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Stress and Anxiety Around the Holidays

For many people, holidays are a time to relax and enjoy the company of family and friends. However, the holidays can be stressful and anxiety-provoking as well. Holiday parties are often difficult for people with social anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder for various reasons. The holidays can also be stressful due to added pressure and expectations from friends and family. In addition, we often have internal expectations about the way things “should” be around the holidays and there expectations are not always something we can follow through.

Shorter days and cold weather can create an added factor that affects our mood. Many people experience low energy levels, irritability, and low motivation during the winter months. Similarly, not having a support network over the holidays can increase feelings of loneliness, isolation, and depression.


People are also getting more mobile and most of us travel over the holidays. This can present an added stressor for many of us who find flying or driving stressful or anxiety-provoking. Crowded places can be especially anxiety-provoking for individuals with agoraphobia and panic disorder. Using public transportation can also be difficult for people with OCD and anxiety disorders.

Here are a few tips from one of our Behavior Therapists Naomi Zwecker, PhD., to better manage holiday stress:

  1.  Use the SMART (Small, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant & Timed) goals strategy: Set small, realistic, and attainable goals. Do not overwhelm yourself by trying to accomplish too much. Pick out a few goals and write out a plan of how you will accomplish these goals.
  2.  Communication is key: Let the people around you know if something is too overwhelming and make a plan together.
  3. Take a break: You may need to remove yourself from all the holiday activities and do something relaxing and pleasurable for yourself. Think about what that might be before going into the holidays.
  4. Maintain structure: Just because you have more free time does not mean it would be good for you to get less sleep or stop your daily routine. Plan your day out in advance.

If you need professional help to manage your stress and anxiety, call the OCD and Anxiety Program of Southern California team at (310) 488-5850 to inquire about our services or to set up an appointment.