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How to Cope With Depression and Anxiety During the Holidays

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Many people struggle to cope with depression and anxiety, especially during the holidays. The holiday season is a time of year when you get together with family and friends, laugh, have fun, and make memories that will last a lifetime. Unfortunately, this time of the year can bring a lot of pain and suffering for those who struggle with depression and anxiety. The isolation enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic makes those feelings even more unbearable and intense, as we are unable to gather and celebrate with our loved ones.

What is Depression?

Depression is more than sadness – it is debilitating and makes you feel alone, tired, and unable to participate in normal daily activities. Depression is a heaviness that makes you feel like you’re suffocating, and you cannot breathe. It disrupts eating habits, sleep patterns, can increase symptoms of anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

Depression impacts about 7% of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 2 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with depression. The symptoms of depression are challenging to cope with and often interfere with a person’s ability to enjoy life to the fullest.

Treatment For Depression

There are different modalities of treatment for depression. Treatments include medications, psychotherapy, light therapy, and exercise. Medicines for treating depression involve using an antidepressant, anti-anxiety, or antipsychotic drug to manage symptoms. Psychotherapy treatment involves a mental health counselor to discuss symptoms of depression and ways to cope with them.

Light therapy helps some patients who struggle with depression to improve their mood and sometimes is used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a form of depression related to the reduced sunlight during the colder winter months. Exercise is a natural, healthy way to increase the body’s production of endorphins, which significantly reduces symptoms of depression.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is more than feeling anxious or scared. Anxiety is the body’s response to stress and a feeling of despair and fear beyond a person’s control. It interferes with daily activities and can impair a person’s ability to work, go to school, and form new relationships. Anxiety can produce unrealistic feelings of hopelessness, obscurity, and insecurity.

There are several different forms of anxiety disorders:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Phobia
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder
  • Seasonal Anxiety Disorder

Risk Factors For Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety can be linked to genetics, brain chemistry, and environmental factors. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, each type of anxiety disorder’s risk factors can vary. Still, there are some general risk factors for all kinds of anxiety disorders, which include:

  • Temperamental traits of shyness or behavioral inhibition in childhood
  • Exposure to stressful and negative life or environmental events in early childhood or adulthood
  • A history of anxiety or other mental illnesses in biological relatives
  • Some physical health conditions, such as thyroid problems or heart arrhythmias, or caffeine or other substances/medications, can produce or aggravate anxiety symptoms; a physical health examination is helpful in the evaluation of a possible anxiety disorder

Many people experience a wide range of symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating, rapid heart rate, and heavy breathing. Some anxiety disorders can induce an anxiety or panic attack, marked by an overwhelming fear or dread.

How to Cope With Anxiety Disorders

Unrealistic expectations, financial pressure, and excessive commitments can all contribute to holiday stress and anxiety. Poorly managed holiday stress can cause headaches, overeating, and insomnia. A lack of adequate social support, recent trauma, or co-occurring illness can make it hard to manage. Still, there are ways to cope with anxiety orders, especially during the holidays.

Anxiety disorders are usually treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both. Set realistic goals and expectations, reach out to family and friends for help, and find inexpensive ways to enjoy yourself. Share family responsibilities, limit commitments, and take time for self-care. Proper nutrition, daily exercise, and meditation are all healthy ways to cope with anxiety disorders.

Treatment is Available

Symptoms of depression and anxiety can worsen during the holidays. Isolation due to COVID-19 can also amplify depression and anxiety. Treatment is available, and at Achieve Concierge, we take a mind, body, spirit approach to treatment and help our patients discover the best ways to manage their depression and anxiety symptoms.

 

Depression and anxiety can increase during the holidays and can make you feel afraid and alone. Isolation due to COVID-19 can also worsen depression and anxiety symptoms as you experience feelings of boredom and isolation. This holiday season, ensure that you are taking care of yourself. Self-care is essential to the recovery process and managing the difficulties of mental health. You may want to consider setting boundaries with family, watching what you spend on gifts, and share family responsibilities with others. If your anxiety and depression seem unmanageable during this holiday season, you may want to consider seeking professional help. Sometimes, the stigma of mental health disorders prevents us from getting the help we so desperately need. At Achieve Concierge, we make you feel comfortable and offer same-day appointments with our caring and dedicated staff. We also offer telemedicine appointments if you prefer. For more information about our services and treatment modalities, call (858) 221-0344.

holidays

Stress-free Holidays Tips

The holidays bring up a lot of emotions. We can’t avoid feelings such as depression, anxiety, or stress. The expectations from family, friends, co-workers, and ourselves are often overwhelming. Throughout the holiday season, we give ourselves excuses to relax or put aside our healthy habits in favor of unhealthy habits.

