Holiday Anxiety Can Be Common, But Also Treated

by Dr. Ervin on December 19, 2015

Getting through the holidays takes courage.

The holidays are particularly stressful time for many people. Some of us experience holiday anxiety through bouts of depression, high anxiety episodes anticipating what’s going to happen, what should happen, what didn’t happen, what might or might not happen again.

As I write this I think about this emoticon. emoji

Maybe you felt that way? At times many of us do. For most of us, it is a passing feeling. For some, it is a resident feeling awakened each year at this time.

The hopes and dreams of holidays past when fantasies and well laid plans have gone unmet, astray, unsatisfied, even memories of a holiday “disaster” can and may haunt us. They smolder uncomfortably and start to ruin the possibility of a normal, ordinary holiday. How sad.

What to do? If you’re in therapy, you can bring up your holiday anxiety to your therapist and begin to work through those memories and begin to come out in a different place this year. Remember thoughts and feeling are transient, they come and go — however powerful and strong.

If you’re not in therapy, you can give this some thought. We store all the experiences of our life, those we remember and those we don’t in our unconscious. Bringing them to light is putting words on them. This can help us orient them in the present and that part of the past however sad, angering, anxiety-making or depressing that refuses to leave can finally become a conscious part of the present. So? Now the power of the present can begin the process of relegating those feeling to the past where they were first experienced and where they belong. In short, no more past feeling dragged forward to upset us now.

Drinking too much, overeating and crazy spending are some of the alternate ways ways that some people manage the nagging and recurring disappointments of their holiday anxiety. Isolation is another. Not eating, not taking care of yourself and not socializing with friends and family. This can be equally detrimental. But we do them to escape the feelings and memories and thoughts that bother us. Nothing like a food or sugar coma or a late night of drinking to help us leave the pain of the present.

Here’s another possible approach to managing your holiday anxiety. In all these times when familiar, sad or disturbing holiday feelings start to surface, step back, see what’s happening inside. Then you can give a response to yourself or to another without a triggered reaction. And don’t forget to breathe. Taking a deep breath or two or three or four could be helpful is stepping back as you think through what is going on.

If you don’t see a therapist, talk to someone you trust. This could be a clergy person, a priest, rabbi, minister, imam or a good and trusted friend. Let them hear and share your state of mind and heart. It will help both of you. If no relief happens and the awfulness deepens don’t hesitate to go to urgent care, to the emergency room or to dial 911.

Getting through the holidays takes courage for many of us.

Dr. Thomas Ervin, is a licensed Clinical Psychologist with many years of experience offering psychotherapy to individuals in San Francisco. Dr. Ervins specializes in issues related to:

  • Depression, sadness, and loss
  • Anxiety, panic, and anger
  • Managing chronic pain and illness
  • Achieving maturity and relating better as adults.
  • Relationship issues

Call 415-956-1884 to get started

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