7 Causes of Holiday Anxiety
Thursday, November 2 2017 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
The day the calendar turns to November, and often well before that, many people begin to experience holiday anxiety. There are legitimate, and numerous, reasons for this. The seven causes of holiday anxiety discussed below are common. They can cause anxiety in people who don’t have anxiety disorders, and they can magnify existing anxiety disorders to such a degree that they cause people to question their sanity. Understanding the causes of holiday anxiety can reduce your anxiety and allow you to actually enjoy yourself this holiday season.
This list of seven holiday anxiety causes isn’t comprehensive. To be sure, there are very personal reasons people feel anxious during this holiday season. These seven are common to many. See which ones you recognize.
7 Common Causes of Holiday Anxiety
- People pleasing: It’s the holidays, and you want to make them special for those in your life. (Or, they want you to make it special and you don’t know how to say "no.") With everyone making their own demands on you, anxiety will result and climb ever higher. Even when the demands are made kindly, having so many people to please is stressful.
- Feeling torn between different families/people/groups: Families want to spend holidays together. What happens, though, when different “sides” of the family are doing different things? What happens when you and your partner each have parents who want to see both of you? What happens when your aunt is having Thanksgiving dinner for the whole family, and a dear friend has invited you to her Thanksgiving dinner. Worrying about letting people down is a big cause of holiday anxiety.
- Family problems: The holidays don’t magically transform families into perfectly functional groups of people. Quite the contrary, holiday stress can bring out the worst in everybody. Existing family problems seem to worsen. Strife and turmoil in families cause incredible stress and anxiety.
- Financial worries: This is an expensive time of year. Normal expenses are still there, and new ones are added. Food, party supplies, and gifts are just the tip of the iceberg. When you spend beyond your means, or even more than you want to spend, anxiety soars.
- Pressure to do it all, perfectly: If you’re a perfectionist, this is definitely a problem. Even if you’re not a perfectionist, the holidays can swoop you up and make you get carried away. You want the holidays to be magical, so you place tremendous expectations on yourself to make that magic happen. The result is extreme stress and anxiety.
- Unrealistic visions of the perfect holiday: Movies, television, websites, magazines, and even catalogs depict the ideal holiday. The food is delectable. The decorations are award-worthy. Everyone is smiling and laughing. Differences are set aside. Everyone is so happy, including you. These depictions, however, aren’t real life. When we pressure ourselves to achieve unrealistic expectations, we end up anxious and disappointed.
- Triggers: Sometimes, things in our own personal life, past or present, surface during this time of year. Stress and anxiety are already running rampant, so it’s easy for these memories to surface and cause more anxiety.
Holiday Anxiety Has Causes, and Solutions
These seven things are among the most common and the most intense causes of holiday anxiety. Anxiety threatens to ruin the holiday experience for all who experience it. It does threaten to ruin a holiday, but a threat is nothing more than thoughts we react to.
You can address the causes of your holiday anxiety and enjoy your season. The next post will look at how to do it.