Moosh - dog outside at Christmas

The festive season can be stressful for anyone. Throw in conditions such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder and the stress can certainly seem to grow to massive proportions. An emotional support animal is one of the keys to helping some people navigate the stressors facing them. To help you reduce stress this Christmas, we’ve put together a guide to emotional support animal owners and stress, including some triggers you need to be on the lookout for and the best ways for you and your ESA to cope.

The Causes Of Christmas Stress For Pet Owners (And Everyone Else!)

During the festive season, there are a lot of demands placed on you. The most common reasons for increased anxiety, depression, and other psychological issues triggered by stress during this season include:

  • Anxiety caused by expectations. Let’s face it: there’s some expectation associated with festive get-togethers. You may see people on television or online who seem perfectly happy about getting together with family, travel, gift-giving and the like – but those images often don’t reflect reality, and can place undue pressure on you to have a perfect festive season.
  • Anxiety related to travel. Travel is rarely stress-free, but when you throw in large crowds of people all trying to get someplace, it can be even more stressful and anxiety-inducing.
  • Anxiety caused by finances. It’s traditional to give gifts to people in the festive season, but this can place a lot of financial strain on people, which leads to higher levels of anxiety and stress.
  • Anxiety with family. Not everyone grew up in the Brady Bunch. The reality is that many families have trouble getting along and resolving conflict in a healthy way. That can make the festive season a time of stress, anxiety, and depression for many people.
  • Anxiety caused by social situations. Beyond family, there’s a lot of expectations during the festive season to get together with people you may not know at holiday parties. This can cause a lot of social anxiety and stress, or make existing conditions worse.
  • Staying in balance. It can be tough to keep everything balanced during the festive period of the year, and you may neglect things that you normally put a lot of care and time into, such as caring for your ESA.
Moosh - Christmas tree
Image by Chad Madden on Unsplash: Enjoy your holiday by doing your best to reduce stress this Christmas.

What You Can Do Reduce Stress This Christmas

The good news is that the festive season doesn’t have to be something you dread, or something that makes your mental health condition worse. There are things you can do to help, such as:

  • Create realistic expectations in your mind for the festive season.
  • Pace yourself and don’t take on more than you can handle.
  • List activities you need to do and prioritize them to help make the things you have to do more manageable.
  • Set realistic goals.
  • Be present in the moment and enjoy the season.
  • Don’t compare the festive activities you’re doing today with the things you used to do – today is a new day.
  • Seek out festive activities that are free, such as going on a tour of holiday decorations or window shopping.
  • Volunteer if you’re feeling a little lonely this time of the year.
  • Spend time with people in your life who are caring and supportive.
  • Keep careful track of your holiday budget to keep from overspending and causing yourself unneeded stress.
  • Plan ahead so you can work to minimize the things you know trigger anxiety, depression, or other reactions, and prevent yourself feeling overwhelmed.

How To Keep Your ESA Safe At Christmas

It’s important to avoid imposing festive stress on animals, too, so make sure to invest some extra time caring for your ESA. Here are some tips for how to keep your ESA safe at Christmas:

  • Take them for a walk. Exercise is a great way to work out your stress and also give your ESA exercise, too (if they require walking). If you have an ESA that doesn’t like or need to walk, then simply play with them. That’s a great way to shift your focus and have a little fun.
  • Feed them. You can get bogged down with other concerns during the festive season, but don’t let the basic needs of your ESA slip through the cracks. Make sure you’re feeding them a balanced and healthy diet each and every day, and know what holiday foods to avoid.
  • Give them attention and affection. Part of what makes your ESA so special is the bond you have with them. Make sure you’re taking time to give them affection and attention.

Remember to take time for yourself and your ESA during this busy time of the year. After all, your health and wellness are the number one priority, as well as the health and safety of your ESA. Don’t forget that if you’re planning to travel, you need to make arrangements for your ESA with the airline beforehand – and you need an up-to-date ESA later for that!

Moosh - cat near Christmas tree
Image by Valentina Sotnikova on Unsplash: Christmas stress for pet owners is real – even when your cat doesn’t climb up your tree!

The festive season is fun for a lot of people, but it’s also a time that can trigger unwanted feelings or make things worse. Make sure to lean on your ESA during this stressful time – that’s what they’re there for! But also make sure you take care of both your ESA and yourself, so you can both make it through the season without unnecessary stress.

Featured image by Jim Kalligas on Unsplash