Updated on: Saturday, October 30, 2021, 10:23 PM IST

Diwali 2021: Here's what causes festival anxiety and ways to beat it

It is normal to feel a bit overwhelmed with stress during the festival season. Health experts say that the expectation to have a perfect celebration causes anxiety and depression

‘Tis the season to be happy!’

But how many of us really feel that way?

The second half of the year arrives with a crispness in the air filled with the fervour of festivals and celebrations. However, they come with multiple responsibilities leading to stress and anxiety.

It is a proven fact that holiday parties are stressors, but they can be particularly stressful for people with social anxiety disorder. It is common to see people avoiding attending such activities. But, for the ones living away from home during festivals, sadness, anxiety and depression can trigger way too rapidly than in normal times – clinically termed as ‘festival blues’.

“Any new episode, exacerbation, pre-existing depression, or anxiety is termed as festival blues. It stems from the idea of ‘what do I have to celebrate about?’ And a depressive temperament can ensue if the answer is not up to the person’s expectations,” says consultant psychiatrist and founder of The Free Mind Initiative, Dr Alpes Panchal.

What causes festival anxiety?

It is normal to feel a bit overwhelmed with stress during festival season, and mental health experts say that the expectation to have a perfect festival celebration causes depression. “People anticipate a lot for the festival, which causes stress and ultimately leads to anxiety,” says clinical psychologist Monica Sharma.

Another clinical psychologist Shyamolie Desai says that people who live away from home and are unable to join the family during festivals are more prone to anxiety and depression during this time.

“When they see their friends uploading happy pictures of their celebrations on social media, they tend to compare and feel that they are falling short, which makes them depressed,” she says.

While one may not understand the unsettled emotions during the festival time, Dr Panchal points out some early signs to watch out for — poor sleep, decreased hunger and happiness.

“The symptoms elevate in people who already suffer from depression. But, sometimes people develop anxiety during social occasions such as weddings, social gatherings and festivals, where they have to meet many people, or a lot of planning and execution is needed,” says the psychiatrist. He adds that the younger generation of urban dwellers is more vulnerable to this.


Don’t compare

While one may want to make the festival grander and extravagant, experts suggest that one shouldn’t let the preparations and celebrations become something to dread.

Instead, one should take steps to prevent stress during festivals and holidays. Desai recommends not to compare oneself with other people’s perceived lifestyle on social media.

“It is better to maintain a balanced life and not to compare it with friends’ portrayed realities on social media. One should exercise regularly and pursue hobbies because doing something that you like will keep you busy and away from any comparison,” says the psychologist.

According to Dr Panchal, those who are already receiving mental health treatment must go for a consultation before or after the festival season. “Any person experiencing these symptoms for the first time can visit any mental health professional, depending on the severity of the symptoms. But the ones already undergoing treatment should visit for evaluation before or after the celebration,” he suggests, adding that relatives shouldn’t expect the patient to be in tune with everyone’s feelings. “They have a problem and they are dealing with it, which relatives may not agree with. They have to understand that they have to be little empathetic with them and help them deal with the situation,” he says.


Create awareness

Despite talks and ample awareness initiatives around mental health, it is still considered taboo and festival blues, in addition, maybe an alien concept for many, unlike the West.

And just as there are several factors that can contribute to anxiety and depression, there is equally a higher risk to endure them during festivals. “In the West, it is a known fact that anxiety or depression rises during festival time. At times, people can start feeling anxious even if they aren’t prone to it. But in India, people cannot fathom the idea that there is a problem even if everything around is good. People have to understand that humans are ruled by the mind and not the environment,” says Dr Panchal.

Dr Sharma adds that open communication is the best way to create awareness on the issue. “The conditions are not always diagnosed, but rather managed effectively by adopting a few strategies in daily life. So, if an individual is feeling low, they should talk, and family members should be open to listening.”

It is true that our society creates a whole facade about festivities, from decorations to celebrations and the pressure to be happy. However, it is important to understand that the real spirit of celebration comes from within.

How to cope

1. Plan your festivities in advance.

2. Don’t isolate yourself.

3. Don’t seek perfection.

4. Seek help.

5. Exercise.

6. Stay away from caffeine.

7. Spend some time relaxing.

8. Drink lots of water.

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Published on: Sunday, October 31, 2021, 07:00 AM IST