How to cope with panic attacks during the holidays?

how to deal with panic attacks during the holidays

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Winter holidays can bring us unforgettable moments, wonderful experiences, and many laughs. However, for many people, this time of year can be emotionally and mentally challenging. With the Covid-19 pandemic going on, managing anxiety and sudden intense fears in the holidays is even harder. As individuals that fought panic disorder, we have found effective ways to cope and spend a great time during the holidays.

Even though you had a normal life during the holidays before, this time may be more difficult to manage. For some, traveling to see loved ones may be impossible making this winter an unbearable one.

If you are anticipating a stressful and sad winter holiday, know that you’re in the right place to overcome it. And remember, you are not alone.

In December, many holidays are celebrated around the world. Wikipedia has a more extensive list.  To name a few:

Christmas – the birth of Jesus Christ. Mostly celebrated by Christians. Learn more in Wikipedia.

Hanukkah – It means dedication. It is an eight day celebration or festival of lights commemorating the rededication of the Temple by the Maccabees from the Greeks in the 2nd century. Read about this holiday in Chabad.

Kwanzaa – It translates to “first fruits”. This is a seven day festivity. It can be celebrated with songs, dances, storytelling, a large traditional meal. For more information visit the Official Kwanzaa website.

We will discuss why the winter holidays can be a difficult moment for many. Also, we’ll share effective solutions to remain calm and get the most out of this festive season. You will learn very helpful tips on how to spend the holiday relaxed, healthy, and happy either with your dear ones or by yourself.

This detailed guide can be a great source of information whether you or a loved one find winter holidays an overwhelming time of the year.

What causes holiday stress and the best solutions

When I was a little girl my mom used to tell me that Christmas was about gathering with the family and sharing moments. At that time, life was very simple. I did not see anyone under pressure. Instead, there was excitement and great expectations.

I was taught that gifts are not the most important but the love we can share. As I grew up I saw this season as a great moment and tried to focus on good times.

However, life seems to be complicated and sometimes, stressful. Not everyone reacts the same way. It is important to note that if you know someone who is having a hard time going through the holidays to be understanding and offer them support.

To help you understand we have listed the reasons why the holidays can be very depressing and stressful:

Financial problems

Buying gifts, decorating our place, and cooking a delicious meal is part of the celebrations. However, not everyone has the budget to spend for the winter holidays. Therefore, this situation can be uncomfortable and tough. Mental health during Christmas and other winter holidays can be overwhelming.

Solution: If you do not have enough money to do some shopping that’s just fine. It is best not to use a credit card since debt will increase and so does stress. In many cases, less is more. You can create handmade gifts such as jewelry, greeting cards, soaps, flower arrangements, and more.  In Create to Donate you can learn how to make low-cost gifts for your family and friends.


The pandemic has changed life as we know it. In many countries or local areas, governments have limited gatherings, requiring the use of face masks, and other measures.

As a result, many may not be able to see their families or loved ones to celebrate the holidays. This can cause anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. And holiday stress during Covid can be challenging. 

Solution: Although it is not the same, you can plan a virtual celebration or communicate with your dear ones via video. This will make the situation less difficult and you can catch up with your friends and relatives.

Busy at work

This is one of the most hectic times of the year. Deadlines to meet, a lot of phone calls, and many issues to resolve are many of the tasks that have to be completed in less time. And whenever you imagine a panic attack comes out of nowhere.

Solution: Take days off during the holidays in advance. This will help release the tension and start the new year energized. Keep in mind that productivity cannot be achieved while you are stressed. Also, do some stretches while you are at your desk. You can find some great routines in the National Institute of Health.

High expectations

We all hope to spend a great time full of happiness and festive moments.  Also, the anticipation that this will be a perfect celebration is part of the excitement. But what happens when the holidays are not the way we planned? We all went through this. This situation can only worsen your anxiety and panic attacks. Also, your mood can be affected. So what can you do about it?

