Have a holly jolly Christmas, it's the best time of the year. Or not. Christmas and the holiday season should be one of joyful celebration for untold millions... and it is. Another reality, though, is that anxiety, stress, and depression are as much a traditional part of the holidays for some people as decorated trees, poinsettias, and 24/7 Christmas music are for others. There is no mystery to the dichotomy of psychology that permeates the holiday season. There's plenty to induce anxiety and/or stress. Here's a Christmas list that will never make its way to Santa: making travel plans, dealing with relatives, buying (the right) gifts, office parties, financial pressures, commitment overload, missing loved ones, relationships strained more than ever, loneliness, a general sense of melancholy, so on and so forth. In particular, holiday parties and large family gatherings are stressors that can be terrifying for sufferers of social anxiety disorders, per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Another factor that can leave people feeling anxious, stressed, or just plain sad is what's known as seasonal affective disorder, or, you guessed it, SAD, per medicinenet.com. Add to the mix excessive drinking and overeating (sorry, no eggnog until New Year's Eve) and you have a recipe for a December disaster.
Strategies to Reduce Holiday Anxiety, Stress, etc.Now for the good news to get you back into the Christmas groove and out of that funk that had you curled up under the sheets when not playing one-person racquetball against a street curb. Feeling low? Here are 10 tips to ward off the holiday blues:
- Go easy on the alcohol or – good grief! – the recreational drugs (I mean, really?). Attempts to take the edge off might work for a few hours but ultimately worsen the problem and can even trigger panic attacks, per adaa.org.
- Put a hold on any conversations that start steering toward politics, religion, or who stands, kneels, sits, or hides in the locker room during the national anthem at sporting events. Heated discussions will also raise the stress level.
- Give some time to somebody else by volunteering for a local organization that helps the less fortunate, such as feeding the homeless or helping out in one of those Christmas 4 Kids activities.
- If standing in a long line at a store checkout or a movie theater concession, prevent the steam from building up inside by engaging in conversation with someone else standing in line.
- When you get to the mall, proceed immediately to a spot on the outer perimeter of the parking lot. Save yourself the hassle of looking for a closer-in spot that probably isn't available. The extra walk will do you good.
- Plan for and expect delays at the airport. Accept the fact that baggage check-in and security lines are going to be a lot longer than usual. You know, it's not a crime to bring a good book to read while in line.
- Stick to a budget, per Mayo Clinic. Before you buy any gifts, determine what you can afford for gifts – make a list that includes each person and how much you will spend on each – then stick to it.
- Feeling lonely while spending Christmas week away from loved ones for whatever reason? Pick up the phone and call someone. Texting them, using Messenger/Facebook, or emailing them is not a good substitute. Call!
- Per healthcentral.com, acknowledge your feelings. If you feel sad or anxious, accept them – there might be a valid reason. Use deep breathing or other relaxation techniques to, well, take the edge off.
- Get plenty of rest and exercise (to burn off those extra calories you are likely consuming). Speaking of which, eat healthy meals between those holiday parties and family feasts. It is important to keep a balance of a nutrient-rich diet, exercise, and daily meditation, says holistic life coach Tatiana Tajci Cameron, author of 25 Gifts for Christmas. I also make sure I take the right supplements – the ones I trust will give my body what it needs. I up my intake of propolis, vitamin B (in addition to iron and vitamin C), and I don't go anywhere without a bottle of lavender, peppermint, and frankincense.
Speaking of SupplementsThere are a number of over-the-counter supplements and vitamins that target anxiety/stress that you can take to help you deal with the holidays. Be sure to discuss any of this with a licensed healthcare provider, such as your physician, before starting a new regimen:
- 5-HTP. A popular amino acid supplement that offers benefits against anxiety and depression.
- Ashwagandha. An herb that helps stabilize the body's reaction to stress.
- Kava Root. It stimulates dopamine receptors, bringing on euphoria. It is used to ease anxiety and heighten sociability.
- Lavender Oil. Research has demonstrated that lavender oil applied topically or inhaled can prompt calmness and alleviate anxiety symptoms such as nervousness and muscle pain.
- Magnesium. A recent add to the list of supplements known to help counter anxiety. It is believed that low magnesium levels might be linked to some anxiety symptoms, per calmclinic.com.
- Moodfix. A homeopathic supplement that relieves minor mood symptoms such as anxiety, nervous tension, irritability, depression, and sadness.
- Passionflower. An herb that can help calm people and induce sleep.
- St. John's Wort. A commonly used herbal remedy known to boost mood.
- Valerian root. A perennial plant that is native to Europe, it is commonly used as an herbal remedy to help support restful sleep and promote relaxation.