The festive season brings many expectations and increasing anticipatory anxiety to many. There are many reasons why you may feel anxious at Christmas time. From the expectation that this should be the happiest time of the year, or you should be doing certain things, to the increased pressure to socialize and engage in large gatherings. According to a survey, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reported that approximately 24% of people with a diagnosed mental illness find that the holidays make their condition “a lot” worse and 40% “somewhat” worse.
Enjoying the festive season can be even more difficult if you may not have your family and friends around to spend the holiday with or those who experienced the loss of a loved one. During a time of the year that celebrates joy, you may find yourself experiencing feelings of anxiety, stress, loneliness, sadness, or grief. This can make you feel even more isolated and you may blame yourself for not being able to enjoy the holidays like everyone else seems to do.
The financial implications of the Christmas rush to spend can also cause a great deal of anxiety, with presents to buy, new outfits for different social events, and festive ‘essentials’ such as wrapping paper and tree decorations.
And the cherry on the top, the uncertainty dealing with the possibility of new restrictions to combat the spread of the covid19 can be an additional trigger of anxiety and stress.
As I would certainly have guessed at this point, experiencing anxiety during Christmas time is quite common, you are not alone in this. So, what can you do to navigate this time managing those feelings?
7 tips on how you can get through this festive season
1) Learn your triggers
Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. Journal the reasons that increase your anxiety, recognizing your triggers can help to plan how to manage or avoid situations that could exacerbate the feelings.
2) Set realistic expectations
It is very important to set realistic expectations for yourself. No matter how much you plan, realize that many situations and dynamics won’t change just because the holiday is here. Moreover, recognize the role of media pressure when setting expectations and standards for yourself: those may be unrealistic, try to stick to what have meaning for you.
3) Get organised
It pays back to be prepared. Plan what social event you’d like to attend or a way to manage known triggers, for example, avoid the certain topic within family gatherings you know could escalate in conflicts, or seek out somewhere you can retreat to should you need some personal space, whether it’s a quiet bedroom, the garden or even the bathroom.
Have a friend you can plan ahead what to do if your anxiety peak or you enter a panic. This means that you have a trusted person who is equipped to help you cope and make you feel safe. If you feel overwhelmed by the countless things to do during Christmas time, could be very helpful to write down a to-do list: not just can help you follow through with your plan, creating notes and setting reminders, will also allow you to identify all the tasks you can delegate to friends or family member.
4) Take care of your finances
Buying gifts and attending social get-togethers can be expensive. Can be helpful to write down a list of Christmas expenses, plan a budget and stick to it. Look for ways to reduce spending, for example, you could suggest to your family and friends that you only buy gifts for the kids or organize a ‘Secret Santa’ among the adults. It is important to remember that it is the thought that counts.
5) Set boundaries
Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every party, or you may attend just for a few hours. Saying ‘no’ is not about abstaining from everything, but about taking back control.
6) Maintain healthy habits
During the festive period, we tend to give up on healthy habit that strongly contributes to managing anxiety. Ensure that you get an adequate amount of sleep, moderate the consumption of food and drinks that are known to heighten anxiety, drink plenty of water and have a little exercise as going for a brisk walk, have numerous paybacks.
7) Take time to breath
Set aside time for yourself to breathe and recharge. Watch your favorite film, read a book, listen to music, have fun, do something that gives you joy and makes you feel nourished. Be sure to practice some self-preservation and be kind to yourself. Taking time out for meditation can also be helpful: 10 minutes of mindfulness practice each day could help to keep you grounded, calm, and relaxed, restore and reinvigorate the mind, body, and soul.
Ultimately, we wish you a very merry Christmas. Remember to be kind of yourself and take care of yourself over this holiday season, ensure you have strategies in place and access to support to help to reduce anxiety.
Zevo Health provides numerous trainings and programmes that help support employees who may have difficulty dealing with stress and anxiety. Our team of Wellbeing Specialists is trained to ensure every individual leaves our training more knowledgeable in the topic that was discussed.