CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – With the holiday season fast approaching, it is easy to see anxiety, depression, and stress symptoms increase.

According to a Sesame report from November last year, 3 in 5 Americans felt their mental health is negatively impacted by the holidays. A previous study from National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) also indicates that 64% of people with mental illness say that their condition worsens over the holidays.

An expert explains to 22News what experiences people may deal with during the holiday season that impact their mental health and how to cope with them. AIC Professor of Psychology John DeFrancesco says, “it really depends on the context and the type of person.”

  • Stress, for instance, is a subjective experience that differs from person to person. Financial stress may be compounded by gift-buying costs and travel expenses.

Cutting back on your expectations like not working overtime to provide gifts for the holidays, DeFrancesco suggests. “I think a lot of people have these expectations that it needs to be a grand celebration and it really doesn’t,” Defrancesco said. “In a lot of situations, people are just happy seeing family members or friends, and you know the size of the gift isn’t always important.”

  • People also sometimes feel anxious or overwhelmed when they are surrounded by many people, like when they are preparing a large meal. The challenge may, however, also be enjoyable for those who face it.

To combat overwhelming feelings, adhering to a normal regular schedule may help. “Doing things that you would normally do, trying to get enough sleep, get enough exercise, trying to eat right, but of course is going to be difficult, staying away from alcoholic beverages or diving in way too much,” DaFrancesco explains. “And taking a break when necessary by listening to music, reading a book, going for a walk, deep breathing exercises, those kinds of activities are to be helpful.”

  • The holidays can be stressful, especially if you are hosting a gathering or attending parties.

DeFrancesco recommends setting boundaries and saying no. He implies, “saying no as to why you can’t make it or do something, it’s going to be ok, 9 out of 10 times it’s not going to be an issue.”

  • Additionally, those who choose to be alone during the holidays may feel sad or anxious but may find the solitude to be liberating.

DaFrancesco mentions if they are needing someone, calling a friend or family member may help them reconnect. There are also community centers and religious organizations activities before the holidays for those to take part in. Mental health professionals can also be reached through online services like Telehealth.