themighty logo

3 Tips for Helping a Loved One With Anxiety During the Holidays


I’ve been diagnosed with anxiety for 20 years. That’s 20 Thanksgivings, 20 Christmases and more birthdays than I care to count. Including step-siblings, I am one of seven kids and five of us have our own kids. Like I said, more birthdays than I care to count. You would think that after two decades, family gatherings would get easier.

My younger sister and four step-sisters live in different states. My brother lives close by my mom and I. During Christmastime, my sister flies down to Florida with her husband and their three daughters. The day she comes in me, my brother, his wife and all our kids go to my mom’s house for a big family dinner.

Don’t get me wrong. I love seeing all my nieces and nephew, as well as my siblings. Yet, with my anxiety, it gets overwhelming fast.

When my anxiety kicks into high gear, I get uncomfortable with a lot of people being around. When I was younger, it was pretty tolerable. However, as our families have grown throughout the last 11 years, so has my discomfort. The noise of seven kids and eight adults (including myself), all the constant movement. And, of course, all the different conversations going on. It’s a lot!

The last couple of years, I have been able to semi-cope. This year though, I am slowly weaning myself off my psych meds. This includes my anxiety medication (under my doctor’s supervision). So the large family gathering is going to be a bit more difficult. Please, remember that during the holidays especially, anxiety runs high.

Here are a few tips to help your friends and family who deal with anxiety cope:

1. Offer them a quiet place to go when you notice them getting anxious.

A bedroom, the back patio (weather permitting) or even the laundry room with a chair will suffice! Sometimes, a quiet spot helps you gather your thoughts and compose yourself.

2. Don’t automatically assume they’re being “rude” or “antisocial” if you see them put in headphones.

A lot of people I know who struggle with anxiety consider music to be calming. When my anxiety is high, I usually tell my husband I need my “therapy,” and out comes my headphones.

3. Don’t harass or tease them if they aren’t joining in on the 50 conversations going on.

Sometimes, it’s just a bit much to handle.

I’m not saying to change the way you do holidays to accommodate your friends and family with anxiety. However, keep these tips in mind to help avoid a potential anxiety attack. I’m sure they will thank you.

Writer’s Note: Do not stop taking your medication unless either your doctor says to or unless you are under doctor supervision.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.