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Five Common Holiday Stresses and Hope to Cope with Them

December 2, 2016 | By Lisa Schwenk
Published in: Mental Health

Stressed woman at Christmas

This article was written by Pat Clough. Pat is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is currently the Coordinator of the Employee Assistance Program at Augusta Health.

The holidays can be demanding for many reasons, but if you're prone to anxiety and depression they can be downright overwhelming. Look for these common holiday complaints in your life and consider using these tips to help:

  1. I can't afford this! Beginning in September (or maybe even August!) we are bombarded with ads depicting holiday tables overflowing with food and gifts stockpiled under beautifully decorated fir trees. It is easy to overspend in an attempt to reach these holiday expectations. Think about handmade gifts like baked goods, ornaments or a recipe book or photo album. Or give the gift of time by babysitting for a friend or helping your grandmother clean her attic-it's free and often the most thoughtful present you can give.
  2. This isn't how I thought it would be! The holidays come packed with high expectations. Norman Rockwell and Martha Stewart have irreversibly colored our visions of what the holiday season "should" be, making it difficult to not be disappointed by reality. Lower your expectations. Try for a "good enough" holiday season.
  3. I can't stand my family! This is the time of year when families feel compelled to come together in peaceful, loving harmony—whether they like it or not! If your family is truly abusive, unpleasant or unhealthy for you, know that you have the choice to decline spending time with them. If like most families, however, they are just mildly irritating, boastful, opinionated or hypercritical, use this opportunity to practice coping and communication skills. Pick your battles—do you really want to argue about politics? Let it go for one day. Walk away and take a break if that works best. Set the tone by doing your best to not criticize others and to accept your family for who they are-likely imperfect and often times annoying-but family nonetheless.
  4. I'm lonely! On the flip side, this season can often be a time when the absence of family or social connections becomes highlighted. If you are far from family, try creative ways to connect with them like email or Skype. Consider spending your time giving to someone else in need.
  5. It's just too much. If you find that you just can't cope with your anxiety or sadness, be sure to get the help you need. The holidays can be a very difficult time. This is the time to make resolutions for the New Year and now is the perfect time to address any issues with anxiety or depression that have been plaguing you. If you need assistance finding a mental health provider, contact E. A. P. for assistance!