Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Holiday Anxiety

By Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D.

As we begin the holiday season, people have hopes and perhaps expectations of an ideal holiday. Time with family and friends, time off from work or school, plans to travel – but the preparation and anticipation is often stressful. While some people may experience feelings of sadness this time of year, often people experience anxiety.

Family gatherings – both large and small may bring up memories and emotions which have been on the back burner but which now result in a higher level of emotions. The holiday season is also a busy time, juggling usual work/school/household activities with holiday preparations. With time off from work and school, our usual routines are interrupted, which is an additional stressor. All this can result in feelings of anxiety. What should you do?

Most importantly – step back and realize what emotions you are feeling. If you are experiencing heightened anxiety, there are steps you can take. I was interviewed for a New York Times article that may be helpful: “Easing Anxiety in All It’s Forms.”

Excessive drinking during the holidays is also a problem for many people. Some use alcohol to help with their stress and anxiety, and those with alcohol problems are particularly vulnerable. Instead of helping, drinking can do the opposite and make you feel worse.

To help you cope during the holidays, make sure you get adequate sleep, make sure you exercise (and walking counts), and share your feelings with friends or family. If you begin to feel overwhelmed and have difficulty functioning, you should seek professional assistance. Most importantly – realize that you are not alone. Many people experience holiday anxiety. Accept support from family, friends, and if need be professionals.

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