Is It the Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

How to cope with complicated feelings during the holidays

While the holiday season can represent joy, gratitude and togetherness, it can also be associated with family and financial pressure, loneliness, anxiety and tension. Even if you look forward to the holidays, it’s normal to experience periods of stress or difficulty.

According to research from the U.S. and UK, most people feel stressed, anxious, and depressed over the holidays. In fact, over two in five Brits have felt stressed during the festive season, while one in four has struggled with anxiety or depression (YouGov 2019 UK) and 68% of US residents also stated the holidays contributed to feeling sad or dissatisfied and financially strained (NAMI 2014 USA).

If you find yourself experiencing mixed emotions, worries, or even real distress over the holidays, that’s okay, and perhaps keep some of these thoughts in mind.

First of all, it’s okay to not be okay during the holidays and reach out for support when you need it

The holidays may cause a mixture of complicated situations and emotions, such as family and relationship conflict, anxiety around relationships, worries about food, coping with grief, or feeling that everyone else is having a great time and you’re missing out.

All these feelings are valid and okay, and you’re not alone.

Don’t wing it during the holidays – come up with a plan to feel better and take control

  1. Write down the days you’ll be surrounded by people or have a lot going on.
  2. Think through the days that might be tough and identify when you’ll need extra support or breaks.
  3. Identify the people and resources you want to use for support. Talk with these people beforehand or investigate a resource and define strategies for coping.
  4. Set your intentions: whether it’s sleep, how you eat, how much you drink, where exercise plays a role, or whether you engage in certain conversations, set your intentions in advance so you can feel in control in the moment. This approach can be generalized for the holiday season or you can do this on a day-to-day or event-by-event basis.
  5. Take time to develop a list of coping skills that work for you and then think carefully about when you’ll use them. For example, you could:
    • Take time to get support from people who understand your experiences. Get ideas, get support, or create your own group of friends to support each other during the holiday season.
    • Take a nap.
    • Go for a walk alone in a favorite location or walk with someone who helps you feel better.
    • Plan to meditate in a way that works for you and will help you to feel calm and gain perspective.

The holidays can be complicated but remember your tools to cope

Be realistic about the holidays and plan ahead if you think you might experience complicated emotions.

The holidays can be wonderful, happy, complicated, and stressful. If your season isn’t feeling very festive, stay focused on remaining present and not self-critical or judgmental. It can be hard to not compare your own experiences, feelings, and relationships to what you think other people are experiencing, but you never know what’s going on in others people’s lives.

If you feel like you need a safe space to talk with others who understand, try Togetherall; a free, safe anonymous online community where you can give and get support from others.


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