The struggle to remain sober or substance-free increases as we interact with familiar faces in familiar places. Parties and gatherings become temptations. We feel we “deserve” to drink or use substances to decrease our feelings of depression, anxiety, or stress. The urge to let down our guard and be a part of the crowd also exists. Negative habits become second-nature if we allow them to control our behavior.

Staying on track during the holidays takes commitment and support. Often, we have either finished treatment, never started treatment, or let our treatment lapse. Therapy is essential to our health and well-being. Aftercare gives us support during a season filled with emotion and temptation.

Holidays

The holidays are welcomed by many because they symbolize happy feelings. People look forward to family and friends gathering together to celebrate. Media and society set unrealistic expectations for the holiday season. Before Halloween, we see the Christmas decorations on shelves. Conclusion: there is pressure to create mass marketing to buy gifts, spend time with everyone, and have a perfect house, table, or party. We can’t expect ourselves to achieve the standards the media, marketing outlets, and society set for the holidays. People are flawed, we have our temptations, breakdowns, and despite our imperfections, we have people who love us unconditionally.

We place expectations on ourselves, such as:

  • Being happy. When we force ourselves to be happy, we exhaust ourselves. Family and friends understand the emotions associated with the holidays. Spend some time with those close to you and discuss how you feel about the parties and traditions.
  • Expecting perfection. No matter what we do, we can’t control everything. We need to acknowledge we are doing the best we can. No one will remember if the table isn’t set correctly or the food served at an exact time. Expecting perfection compounds feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. 
  • Enjoying our time with everyone. Our family and friends mean well, but there are times when we need a break. Some family members trigger negative emotions. 

Life is stressful enough before we add unrealistic holiday expectations. Relax, focus on realistic goals, and maintain healthy habits.

Healthy Habits

Healthy habits begin when we recognize the need for change. A positive way to accomplish the desired change is to start therapy before encountering difficulty in our lives. Reaching out to a therapist commits us to improve our lifestyle of facing mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, or stress. 

Therapy provides a healthy outlet for our emotions. We learn how to set plans in advance, create safe spaces, avoid unrealistic goals, and not fall back on negative behaviors. For example, to alleviate depression, anxiety, or stress, we seek alcohol or substances to numb our feelings. Our therapist will work with us to set practical coping mechanisms in place. Instead of falling back on negative behaviors, we will have the tools to reinforce positive behaviors. A few causes of negative emotions are:

  • The stress of buying presents. Racking up credit card debt or overspending won’t bring us joy. The feelings of guilt, depression, stress, and anxiety will increase when we realize we can’t pay our bills. Don’t buy gifts you can’t afford to give. 
  • Create coupon books with fun, free activities.
  • Offer to help a friend or family member with a task.
  • Be creative. We can draw, write poems, stories, cook, or teach a loved one new skills.
  • Spend time with loved ones. Sometimes the best present is our time.

Therapy

Therapy appointments are an oasis. Our daily routine is all-consuming, often leading us to neglect our mental well-being. We need to find time for ourselves. Scheduling and going to therapy appointments can seem self-centered. When we focus on improving ourselves or center our well-being, we open ourselves up to self-love. Without a self-centered focus, we can’t connect to our mind, body, or spirit healthily. Our connection to our inner self provides the support we need to weather the holidays. Beginning therapy before the holidays creates a strong foundation for healthy habits. 

When the holiday season starts, we can forget to schedule appointments or delay an appointment because of our busy calendar. An active holiday schedule doesn’t need to interfere with continued therapy sessions. If we can’t find the time to go to our therapist’s office, ask if they can come to our home. In-home therapy sessions maintain our therapy progress, but in-home therapy allows our therapist to see our family’s dynamics. Personalized therapy sessions based on family dynamics supports our well-being.

 

We experience pressure during the holiday season due to unrealistic expectations. The media, marketing, social interactions, and pressure to conform to unrealistic expectations can trigger unhealthy emotions. We seek ways to escape the pressure or the overwhelming feelings of depression, anxiety, or stress. Some people rely on alcohol or substances to numb their feelings. Alcohol or substances can numb depression, anxiety, or stress, but they will also increase those feelings. Excessive spending, alcohol, or substance use leads us down the trail of negative emotions. When we begin therapy before the holiday season begins, we establish a positive foundation and healthy habits. Even if the holidays are in full swing, it’s not too late to start therapy. Self-care is about centering on our needs, not the expectation of other people. Achieve Concierge offers individuals both with in-office and in-home treatment. We focus on creating a personalized treatment plan. For more information, call us at (858) 221-0344.