How To Cope With Holiday Depression and Anxiety with Dr. Urmi Jani

How To Cope With Holiday Depression | Arkansas Heart Hospital

For some, the holidays are filled with joy and excitement. For others, the season can be filled with overwhelming stress and sadness. Arkansas Heart Hospital Psychologist Dr. Urmi Jani with the Bariatric Metabolic Institute offers tools to getting through the holidays and what to do if you suspect a loved one is dealing with holiday depression.


Self-care is so important around this time of year. You could be giving a lot of yourself emotionally to your family or working extra to afford presents, or this time of year could just trigger bad memories. Make sure to take time for yourself and the things that bring you joy!

Establish Boundaries

You don’t have to say yes to every dinner invitation or holiday event. Pick and choose the meaningful ones. Let your loved ones know when your plate is getting too full, so they can help alleviate the stress. Talk to someone about the stress or triggers you feel; whether it’s a trusted friend, family member, pastor or therapist. It’s okay to outsource things too. If the thought of cooking is overwhelming, pick up a holiday treat at the store for that work or church potluck rather than making it yourself.


Exercise is a wonderful way to relieve stress and fight holiday depression, even if it’s just going for a brisk walk. Most importantly, remember the spirit of the season when you get caught becoming overwhelmed with the minute details.

Difference Between Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression can strike at all times of the year, but holidays or anniversaries can be especially challenging. Dr. Jani recommends knowing the difference between the two and offers advice on how you can help.

Anxiety and depression are closely related and sometimes it is difficult to tell them apart. Think of anxiety as nervousness that gets in the way of everyday life. People with anxiety have recurring thoughts that are sometimes intrusive about all sorts of things. It can be about things happening in your life, or even about things happening in the world or to other people. Sometimes anxiety can result in panic attacks which can be quite scary, because it can feel like you’re having a heart attack. Your chest may feel tight, and you might experience shortness of breath or dizziness. If someone is experiencing a panic attack for the first time, they often go to the ER thinking it’s a problem with their heart. You know yourself best, so be sure to play it safe and seek appropriate medical attention.

Depression, on the other hand, is more than just nerves, though they do play a part. Depression is the constant feeling of sadness, hopelessness or even being increasingly irritable for most of the day, nearly every day for at least a 2 week period.

Support and Listen

If someone you love is experiencing hard times during the holidays, be there for them or suggest talking to a therapist. Offer to accompany them to an appointment. Support them in making positive strides. Do not take their depression or moodiness personally. They may act upset with you, but they are likely just experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety. Ask them frankly if they are feeling depressed and be prepared for the answer. Asking if someone is feeling depressed or even suicidal will not make that person more depressed or suicidal, but it can open up a conversation where you can start to connect that person to important help and resources.

Holidays, while they can be a wonderful time, can also be difficult for people, especially if they’ve lost loved ones, are estranged from their families or struggle with holiday depression for other reasons. Reach out to those who may be vulnerable. If finding a therapist seems daunting, start by asking your primary care physician for a recommendation. Sometimes, if doctors want to prescribe medication for depression or anxiety, people feel ashamed. You would not be ashamed of taking medication for diabetes or cholesterol, and taking medication for one’s mental health should be no different. Mental health is a key component of our overall health.

For further insights, you can read more about what else our physicians have to say on improving our heart health. You can also access other heart health tips and great recipes to see how you can simply live a healthier lifestyle.