Solution: Instead, virtualize yourself to have a peaceful and joyful moment. Keep in mind that nothing is perfect but you can get the most out of the holidays. To help you manage, see our recommendations below.


Many people spend the winter festivities alone. We know how it feels because we had our share of lonely Christmas and holidays in general. It is the time when we miss our families even more and for many, this can be very depressing. And this Coronavirus pandemic makes it even worse.

Solution: From audio or video messages, technology can make people feel closer to their families. Although it is never compared with having them face to face it can make a phone call a memorable one.

If you or a loved one is in distress, looking for emotional support, or thinking about suicide you can get help. You will learn great tips on how to deal with depression during the holidays.

Find a list of countries with their telephone number in Suicide Stop. Choose your country and call the hotline.

Deceased loved one

There is no devastating moment other than losing someone so close to us, especially when remembering the great memories. And the holidays can intensify the sadness building up for a while. This can cause a big deal of stress that can escalate into anxiety, panic attack, or severe depression.

Solution: For the sake of your mental health it is best if you spend most of the holidays with family or friends until you feel better. Another alternative can be calling a friend.

Drinking alcoholic beverages

New Year Eve is one of the events when people drink the most according to American Addiction Centers. However, having a drink can make your panic attacks worse.

Solution: It is best to limit your alcohol intake or avoid drinking especially during the festivities. If you or a dear one find it difficult to stop drinking it is strongly advisable to ask for help. You can speak to a relative, doctor, religious leader, or community representative.

Lack of sunlight

Sun rays energize us and make us feel happier. Also, levels of melatonin, which regulates the mood, are released. There is nothing like a beautiful sunny day, especially during spring and summertime. However, in many countries, the weather gets cooler during fall and winter.  Therefore, many people are not exposed to the sun. This will cause many symptoms, including, fatigue, vitamin D deficiency, irritability, insomnia, weight gain, anxiety, and stress.

Also, sunlight deprivation can cause Seasonal affective disorder or SAD which is a depression that happens with weather changes.

Solution: In Scandinavian countries, you do not get to see the shining light of the sun for months or only for a couple of hours a day. So, how do they survive without getting to enjoy a sunny day? For them, it is a lifestyle and they have found a way to embrace the dark days. Many will sleep the same hours and go out to get some sun when there’s a chance. You can play games and watch a good feel-good movie. Talk to your doctor about getting a Vitamin D supplement to avoid a deficiency.

Bad experiences

Besides partying, dancing, and spending a good time, we tend to think about our experiences during the year. From breakups to fall outs, thinking about the past can trigger panic attacks, anxiety, and depression as well.

Solution: Talk to a friend or someone you trust so you can express your feelings. Remember that when a door closes another one will open. Difficult situations can also be learning experiences that can improve your life.

How to stay almost stress-free during the holidays

Do you want to learn how to de-stress during the holidays? We can’t get rid of the all tension in our lives. However, we can avoid situations that trigger anxiety or panic attacks which also can be related to depression and other disorders. There are useful ways to make your winter holidays a healthy, happy, and tranquil one whether you are alone or with someone. Even if you are busy you still need to take care of yourself.

Mental health during the holidays can be affected but these great suggestions can help you unwind and enjoy the festivities without the distress. They work because I have followed them when I was living alone and needed to find some quiet time. They are not only easy to follow but can effectively calm you down.

Think that this time will be better

For whatever reasons, people tend to imagine how bad the holidays will be. However, a bit of optimism would not hurt. Focus on a good outcome and visualize enjoying the moment. This can help you release any tensions.

Speak to your doctor

If you are taking any medications he may be able to adjust the treatment if needed. Talk to him about any changes in your mood or severe stress during the holidays. Listen to his recommendations and feel free to tell him your concerns to help your panic attacks or anxiety during holidays.

Know the real meaning of Christmas or the holidays in general

Holidays are spent with family, friends, and the people you love. Sharing wonderful moments, laughing together, and appreciating every little thing is part of the festivities. Focusing on this is rewarding and can help to keep your panic attacks at bay during the celebrations.

