Scroll to the bottom of this page for a list of mental health resources.

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- The holidays are meant to be a time for celebration, food, and gathering with loved ones but for many, the season’s demands can bring about stress, anxiety, and depression.

According to a 2021 American Psychological Association survey, roughly 40 percent of U.S. adults said their stress level increases around the holidays. This is due in part to worries about traveling, money, and a lack of time, among other reasons.

But, Dr. Caroljane Roberson, a psychiatrist at Trident Medical Center, said the main stress trigger that someone is likely to encounter around the holidays is spending time with family.

“There is a lot of pressure and expectations in terms of getting together, falling into roles and patterns that used to be helpful, but maybe not so much so nowadays,” she explained.

Professionals note that managing the holidays can be especially daunting for those already struggling with mental health issues like depression and anxiety, especially on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising inflation.

“People are really struggling financially, so if they already had anxiety and depression, those struggles are just making it even worse,” Dr. Roberson said.

A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that South Carolina had among the largest percentage increases in anxiety and depression between August and December 2020. In February 2021, roughly one-third of adults in the state reported experiencing symptoms of those two conditions.

In order to combat holiday stress, Dr. Roberson encourages people to identify a support system before the holidays and listen to their own bodies and needs once in the thick of it.

“It’s okay to say no to family engagements and to even engagements with friends if you find them to be overwhelming and you find them to be anxiety-provoking,” she said. “Sometimes you do have to put you first and that’s not selfish, it’s just self-care.”

And while you are keeping an eye on yourself, it is also a good idea to pay attention to the habits of those around you. Dr. Roberson said if you notice a family member or friend is withdrawing more than usual or increasing the use of substances such as drugs and alcohol, that may indicate professional help is needed.

“Those are definitely problematic and signs that things are getting worse and they need to come in and seek help whether that be through an outpatient provider or coming to the ER and getting inpatient care,” she said.

If you do notice signs of trouble or anxious behavior, the doctor said to ask the person what they need and refrain from downplaying their experience.

“It’s hard for people who suffer from anxiety to just push it under the rug, so giving them that space that they need and asking them what would be helpful for them is probably the best approach,” Dr. Roberson said.

And while this time of year can be full of pitfalls, try to remember that the holidays are a joyous occasion full of love and gratitude and there are a plethora of resources available for those who may be struggling.

“Know you’re not alone in your struggles,” Dr. Roberson said. “We’re here to help and we want to help people feel better because even those these times are stressful they can also be made into positive times.”

Mental Health Resources:

  • South Carolina Statewide Mobile Crisis Team: 833-364-2274
  • National Suicide Prevention Line: 988 or 800-273-8255
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness: Text “HOME” to 741741 for crisis counseling.