Holiday Anxiety and OCD

Holiday Anxiety and OCD:

You’re going to see lots of blogs on this topic in the next few weeks. However, we recommend getting a jump on these issues early.

Do you suffer from depression, anxiety, or obsessive compulsive disorder? If so, the holidays may cause you to crash. You could find that panic attacks that had been dormant, reemerge. Or compulsions to clean, count, or arrange things uptick to the point you barely have time to do anything else. Sadness may deepen and you’re not sure why. For that matter, even if you don’t have some type of depression or anxiety disorder, the holidays sometimes create considerable stress and anxiety. Why? Consider these possibilities:

    • The stress of choosing gifts for people who are impossible to buy for
    • The stress of deciding how much to spend in an seriously impaired economic climate
    • The stress of seeing family that bring up painful issues from childhood (one of our favorite cartoons depicts a banner stretching across a huge ballroom declaring something like “Conference of Functional Families” with a single person standing alone in the room reading the sign)
    • The stress of attempting to prepare a fancy holiday feast, wanting everything to be “perfect”
    • The stress of being around overly critical family members
    • The pressure to feign pleasure and joy over receiving an unwanted gift
    • The stress of wondering if you’ll lose your job after the first of the year
    • Dealing with unpredictable, inclement weather
    • Finding the time to shop, cook, clean, send cards, write blogs about the holidays, and plan travel
    • Dealing with the crushing crowds at shopping malls, airports, highways, and grocery stores
    • Disappointment in reviewing the previous year
    • Grief that bubbles up from previous losses of loved ones

With all these issues, it’s not surprising that many people experience what’s known as the Holiday Blues. The Holiday Blues entail sadness, grief, misery, and anxiety associated with the list above. By contrast, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) usually begins a little before the holidays as the days shorten and continues unabated until spring.

If your problems with anxiety, ocd, or depression impair your ability to get through the day, seek help right away. At the same time, we have a few tips:

    • Dress for the weather and take lots of walks outside.
    • Set a budget for gifts and stick with it. Don’t spend more than you can reasonably afford no matter what–especially in today’s economic uncertainty.
    • Be careful with your diet. Especially if you have SAD, you may be tempted to load up on carbs. If you do, you’ll feel bad about the weight gain, but also feel increased fatigue and lethargy.
    • Decide that holiday meals do not have to be elaborate–a little hot soup and great bread can be OK! Or consider potluck.
    • Accept the imperfections of your family. Everyone does the best they know how to do. Try to avoid criticism–it can only make things worse.
    • Give yourself a little private time to mourn if grief emerges–don’t try to suppress it.
    • Accept your own imperfections–meals don’t need to be perfect and neither do you.
    • Realize that holidays rarely measure up to expectations–try to let go of expectations.
    • Breathe. Embrace whatever comes your way during the holidays. Breathe.

What other things stress you out over the holidays? How do you deal with them?