Whether it’s the time with family, endless piles of holiday traffic, or wish lists for family and friends so long you aren’t sure how you’ll pay for it all the most wonderful time of the year isn’t so holly or jolly for people who suffer from anxiety or depression.
Regardless of what time of year it is, stress and anxiety in America has been on the rise for the first time in over a decade led primarily by politics, money problems, and concerns for the future. For the 40 million men and women in America living with these mental health disorders, the holidays may be just another chance to pile anxiety on top of more anxiety.
To learn more about what causes these distressing emotions, we polled over 1,200 people across the country to understand what gets them down during this festive season, what they do to cope, and which of the many upcoming holidays are their biggest culprit for being anything but the happiest times of the year. Read on to see what we discovered.
‘Tis The Season for Distress
Financial concerns may not just be keeping you up at night – they could be making you physically ill. According to at least one study, younger generations especially get so worried about money it’s started to affect their job performance, personal relationships, and even makes them sick. According to our panel of men and women across the country, nearly 2 in 3 admitted the holidays made them feel more depressed or anxious because it reminded them how tumultuous their financial situation really was.
In 2016 one study found more than half of Americans were planning to go into debt to cover their gift giving expenses and 16 percent said the cost of their generosity could take six months or more to fully pay off. With an average cost of $929 each, the pressure to give as much as you receive could be giving most seasonal shoppers the holiday blues.
Money isn’t the only concern giving men and women we surveyed feelings of depression or anxiety. For more than 2 in 5 people we polled, the over commercialized nature of the holidays left them feeling emotional followed by thoughts of loneliness and solitude and bad memories. Distance isn’t the only thing that can make people feel alienated during the holiday season and research has shown it’s not uncommon to feel emotionally distant from the people in their lives even when they’re close by.
Have some sympathy for yourself the next time Netflix asks if you are still watching. Research has shown that despite the popular stigma that TV might “rot your brain”, it can actually help restore self-control and some shows can even make you feel happier and more generous after watching. For people we polled in nearly every age bracket, watching Netflix or other forms of TV ranked as the most popular coping mechanism for getting through the holiday season.
Bingeing your favorite (or even newly discovered) TV show isn’t the only way to unwind when the stress of seasonal festivities starts to drag you down. According to our survey, exercise, time with animals, and even listening to music were popular choices for decompressing during the yuletide blitz. More than just being good for maintaining your physical health, regular workouts can be equally as effective at treating mild to moderate depression as formal medication.
Across the country men and women in certain states may be more likely to feel down during the holidays than others. According to our research, people we surveyed from Arkansas reported the strongest feelings of anxiety when asked to rank these distressing emotions on a scale of 1 to 10. Recent data suggests Arkansas may be one of the poorest states in the country, followed only by Mississippi and West Virginia. With more than 17 percent of the state living below the poverty line in 2016, the financial burden of the holidays could be adding to the heightened sense of anxiety that people we surveyed from Arkansas feel this time of year.
And states the least likely to be affected by this sense of dread as the holiday season rolls in? Americans we surveyed living in Oklahoma, Idaho, Wyoming, and Nevada had the lowest overall rating of jingle bell laced distress.
The Season of You
Finding some alone time during the holidays certainly has its advantages. From the relaxing respite of quiet solitude to getting to decide exactly what you want to say for Thanksgiving dinner and when, the time we spend around friends and family celebrating the holiday season can start to feel overwhelming for some.
Over half of women we surveyed and more than 1 in 3 men admitted their heightened sense of anxiety during an otherwise festive time was a direct response to spending too much time worried about other people and not enough time focused on themselves. It’s okay to be selfish with your time occasionally and it could make you seem more pleasant to be around for everyone else.
If you can’t escape commitment of company but you still need some time to yourself consider going for a short walk, getting up before everyone else (or staying up a bit later), or offer to run those otherwise pesky errands and enjoy the comfort being alone for as long as it lasts.
They say home is where the heart is, but that may not necessarily be where you want to go when you’re feeling bogged down during the holiday rush.
Americans we surveyed admitted that some environments were more likely to leave them feeling relaxed and rejuvenated when things happened to get too stressful during the season of giving. While people in 11 states (including Vermont, Iowa, and Alabama) said the feelings of familiarity they got in their own homes were the perfect place to relax, Americans in nearly twice as many states said they’d rather be visiting a friend than their own family.
On the other hand, sometimes it may be less about the company and more about the accommodations that makes some people feel less stressed. Men and women from 14 states (including New York, Michigan, and California) said being at a bar or club helped them get back to their happy place. While the immediate chemical reaction of an alcoholic beverage may help you feel more relaxed, alcohol is still a depressant and the more you drink the more likely your feelings of depression or loneliness may increase.
Everyone knows there isn’t a single date or celebration that make up the entirety of the holiday season. It’s the combination of most Americans favorite days such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s back-to-back that helps make the fall and winter months truly come alive.
While research shows nearly half of Americans rank Christmas Day as their favorite holiday out of the whole year, our study revealed more than 71 percent of men and women across the country think Jolly Ol’ St. Nick brings tidings of more than just good cheer – he could be delivering feelings of anxiety and depression too. While Christmas may have earned the top spot, more than 1 in 10 people we surveyed admitted it was all of the holidays combined that killed their festive vibe.
Finding The Joy
The the millions of people across the country celebrating the holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, and the New Year this season the time spent with friends, family, and food are meant to be some of the best memories we make all year. Still, not everyone experiences the holiday season the same and the stress of financial burden, not enough alone time, or even just the commercialization of otherwise religious celebrations can lead to feelings of desolation and nervousness.
At The Florida House Experience, a premier mental health and addiction treatment facility, we know how important your mental health is to general well-being. If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression we’re here to help. Our goal is to help all of our patients find the individualized dream plan that works for their lives. Whether you’re looking for medication management, psychiatric services, or just to understand how medication might be able to affect your mental health, the Florida House Experience is here to help support you every step of the way. Visit us online at FHERehab.com today to learn more.
Methodology: We surveyed 1,212 individuals and asked if they experience added stress, anxiety, and/or depression during the holidays. We then found out what elements contribute to these states of mind, how they cope, as well as the when, where, and how it all transpires.
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