Most people think of the holidays as a time of joy and celebration, but for many, it is also a source of anxiety.

At LARKR, we believe everyone deserves to be as happy as they choose during the holidays and so we’ve compiled a short list of anxiety triggers and suggestions for how to cope. And if all else fails, you can reach a therapist at any time and anywhere through the LARKR teletherapy app.

Anxiety from Expectations

We didn’t previously say “as happy as they choose to be” by accident. The holidays are consistent, but life situations are not, so there is no way to know what life will have in store during the holidays.

While everyone on TV, radio, and social media may appear to be happy and perfect, know that according to the APA’s study on holiday stress, over 80% of people report feeling stressed during at least part of the holidays, and 43% report feeling sad or lonely.

If you experience this, you’re not alone in feeling less than happy during the holidays, nor should you expect to be as consistently happy as a child opening presents on Christmas day. Set your expectations within reason and know that it’s okay to feel however you’re feeling. Blue Christmas is a popular song for a reason!

Travel Anxiety

Not everyone travels well and at a time when it feels like everyone is traveling, anxiety can run high even for people who don’t normally feel that way. The key to minimizing anxiety is planning, properly setting expectations and preparing for stressful situations.

  • Go over and confirm the details of your plans.
  • If possible, book your travel for lower-demand dates and times. You might even want to think about leaving a day early or late.
  • Consider getting travel insurance because knowing you’ve reduced the risk can feel very reassuring.

Also, know that eliminating anxiety altogether might not be possible, so be sure to have a backup plan. Breathing techniques, meditation, or even a good book or mobile game can offer a much need distraction during frustrating times

Financial Anxiety

The giving of gifts and offerings is one of the most widely practiced and ancient human traditions, especially around the holidays. The drive to please others with gifts can be very strong in some people to the point where it can have a severe financial impact, leading to increased stress and anxiety.

In my family of people who hate shopping, we decided that the best gift we can gift each other is a release from the gift-giving obligation. It has been several years now and it has gone very well. In fact, there is a growing trend over the last few years of family and friends prioritizing presence over presents.

If such arrangements are not possible in your situation, then consider minimizing costs by creating a budget and tracking spending. Know that the dollar value of the gifts you give is not a measure of how much you love or care.

Don’t splurge on yourself either. Of course, you deserve it, but you also deserve to have lower levels of stress and anxiety.

Familial Anxiety

It’s a sad fact that not every family gets along. It’s an even sadder fact that most families have at least one person that no one can get along with.

Family pressure is probably the most challenging anxiety of the holidays, but there are things you can do. If you’re visiting, you can control the amount of time you spend. Minimize it if you have to. If you’re the one hosting, consider not inviting “that one person.” You’d be surprised how people might react. If you’re feeling stressed by that person, chances are that others are stressed by them too and you may just make the holidays better for everyone.

If you are have exiting disagreements with family members, try to work them out before the party. Make a phone call, or meet up in advance to set things right so the holidays aren’t consumed by them.

If you have a family member who likes to criticize, try to understand that it’s a weakness on their part and not really about you. Say something like “Yes, I’ve noticed I’ve put on a few pounds since last year too and I’m already working on it. Thanks for being concerned about my health. Have you seen the latest movie?”  

Social Anxiety

Holiday parties with strangers are among one of the most dreaded parts of the holiday season. Office parties and traditions with old and would-rather-be-forgotten friends seem to populate your calendar as if by magic. Know that you can say no. You don’t have to give reasons. “I’m sorry but I can’t make it this year” is all you need to do.

For those that you can’t get out of, here are some things you can do:

  • Avoid alcohol. It doesn’t actually help.
  • Bring a friend if you can or focus on someone you can tolerate and try to build a friendship with them.
  • Find a “boring holiday party partner” and create your own little counter culture. Maybe you can establish a relationship so that every year you can team-up with that person at the office holiday party to relieve both of your anxieties!

his holiday season, be aware of your feelings and try to use planning and coping strategies like the ones outlined above to minimize stress and anxiety.

It might also help to track your mood using a mood tracker like the My Story, which is built into LARKR teletherapy app… This allows you to track your emotional state so you can look back and learn about what might be blocking you from living your best life.

However you plan to spend your holidays and however you feel, LARKR sends you best wishes for the holidays!

Approximately 50 million Americans experience mental illness each year, but nearly 60% go untreated. Take a step to end the suffering by seeking help from the comfort of your own home.