More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
When Anxiety and Depression Come Home for the Holidays
by Lana E. Bailey, Freedom From Fear

For some the holiday season brings two unwelcome visitors, anxiety and depression. These uninvited guests not only dampen the holiday season but can leave individuals feeling overwhelmed with the pressures of preparation and social expectations. Each of us experience this time of year differently, for some it conjures up visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads but for many it?s a reminder of time gone by and losses in our lives. For those who have the latter experience you may be wondering ?if this is the season to be jolly?why am I so depressed?? It?s not surprising considering the emphasis Madison Avenue places on the holidays, which paints a Norman Rockwell setting. Anything short of this idealistic scene can cause us to question ?How come my holidays are not filled with Kodak moments??

Often this time of year serves as an unofficial bench mark of our accomplishments and disappointments for the last twelve months. This practice of measurement is a way in which we evaluate ourselves, ?How many New Years resolutions have I kept?? and, how much of that notorious ?to do? list did we accomplish? If individuals are not satisfied with their end of year outcomes, disillusionment and worthlessness can rear its ugly head further contributing to the holiday blues cycle.

The entire season is stretched over a six week period and often our expectations of all we can get done during this time can be an unrealistic prospect. Setting attainable goals and incorporating time for relaxation during the holiday season can lessen anxieties. During these weeks our everyday commitments are still in play. We must continue to make our deadlines, get the kids off to school and tend to our relationships in addition to our holiday tasks. If old Kris Kringle posed the question ?what would you like this holiday season? many of us might be tempted to ask for the gift of more time in order to satisfy our everyday obligations in addition to our holiday commitments. Unfortunately Santa does not have time wrapped in a box and last I checked Tiffany was out of stock.

Holidays are a nostalgic time, we tend to reminisce and reflect on celebrations gone by and loved ones who are no longer with us. Maybe we are unable to get home for the holidays due to financial constraints or our work commitments. How do we combat these feelings? What are we to do when anxiety and depression come home for the holidays?

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
by Carol Sonnenblick, Ed.D.
Dean, Division of Continuing Education
New York City of Technology

Chubby Santa’s, twinkling lights, parties, the aroma of pies and cookies baking in the kitchen, champagne bubbles, family feasts and gifts piled high greet each year’s holiday season. Holidays are happy times, right? Not necessarily. The advent of the holiday season is not always a time of joy. It is a time when we mourn those whose presence is missed. It is a time when frenzied activity adds to the burden of life’s already hectic schedules. It is a time of excess—spending too much, eating too much and drinking too much. How can we put in the obligatory time with family which may prove toxic as old habits and unresolved issues resurface? How can we enjoy the holiday season when coping with our usual stressors requires us to use all of our inner resources? Here are some survival hints for making it through the holiday season with emotions in check.

  • Develop a shopping list and spending plan. Resist impulse buying and extravagance. January bills that tax your wallet engender stress.
  • Pace your activities. Accept invitations to those events that will not overburden your life and cause next day exhaustion. Feeling tired and frantic is not good for your physical and mental health.
  • If food and drink are an issue—try moderation (more easily said than done—think January when you will want to undo the results of binge indulging)
  • Choose parties and events you really care about, avoid day after day of obligatory activities.
  • Set aside some time just for yourself—do something that you enjoy, makes you smile and reduces your sense of being on a treadmill.
  • Chose someone you really care about and spend some quality time, even if it’s only a quick lunch somewhere.
  • Make plans for January and February to do something special—give yourself something to look forward to during the coldest, darkest winter months.
  • Buy yourself a gift, something that you really want that no one else is going to get for you.
  • Remember that there is no reason to expect that difficult relationships will have improved since last year—so why get aggravated.
Put the holiday into perspective—the excitement, the scenery, the parties, friends and family. Recognize that changes in routine can be stressful but that’s just part of the season—enjoy and happy holidays.


I think another problem that arises during the holidays is the need to buy gifts and the effort to please everyone. That just adds fuel to the fire of anxieties already present during this time, such as the ones David's article mentions.

