As winter approaches so does the holiday season. It gets darker a littler earlier, the weather begins to get colder, and we prepare for the end of another calendar year. Some holidays are celebrated through quality time with loved ones, parties, decorations, gift giving, shopping, and special seasonal foods and drinks. This can be an exciting time for some and a more challenging time for others. Regardless of one’s anticipation for the holiday season, most can probably relate to an increase in stress and anxiety.
Anxiety is a natural response to real or perceived stressors and everyone experiences this feeling at one point or another. Anxiety can manifest as a physical or emotional response to stress. Symptoms of anxiety might include a racing heart, difficulty sleeping, shortness of breath, an upset stomach, changes in appetite, feeling fidgety or increased worry. It’s good to remember that anxiety and stress aren’t always negative. They might occur in response to positive life events, like attending a holiday party or planning a big event.
The extra pressure may help get that last big of holiday shopping completed. Anxiety is the body’s way of responding to or coping with a situation. These common anxiety states in response to stress tend to be short-lived and manageable. When physical and emotional symptoms of unmanaged anxiety become so overwhelming that they interfere with the completion of daily tasks, an individual is at risk for the development of an anxiety disorder. Some anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia.
Understanding what anxiety is can be an important first step to its prevention and management when positive or negative stressors occur. Unmanaged stress and anxiety are associated with a number of poor health outcomes, like high blood pressure, skin rashes and sleep or appetite disturbance.
Another good way to prevent worsening anxiety is to learn specific strategies to manage stressors. Here are some helpful tips for coping with the stress throughout the holiday seasons. Practicing stress and anxiety reduction can help to make more time to appreciate the changing weather, times with friends and loved ones and all of your favorite traditions throughout the rest of this year and the next:
Erin Hopkins, M.A.
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
PsyD Clinical Psychology Student
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, D.C: Author.
American Psychological Association (2016) Making the most of the holiday season. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/holiday-season.aspx
Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA (2016). Stress. Retrieved from https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/stress
Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA (2016) Tips to manage anxiety and stress. Retrieved from https://www.adaa.org/tips-manage-anxiety-and-stress
Mindful (n.d.) Getting started with mindfulness. Retrieved from http://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/