveling or dealing with an unusual schedule. If you’re new to mindfulness, there are many online resources and app to help you; here’s a quick beginner’s guide to help you get started. You can read more about mindfulness and mental health in this APA Blog on Mindfulness Practices.

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Try to Avoid Alcohol and Drugs

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America recommends avoiding using drugs and alcohol to try to cope. Substance use can ultimately exacerbate symptoms and make things worse. When you feel you need a relaxation aid, you can instead look for alternatives, such as turning to mindfulness strategies, or getting together with a friend to talk or see a movie.

Learn more about substance use. If you’re looking for help for drug or alcohol use, see the federal government’s treatment locator or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

It’s OK to Say No

Many families have that one toxic member (or maybe a few of them) who can turn a seemingly fine conversation into a family feud. If you see things are starting to take a turn for the worse, do not let it escalate. There is no shame in removing yourself from the situation. Get up and leave the room or step outside until everyone cools down.

Get Some Fresh Air and Sunlight

Even if you’re not a big winter sports enthusiast, getting outside and getting some fresh air and exposure to sunlight can help relax you and lift your mood. Many people struggle with some feelings of depression during the winter months with fewer hours of sunlight and more time spent indoors. Walking outside in the sun can be an effective centering and calming tool. Numerous studies have pointed to the mental health benefits of spending time in nature, including stress relief, better concentration, lower levels of inflammation and improved mental energy. Learn more about nature therapy.

Set Goals

Another major source of anxiety and stress around the holidays can be looking back on the past year and comparing where you were to where you are. Some may experience negative feelings over not being at a place they feel they “should be” in life. Help get yourself out of this space by adjusting expectations and setting realistic goals. If you want to start working out, try setting a goal of taking a walk twice a week rather than promising to go to the gym every day.

If You’re in Therapy, Stay in Therapy

Although the holiday season is overwhelmingly busy, try to keep any regularly scheduled therapy a priority. The holidays can bring up difficult emotions. Keeping scheduled therapy sessions helps ensure you have built-in time to explore anything that comes up. If you are going out of town, ask your therapist if you can call in or use video (such as Skype).

Managing mental illness is a challenge, and it can be particularly difficult during the holiday season. While the struggle can feel isolating, remember that you are far from alone. Seek help from a mental professional if you need to, maintain your self-care routines and include mindfulness practices into your days as you navigate your way through the holidays.


Mental Health and Substance Abuse-

Tips for Managing the Holiday Blues - National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

8 Tips for Mental Wellness During the Holidays - Canadian Mental Health Association


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