One way our family has solved this dilemma is to forego gifts to each other. We have a charity fund. We pick some worthy cause (taking turns each year on who picks) and each of us donates what we can to that cause. Then, the money/items are given to the charity that has been chosen. It takes the onus off of us for choosing the "right" gift, and lets us know that we're doing something for someone(s) not as fortunate as we are. It's made a big difference in how we all approach the holiday season, and we're always thrilled to know we've had a hand in making a life (or lives) a bit brighter. :)
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Wow TL I really wish my extended family would think more along those lines. My immediately family has tried to bring up other ideas for holiday gift giving but the extended family just throws a fit and insists that given that we are a small family that we continue as usual given that it is tradition that everyone buy for each other and of course these are not easy people to buy for and there is so much anxiety of stress of find the "right gift". Basically TL I am very envious of you and your family :)
I'll be glad when its all over, i actually hate this time of year, it feels like you should be part of it, doing what others "seem" to be doing, buying presents, having fun I would like to hibernate from now till new years day, one thing that really does my head in is hearing old christmas tunes on the radio which bring back memories of when times where better, it would be nice to be a child again and relive the magic of christmas and have family about you and have santa coming down the chimney and bringing presents.


I'll be glad when its all over, i actually hate this time of year, it feels like you should be part of it, doing what others "seem" to be doing, buying presents, having fun I would like to hibernate from now till new years day

I agree with you 100% TTE. I will be glad when it is all over and things return to the same old. Another thing that I really dislike about this time of year is getting together with family and everyone being so fake, with plastic smiles, kisses and hugs and life is just grand but yet we haven't spoken or seen each other since last year and we all live in the same city. I guess it is just hard to pretend to be having fun and loving everyone when I just want to be left alone.
i agree about the fakeness, my neighbours on the ground floor flat send me a christmas card each year, yet all they do is cause me problems the rest of the year, I rip the card up, its means nothing to me, once new years day is here i feel like a heavy wieght has been lifted from me

just mary

I'm not looking forward to Christmas either. I used to love it but ever since I became involved with my husband, it just seems to get worse and worse every year. It's mainly having to deal with his family, they're VERY HARD to buy for. I've almost come to the point that it doesn't matter what I get them - they won't like it - so why worry. I just really hate Christmas and it makes me sad and anxious. I just want it over with. I actually hope my husband works on Christmas day so I don't have to see his family.

When I saw my doctor last he asked if I wanted anything to help me relax - to take away the anxiety I was feeling - I said no, I wasn't sure if it would be a good thing for me. But with the holidays coming up - I may change my mind.

And TL, I LOVE what your family does. That's amazing and wonderful. Awesome! If I ever get the guts, I just might present this idea to my family.

Thanks for tips David, I'll definitely use them. :)

Take care,

i too have had a hard time with christmas for a number of reasons, and found it rough because of all the reminders starting months in advance, sometimes even to the point of it being mentioned as early as august.

i hope though that this year will be different for me as i've come to a better understanding why christmas has been such a problem for me. i have a new perspective so i think it will help.

i always found the worst part to be that one isn't "allowed" to dislike christmas. that made the dislike harder to deal with
Holidays are hard, but I like them. I always liked the way the season took away some of the pain in my heart of every day life. I don't know if that makes sense.

I like the suggestions listed to help make things less stressful. We cut out a lot of extra stuff years ago and now it's not very stressful at all in the sense of gift giving and parties and things like that. A lot of bad things have happened around Christmas and I struggle with that.

My grandma and my aunt both died right at Christmas and I am always reminded of that, but I guess they would want me to still enjoy my life and the joy of the season.

I am having a hard time with Christmas this year due to the death of my nephew last year on Christmas Eve. I decided that the best way to honor his memory though is to live and do the best I can to keep Christmas in my heart and my own little's one's heart. We all miss him so much, so very much and it's hard.
I would like to know how my sister is dealing with it. I haven't had a chance to talk with her for awhile. :( I know she is probably having a really hard time.
the holidays do become especially difficult when people you love have died in that time. it will always be a reminder. keeping christmas in your heart though is wonderful way of honouring them. you will always love them. :hug:
i always found the worst part to be that one isn't "allowed" to dislike christmas. that made the dislike harder to deal with

I agree with this, when you say to people im not celebrating it, or I dont like it , they look at you kinda odd, as though theres something wrong with you, and you feel you have to pretend your enjoying it when your not


Again for me it is having to put that mask on to pretend that I am having a good time and loving the holiday spirit of being with family and friends which is very tiring in and of itself.
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