Anxiety & Depression Increase Over The Holidays — And Here's How To Cope

Ad failed to load

While the winter holidays hold fond memories of family gatherings and giant dinners for plenty of folks, they're also one of the biggest stressors people face all year. In fact, 64 percent of people say their mental health stress level increases exponentially around this time of year, as psychiatrist Monika Roots, Vice President of Health Services and Senior Medical Director of Behavioral Health at Teladoc, tells Bustle. There is also evidence to suggest depression and suicide rates rise in December, which is why it's so important to prepare for a dip in your mental health during the holidays.

Roots says it's normal to feel more anxiety during the holidays, but that practicing a few key coping strategies is vital to keeping that stress from overloading you. "[The holidays are] a little bit of mass chaos, there's a lot of people, there's a lot of emotion, there's a lot of anxiety, and that's the time where it's the most crucial to be able to not just get help when you need it," Roots explains. "If we think about diagnosable conditions, about one in five have an anxiety disorder, but I usually think about it like, 100 percent of us have anxiety during the holidays."

Ad failed to load

According to a 2016 index put together by Orbitz, 72 percent of Americans travel between Thanksgiving and New Year's. The anxiety of traveling and being out of one's normal environment, coupled with being pushed outside your comfort zone and possibly pushed into conflict with family members, can be exactly the kind of holiday cocktail you don't want to enjoy. Plus there are dozens of smaller stresses: Worry over selecting the right gifts, preparing all or part of a family meal, or possibly dealing with emotions of having lost a loved one during the year, when their absence from a family gathering is most greatly felt.

Roots says mitigating the negative effects all these various holiday stressors can have on you involves a few key behaviors, including proactively taking time for mental de-stressing. That means taking moments of quiet for yourself, to focus on your own well-being.

You should also stick to your routine as much as possible, especially when it comes to sleep. "I really think about sleep as the building blocks for your whole mental health and well-being," Roots says. "If we can't sleep, then we start to eat more, we can't focus, we say things we maybe don't mean, the chaos seems more, and the anxiety goes way up."

Ad failed to load

People in general have poor sleep hygiene, even outside of the holidays, Roots says. And once you're in a cycle of sleep-related bad behavior or anxiety, it can be hard to break free. "We might be on our phone until two minutes before we want to go to bed, [and] many of us clock-watch all night, which means that you're just looking at the clock and you're saying, 'Okay, if I fall asleep now I'll get five hours. If I fall asleep now, I'll get four hours,'" Roots says. "It's the worst thing that you can do, because [...] you're training your brain to be anxious in bed."


Because stress is a common cause of insomnia, it's especially important to pay attention to these bad sleep habits during the holidays. If you're struggling to fall asleep or catch yourself clock-watching, the best thing you can do is get out of bed, Roots says. "After ten or fifteen minutes, if you don't fall asleep, get out of bed, go to a different room," she explains. "Grab the most boring textbook you still have from school, start reading it, and when you're bone-tired, go back to bed."

Ad failed to load

Aside from getting seven to nine hours of quality sleep, you should focus on setting boundaries, Roots says. She adds that this is a good strategy for people who may be afraid of facing conflict with family members who have different viewpoints or who may not approve of your viewpoints. Knowing where your boundaries are and practicing mental de-stressing can be a huge help for conflict-laden situations, Roots says.

"It’s really important to know what discussion topics will make you more or less anxious," she tells Bustle. "[If] you’re getting really stressed or really anxious, is [the conversation] really worth it? Is this maybe a good time to walk out of the room and connect with someone else that you can have a really good conversation with? Is that the time to take the five-minute break and, you know, go get some water and take a walk outside, maybe walk somebody’s dog?"

For these types of situations, it's also helpful for folks to chat with someone who has an objective viewpoint, Roots says. This can be a mental health provider like your regular therapist, if you have one, and it's also part of the services Teladoc offers.

Ad failed to load

"[You might need] therapy where it’s helping you go to the grocery store so you can buy that food for the holiday dinner and they can walk you through the stress," she says. Mental health care is wholly unique, Roots says, and should be treated as such. "Being able to seek care is really personal. It can’t just be one-size-fits-all," she adds.


Ultimately, Roots says, you can only truly manage yourself. While the holidays may feel wildly out of control, maintaining your own mental health should be a top priority, and everything else can take a backseat.

Ad failed to load

"[Realize] where your power is," Roots says. "Which is really being able to manage and work through your own reaction to things and people."

