How to deal with depression and anxiety over the holiday season

- December 20, 2021 3 MIN READ

The Christmas season is often referred to as “the most wonderful time of year,” a time of celebration, joy and social gatherings. The reality is, for some it can be a time of stress, anxiety or even sadness, wirtes Dr. Frank Chow, Director and Psychiatrist, 2OP Health

A recent survey by Relationships Australia revealed that Christmas is one of the six most stressful life events, along with divorce, moving house and changing jobs. Interestingly 65 percent of respondents reported Christmas shopping a stressful experience.

As social, professional and personal demands increase during the festive season, they are also drivers of social anxiety, financial stress, loneliness or the feeling of being overwhelmed from family and or friend gatherings.

Here are four tips to help reduce anxiety and better manage depression over this holiday season.

  1. Practice Gratitude and Be Positive

Following two-years of on and off again lockdowns in Australia, the celebration of Christmas with friends and family is something to be treasured. If lockdown has taught anyone anything, it’s that the more valuable things in life are also the simple things such as being surrounded by loved ones.

Focus on the positive, be present and practice gratitude this holiday season. You can do this by beginning every morning with reciting five things you’re grateful for, starting a gratitude journal or displaying acts of kindness to your friends, family, or even a stranger.

According to Headspace, the practice of gratitude enhances your wellbeing by improving your personal relationships, reduces anger, increases empathy, helps you forgive yourself and others, improves your sleep and encourages an appreciation for what you already have.

  1. Celebrate with Family and Friends

If you can, surround yourself with family and friends this Christmas. A lack of social interaction is damaging to your mental health, resulting in feelings of depression, anxiety and loneliness. The Department of Health has revealed the emotional support of friends and family can help reduce mental health issues and most importantly, facilitate a sense of meaning and purpose in life.

While the demands of seeing the family at Christmas can be stress-inducing for some, be sure to plan ahead to reduce Christmas tension, whether that be getting your shopping done ahead of time, setting the table the night before, meal prepping or even having your outfit all laid out.

If you’re in isolation this Christmas or apart from family or friends, set up a FaceTime, phone call or Zoom to ensure you gain a sense of connectedness and joy from seeing loved ones. The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships COVID-19 isolation study indicates seeing your loved ones electronically can elevate feelings of loneliness and emotional stress.

  1. Set Boundaries

Understand that it is ok to switch off. You deserve it and you mentally and physically need it.

Set boundaries between your work and home life to reduce stress, anxiety and depression during the holiday season. It’s important to allow yourself a break during this time, especially as most workers will feel burnt out following the busy, tumultuous and unpredictable year of 2021.

Prioritise your work-related mental health and set professional boundaries by setting up an out-of-office email and staying away from your computer as you enjoy the break. Or if you’re working during the festive season, set designated work hours to start and finish the day. The last step is to communicate these boundaries to your family, friends, colleagues and clients to set expectations to those around you and to keep yourself accountable to your own actions.

  1. Seek Help

If you are struggling with your mental health to the point where it’s interfering with your personal and/or professional life, seek professional help this festive season. Make your mental health and wellbeing a priority by setting up an appointment to see a professional today. Prevention by early intervention is key to a fast recovery.

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