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Anxiety, financial pressure, stress increase during holidays: mental health experts

With Christmas upon us, people are finishing last-minute shopping and preparations, and increased stress and anxiety can take a big toll on mental health.

Even though the holidays are a time for celebration and connecting with loved ones, it’s not always peaceful.

“Seventy-seven per cent of individuals reported holiday stress, with over half of them stating that Christmas is the most stressful holiday,” said Holly Whyte of YEG Psychology.

Edmonton therapists say around this time of year, more people experience anxiety and depression and are increasingly stressed in their day-to-day lives.

“Anything from just overall overwhelm with the combination of work and needing to prepare for the holidays, how busy the supermarkets are and everything like that, all the way to stresses with family dynamics, being alone,” said therapist Luke Suelzle with Insight Psychological.

With inflation and rising prices, financial pressures are also heightened this year. Psychologists say people often feel guilty if they do not spend enough around the holidays. People must remember not to push their financial limits.

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“The number one reported stressor is financial because there is almost this expectation that we have to buy, often not just one present, multiple presents for our children, our spouses, our coworkers, other individuals in our lives,” Whyte said.

“Making a budget and sticking to it is extremely important at this time of year. Know what fits within your means and not somebody else’s, because everybody has different means and budgets.”

Whyte said many things people experience during the holidays can trigger PTSD. Certain individuals may experience grief, as this is their first Christmas without a loved one.

“I see a lot of first responders or people who have to work during the holidays too, so they might be missing out on typical celebrations with Christmas morning with their kids.”

Suelzle also said people tend to overextend themselves and their obligations during the Christmas season. It’s important not to stray too far from your daily routines, he said.

Find time to give yourself breaks, he said.

“Take an evening for yourself when you need to,” he said. But it doesn’t have to be a whole night. Suelzle also suggested shorter breaks. “Deep breathing if that’s something that works for you. A mindful moment if that’s something you’ve got experience with as well.”

There is also a lot of pressure to be in the holiday spirit, but psychologists say you don’t always have to feel happy at Christmas.

“A lot of us feel that need to put on a big fake smile and dole out Christmas cheer all over the place, but it’s important to be mindful about what our needs are. It’s OK to take time to yourself, it’s OK to say no,” Suelzle said.

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