And if everything becomes too much, there's absolutely no shame in withdrawing from a situation and reaching out to your support system of family and friends, or to a mental health professional. This season is all about kindness, and it's important to remember to treat yourself with same kindness you give the people you love most.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Everything Leaving & Coming To Netflix In June To Help Get Your Summer Started

Summer is right around the corner, and so is another batch of streaming options to get excited about. On Wednesday, everything leaving and coming to Netflix in June 2018 was announced by the streaming platform. And don't worry, there's something for …
By Jamie Primeau

The 5 Rom-Coms You Need To Read This Summer, According To Someone Who Writes Them

'Tis the season for rom-coms. The weather is warm, the sun is shining, and everyone is rocking the flirtiest items in their wardrobe. I don't know about you, but summer always takes me back to my teenage years — and that automatically makes me want t…
By Cristina Arreola

11 Tiny Sunglasses That Will Make You Look Even Cooler Than Kylie Jenner

You know what they say — the tinier the sunglasses, the more stylish the outfit. OK, that's not really a saying, but it seems to be the case these days. Basically every celebrity, model, and It person has been spotted sporting tiny sunglasses as part…
By Sara Tan

9 Ways This Royal Wedding Was Way More Modern Than Past Ones

The newly named Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, made history with their storybook courtship and wedding. What's more, there are myriad ways the royal wedding 2018 was more modern than previous royal weddings. From deciding…
By Brandi Neal

10 Little-Known British Traditions Meghan Markle Will Learn When She Marries Prince Harry

As an American woman dating a Brit, I am no stranger to the mishaps that can result from the cultural differences between the U.S. and England. And while I'm sure Meghan Markle has a slew of royal traditions to learn, titles to remember, and fancy ha…
By Kristin Magaldi

I've Paid $18,000 To A $24,000 Student Loan, & I Still Owe $24,000

It all became real the summer before my senior year of college. It was 2010, and my home phone still had a cord, which I wrapped around my fingers as I waited not-so-patiently for the apathetic representative on the other end to tell me the bad news …
By Kaitlyn Cawley

12 Personality Quizzes That Will Help You Determine Your Exact Strengths

Learning more about yourself can be tough. It's so easy to observe others to learn what makes them tick, what areas they really excel in, and the things they could be better at. Doing that to yourself, however, is a whole different story. That's exac…
By Jessica Booth

5 Brand New Short Story Collections You Can Finish In One Sitting This Weekend

Since 2013, May has been known by book-lovers by another name: Short Story Month. If you're ready to kick off this year's celebration the right way, make sure to pick up a short story collection to read over the weekend. Modern life moves more than …
By Sadie Trombetta

I Got Styled By 'Queer Eye's Tan France & Realized I Still Have A Lot Of Fashion "Rules" To Unlearn

When I walked into a New York City Express store on May 2 to get styled by Queer Eye's Tan France, I was ready for anything. And I mean truly anything. I am such a massive fan of the show and Tan that if he had instructed me to wrap myself in tin foi…
By Olivia Muenter

It Isn’t Bad To Have A “Princess Fantasy” — Mine Made Me The Woman I Am Today

What do you want to be when you grow up? If you were anything like me as a kid, at some point, the answer to that question was "a princess." Thanks to good old-fashioned gender stereotypes, most little girls born in the '90s (and even now) grew up in…
By Nicole Pomarico

Here’s How To Get A FREE 30-Minute Facial At Sephora That Sucks Your Pores Clean

Sephora has long been a mecca for both serious and amateur beauty lovers alike, where they not only have makeup artists that help answer questions about products, but free samples to let you play with new collections. But now they have upped the ante…
By Marlen Komar

Kris Jenner Is FINALLY Launching A Makeup Line With Kylie

Maybe you don't have a favorite sister of the Kar-Jenner clan, and that's perfectly fine. The one thing you can't deny, though, is that when it comes power, no one in that family has more than the world famous momager. Now, Kris Jenner x Kylie Cosmet…
By Shea Simmons

This Kendall Jenner “Diva” Moment Is Really Being Taken Out Of Context

The fashion always takes center stage at the Met Gala, but there's usually a little drama, too. And this time, a member of the Kardashian-Jenner family is involved. People are buzzing about how Kendall Jenner shoved someone at the Met Gala, but after…
By Nicole Pomarico

Feel Like You've Seen Everything On Netflix? Add These Movies To Your Watch List

The weekend may feel too far away, but if you're lacking formal plans, a Netflix marathon session is always a good idea. If you're an avid viewer, however, you probably feel like you've seen everything the streaming platform has to offer already. In …
By Ashley Rey

These 4 Zodiac Signs Are Going To Have The Best Luck In Love This May

Spring fever is here, but not all signs in the zodiac are dealt the same dose of lovin'. Some signs are going to have a better love lives than the rest of us in May, because that's just the way the cookie crumbles. According to astrologer Linda Furia…
By Kaitlyn Wylde

Hillary Clinton Says She's Ready To Fight Like A Republican — EXCLUSIVE

Hillary Clinton Is Not Going Away Quietly. Can Hillary Clinton Please Go Quietly Into The Night? Unlike Losers Before Her, Clinton Is Not Going Gently Into the Night. These headlines, which appeared in various news outlets over the course of the last…
By Catherine Thompson and Jenny Hollander

Here's The Very Best Time To Book Your Summer Vacation If You're Trying To Save Money

Summer is a great time to travel, for obvious reasons. The weather is better. Many offices are more lax about time off. If you have kids, they’re out of school. But there’s one very important element that makes summer not a great time to travel: Cost…
By Emma McGowan