How to Deal with Difficult Emotions During the Holiday Season

The holidays are often associated with family, friends, love, laughter and other positive emotions. However, this is not the case for everyone. The holidays can bring on a great deal of stress and anxiety. Between attending parties, shopping for gifts, baking holiday treats, planning your own gatherings with family and friends, and attempting to stick to a holiday budget, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The holidays can also bring on feelings of sadness and depression. Despite images of friends and families coming together, the holidays can actually be a very isolating time for many, especially for those that lack close relationships or have experienced any form of trauma. It can also serve as a stark reminder of the people that are no longer with us as you look back on previous holiday traditions and memories.

If you are struggling to handle difficult emotions such as: stress, anxiety, sadness, depression, grief or feelings of loneliness, try using some of the tips below to help.

Plan ahead

We’ve already discussed just how busy this time of year can be so do your best to make a plan ahead of time. Make sure you’re adding events to a calendar so you don’t overbook yourself. Try scheduling time for things like holiday shopping or going to the grocery store and baking. Carving out the time for these things now will help you make sure they get done without frantically rushing around at the last minute.

Be open to new experiences

The holidays are often accompanied by many traditions. It can be tempting to stick to these and try to make sure everything goes “perfectly.” Being open to new things and  creating new traditions can make the holidays more enjoyable and can even add some excitement. Being open to going to new events and meeting new people can also lift moods and help people feel less isolated.

Maintain healthy habits

It’s easy to throw all healthy habits out the window at this time of year, but keeping up with some of your routines will help you feel better both mentally and physically. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, taking time to exercise, and fitting in some healthy meals between the holiday cookies. Just like the rest of the year, try to strike a healthy balance.

Be honest with yourself

During the holidays, you might feel additional pressure to feel happy, to have fun and to attend every event, but you don’t need to give into this pressure. If you’re feeling sad or upset, feel comfortable acknowledging that. If you don’t feel like going to a certain party, then don’t go. It’s important to stay in tune with your needs and practice some self care. Give yourself time to relax and do things you enjoy.

Put yourself out there

You might think that everyone is too busy or already has plans, but that might not be the case. Reach out to people in your area to see if they want to do something together. If you’re not interested in setting up a social gathering, look for events that are already planned. Check out websites such as Meetup to find some holiday events in your area. This is also the perfect time to immerse yourself in volunteer opportunities. Find a cause that’s meaningful for you and volunteer!

Ask for help  

It’s normal to need some help while working through challenging emotions. Whether it be a friend, family member, or therapist make sure you reach out for help if you need it. If you’re feeling particularly sad or anxious for extended periods of time it might be a sign to ask for professional help from a doctor or mental health professional.

Find information on symptoms, causes, and treatment for depression and anxiety.

If your feelings are leading to thoughts of suicide or otherwise hurting yourself, please do one of the following immediately:

  • Call 911
  • Go to the nearest hospital’s emergency room
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
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