Holiday Anxiety and Depression: 7 Brain Tips for Success

Anxiety and depression can ruin your holidays and seriously disturb your health. Being preventive, balancing your brain and days, and seeking support early can help ward off stress and depression. Continue reading to learn about holiday anxiety and depression. 

Don’t let anxiety and depression be the unwelcome guests in your holiday season this year. Science shows that both stress and depression are way up due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, this year instead of reacting to holiday stress, let’s take early measures toward beating holiday anxiety before it can even move in. 

Here are some practical brain-based

tips to help you minimize the anxiety that can come along with the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.


Tips to Prevent Holiday Anxiety and Depression

  • Lower Your Overall Anxiety 

When stress is at its peak, it becomes hard to stop and regroup. As I always say, the best defense is a strong offense. Lower your baseline stress and anxiety heading into the holiday season. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past. You can train your brain to help you do this. The strongest way to train your brain is with Home Neurofeedback. You can have your brain mapped at home and then use brain training at home to improve your anxiety levels where they start…your brain. To learn how Home Neurofeedback works visit the blog post below.


RELATED How Home Neurofeedback Works. 


  • Take Control of the Holidays

The holidays do not need to become something you dread. You may just need to change HOW you do the holidays, not them themselves. Become intentional and deliberate about how you spend your holiday resources, namely time, money, and energy. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.

  • Make a budget and stick to it. Don’t overspend.
  • Decide which activities you want to participate in, which you don’t, and then stick to it. 
  • Decide which nights you will spend alone, relaxing, and which you will socialize and then stick to it.


  • Reach out Every Day (Even or Especially If You Don’t Want To)

To prevent feeling lonely or isolated, reach out to at least one person every day. You can seek out community, spiritual, or other social communities. Many organizations may have websites, online support groups, social media sites, or virtual events. They can offer support and companionship. Even reading what they have to say can keep feeling connected. You can read my blog posts or schedule a consultation with me. I am a great listener and people find it reassuring to begin the process of working together if they have been thinking about it. 

If you’re feeling stress during the holidays, it also may help to talk to a friend or family member about your concerns. Try reaching out with a text, a call, or a video chat. I just asked my friend if she likes the version of me that shows up happy and at ease or if she minds when I show up angsty and stressed. She replied that she loves all versions of me. That immensely helped to decrease my stress. 

  • Create Joy, Not Perfection

The holidays do not have to be perfect or just like last year. The goal is to create joy. As your family grows and changes so will your traditions and rituals. Be open to change. Choose a few to hold on to and be open to creating new memories. Especially in this year of uncertainty and change, be flexible and open to new opportunities. 

  • Create a Schedule That Works

Create specific times for the holiday activities that you abhor and enjoy. Build a schedule for shopping, baking, connecting with friends, and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. It will help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to have your loved ones help in meal prep and cleanup. Make it a team effort. Many hands make light work. 

  • Say No When You Really Want To

Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and loved ones will understand if you choose not to participate in every scheduled activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.

  • Take a (Much Needed) Break.

During the holidays, breaks are even more necessary than they are during regular time. Make some time for yourself. Think, right now, of an activity you enjoy. Take a break by yourself and do that activity. Read, a book, exercise, take a nap. This small respite will reinvigorate your brain and help you recharge so you can get back to visiting with friends and family. 

When you engage in your favorite activities, it can decrease the High Beta anxiety mode in your brain and increases the Alpha, calm, focused mode. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do for the rest of the day. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind and restoring inner calm. 


Some good options to lower High Beta and Increase Alpha include:

  • Take a walk 
  • Sit on your porch at night and stargaze
  • Listen to soothing holiday music, like vocal jazz
  • Build a fire and watch the flames
  • Play cards
  • Visit with friends
  • Read a fiction book


What If I Can’t Go with the Flow at the Holidays?

Don’t rigidly get stuck on the rituals of the past. If you find you really can’t go with the flow, then your brain might be very stuck in High Beta anxiety mode. High Beta makes change incredibly difficult. For example, if you can’t be together with loved ones in person, find ways to connect virtually. Share pictures, emails, or videos. Meet on a video call to connect. Even though your holiday plans may look different this year, you can find ways to celebrate and be happy.

Get Support If You Need It.

Seek professional help if you begin to feel that you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently anxious. This chronic anxiety can lead to depression and can cause serious physical symptoms. Your stomach may hurt and it may become difficult to sleep. If you feel irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores, reach out to your doctor, coach, or counselor now. Dealing with the feelings before they overtake you can help you move through them. 

If you are interested in Neurofeedback Brain Training and Neuro Coaching with Dr. Trish Leigh so that you can lower your anxiety, schedule a consultation today.

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