8 Tips for Coping with Anxiety and Depression This Season
For individuals who struggle with mood and anxiety disorders, the holiday season can be particularly challenging. This year, in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and all the stress, isolation and uncertainty that has come with it, might be even more so than usual.
Oftentimes, the holiday season can be a time of high expectations, financial stress and lots of commitments. The holidays this year are even more complicated, given that current recommendations from public health officials about gatherings with others not in your household and travel are risky and are highly discouraged.
This all can lead to a variety of symptoms, including disrupted sleep, worrying thoughts, tension, irritability, depression or sadness, loneliness, fatigue, headaches, gastrointestinal distress and feeling overwhelmed by all the expectations and demands that can come with the holiday season. It’s important to pay attention to the signals your brain and body are sending you during this time and to reach out for extra support if you need it.
So, what can you do to manage impact of the holidays on your anxiety level and mood?
1. It is more important now than ever to attend to self-care with joyful movement balanced with adequate rest, maintaining a regular sleep routine, and consistent nutrition and hydration, along with taking medications for any physical or mental health conditions as prescribed.
2. Stay connected (safely) with friends and families.
3. Avoiding alcohol or non-prescribed drugs is also key, as these substances may “take the edge off” but may also worsen mood or anxiety symptoms in other ways.
4. For many people, the shorter days and lack of sunlight that is characteristic of this time of year can have a negative impact on their mood, so it may be worth considering light therapy. Light therapy is relatively safe, but it’s always worth checking with your doctor first to make sure it won’t interact with any of your medications or other medical conditions.
5. For those who struggle with anxiety, it can be helpful to schedule “worry time” each day so that your entire day doesn’t become consumed with worry, which is exhausting.
6. Set realistic expectations for yourself (both in terms of your time and your budget if you plan to do holiday shopping) to ensure that you don’t take on more than you can handle effectively.
7. Consider pauses throughout the day for breathing exercises, body scans or other relaxation activities, or for simply checking in with yourself to see how you are feeling and what you need in that moment.
8. Lastly, reach out for support, whether it be a crisis or support line, a virtual support group, a doctor or mental health professional, or a friend or family member.
If you are in need of support for anxiety or depression this year, learn more about virtual treatment for mood and anxiety disorders.