Reports of anxiety spike during holiday season

Posted at 9:30 PM, Dec 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-06 16:35:35-05

WACO, Texas — One in four people struggle with their mental health each year in America. The number rises significantly during the holidays, with 60 percent of people saying they experience added stress, anxiety, and depression.

Author and mental health advocate Stan Popovich has dealt with mental health struggles for more than two decades.

"In the beginning, it was really frustrating because I wasn't sure what was going on and I didn't know what to do," he told 25 News. "Eventually I decided I needed some help, so I talked to people to help get my life back on track."

With the holiday blues starting to set in for many people, Popovich is raising awareness on mental health through his book and website and is offering advice on how to get through the tough days.

"I'm kind of used to it by now because I've dealt with it for over 20 years, but for a lot of people who are maybe viewing this it could be all new to them," he said. "To those people, I say to them if you're dealing with fear and anxiety, the first thing you should do is talk to a professional."

According to a report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, there is a spike in feelings of anxiety and depression around the holidays.

The study says 64 percent of people diagnosed with a mental illness say their condition worsens at the end of the year. 68 percent of those surveyed blamed financial stress for the increase, 66 percent report feeling lonely and find themselves reminiscing on happier times and just more than half say they are burdened with unrealistic expectations.

"In our research, we've found that the holidays is probably the most stressful, anxiety-filled times of the year," Joe Bernier, the lead pastor at Cadence Church in Copperas Cove, told 25 News.

Bernier also uses this time of year to share his story and start the conversation among his congregation.

"I just wanted the people to understand that I'm a real person and that even being in leadership or pastors of churches, we struggle too and there's things that we have to face," he said. "Just to try and lessen the stigma that the word mental health is bad."

The church just hosted its fifth annual Mental Health Sunday event, which connected the community with resources in the area, like Dr. Alton Mccallum of Insight Counseling Center.

Dr. Mccallum said he's noticed the increase in need for his services during the holiday season.

"Those that don't have someone to spend the holidays with, sometimes leads to feelings of isolation or depression or loneliness because there's not that camaraderie of people that you love and care," he said. "Then those that are with loved ones, sometimes there's anxiety and stress that comes from triggers of being with our loved ones."

If you are one of the millions of people who struggle with their mental health, Dr. Mccallum recommends taking some time to reflect each day.

"If you have a time or a chance every day to do some reflection on the day, on what you're feeling, what you went through, the good and the bad, it consolidates your life," he said.

"It consolidates the day but also gives you a chance to say okay today was great as opposed to the whole last month has been bad."

Pastor Bernier said it's important to also lean into your faith.

"With so many things going on in our world and in our community, it's real easy to lose faith, to lose hope," he said. "We believe with God, he is our hope."

And Popovich says to never lose hope that better days are up ahead.

"Just don't give up," he said. "It starts with that first step, once you start to do something about it, it will get better in the long run."