Do not anticipate panic attacks or stress

People use to anticipate their anxieties and panic attacks which is normal. They may think someone will see them if they experience them and become afraid of losing control.

However, having these negative thoughts causes stress which can build up and make you feel very panicky. It happened to me in the past. Don’t focus on your panic attacks too much and instead think that you can beat them even during the holidays.

Our post “How to stop thinking about panic attacks the right way” offers useful tips to help you cope.

Keep things simple

There is nothing so transforming than simplicity. Living a simple life, even during these holidays, can help lower your stress levels and improve your life in general.

How do you do that? Appreciate life and the little things that it can offer. For example, nature, a smile, kindness, good company, … Also, declutter your living space and remove what you do not need. You can sell or donate it. Also. do not complicate your life and be happy with what you have. Remember that perfection does not exist but tranquility and happiness do.

Beauty treatments

It is great to have time for yourself which can help you chill during the holidays. A face mask, hot bath, hair treatments, or a home pedicure/manicure will help you unwind and put a smile on your face.

So, if you are living with a friend, relative, or partner you can massage each other. You will feel refreshed, energized, and relaxed.

Do what you like most

If you are at home and don’t know how to use the extra time you have you can do what you love. Trying a new dance, learning new recipes, or singing around the house can help distract your mind.

Also, the activities below can be a great way to invest your time productively:

  • Read a good book
  • Cook during the holidays
  • Try indoor gardening
  • go for a walk if the weather permits (be careful with the icy patches)

Have a great time but follow the COVID-19 guidelines implemented in your local area.

Watch Christmas or family-oriented movies

This is a great season to watch a great drama and ditch violent movies for now. Also, enjoying a comedy or romantic film can uplift your mood.


There is scientific evidence that laughing can decrease stress hormones and have a great effect on general health. A good sense of humor can help you chill and feel positive. Check funny videos, jokes, or movies so you can keep laughing through the holidays!

Explore a different hobby

Learning something different is a great stress fighter. For example, you can find miniature house kits that you can assemble. It takes a couple of days and it requires patience because of the many miniature components. It will help you relax while you put it together. Check out this cute and unique DIY miniature home on Amazon.

Other stress-releasing activities include painting, drawing, playing a musical instrument, and speaking a new language.

Do some yoga or stretches

As part of your panic attack management journey, exercise is recommended to help relax your muscles and soothe your mind.

Stretching can improve sleep quality, blood circulation, and your health in general. Also, don’t forget about doing moderate to vigorous exercises such as walking, cardio, running, and swimming to get all the benefits from working out.

Speak to a health professional to help you create a personalized fitness routine. 

Stay home if you have to

You don’t have to go to every party you are invited to. You can stay home, chill, and drink hot chocolate. Sometimes we need some spare time to do “nothing” as much time as you need. Enjoy your moment and breathe. At least once in a while, we need that to help us think clearer and stay focused. We don’t realize how much we do during the year so it is time to reward ourselves with some rest.

Eat healthily

As many of us love to indulge during the holidays, let’s use moderation. Adding veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and fruits can make a big difference. Drink lots of water to replenish the liquid.

If you love to make special recipes try to substitute the ingredients for healthier choices. Avoid lots of sugar, salt, fats, alcohol, and junk food.


Giving during the winter holidays feels great. Depending on the Covid-19 restrictions in your location you can do some volunteering from serving food to the homeless to helping a neighbor. Making people smile will make you feel great about yourself.

Final words

Having a peaceful holiday can be achieved with the useful suggestions mentioned above. There are times when we have to focus on our wellbeing. Therefore, it is essential to find time to decompress and make little changes that can make a big difference in our lives.

The most wonderful gift we can have is peace and tranquility. Without them, our bodies and mind can take a toll. It is better to embrace simplicity not only now but always. We hope our post “How to cope with panic attacks during the holidays?” can help motivate you to cope with severe stress.

We wish you, your family, and your friends a joyful and blessed holiday, no matter where you are! Cheers!