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Tips to cope with anxiety around the holidays

Research shows 64% of people with mental illness have worse symptoms around the holidays.

CARLISLE, Pa. — The Christmas season is underway across the Commonwealth, as people prepare to celebrate the holidays. But for some, the holidays are a time of stress and anxiety.

“When your mental health is not in a good place, it’s extremely hard," said Tricia Carbaugh, a local mental health advocate. "So many people put on a happy face, even if they’re not feeling it.”

Research from the National Alliance on Mental Illness shows 64% of people struggling with mental health report that their condition worsened around the holidays.

Carbaugh has seen the toll stress and anxiety can take during the holidays.

“People get very distressed and depressed when they can’t afford Christmas gifts for their family and the heating prices get out of hand," said Carbaugh. "Some people have lost someone during the holidays.”

“Often times, the feeling of being out of control really triggers a lot of anxiety for most people," said Melissa Brown, a licensed psychologist with UPMC.

Brown advises people struggling with anxiety to focus on what they’re able to control, helping establish structure in their lives.

“Those are our diets, continuing to get good exercise, and continuing to get really good sleep," said Brown.

Brown adds that budgeting and setting boundaries can help manage holiday stress. She even suggests reimagining holiday gifts for friends and family.

“Maybe a family member just needs their lawn mowed, meals made for them, or even time spent with them," said Brown. "Those are invaluable gifts that we often forget are so important and much needed during the holidays.”

If you need to speak with a mental health professional, Brown encourages you to use the new 988 Hotline.

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