The holiday season is not the most wonderful time of the year for everyone.
Christmas can be a very stressful time for people. The increase in social events, dining out, money spent, and the general expectation of what Christmas “should” be like can become extremely overwhelming.
A recent Harvard Medical School survey shows that nearly two-thirds (62%) of people experience increased stress levels while on vacation. The added financial pressures of Christmas, along with rising costs and rising energy bills, are also likely to worsen stress levels.
And for people who already suffer from anxiety, it can become unbearable – with 64% of those who already have mental illnesses saying the Christmas period makes their condition worse, according to the National Mental Illness Alliance.
“The holiday season is often filled with expectations,” Dr Elena Touroni, consultant psychologist and co-founder of the Chelsea Psychology Clinic, told Metro.co.uk.
“There can be a lot of pressure to have a ‘perfect’ Christmas, which can bring up feelings of anxiety, especially if someone is already vulnerable to anxiety on a daily basis.”
Christmas can also be an incredibly isolating time for people who don’t have family or friends to spend the holidays with, or who are dealing with the loss of a loved one.
Such was the case of Emma Roberts, 39, who lost her mother when she was just 11 – due to complications after giving birth to Emma’s younger sister.
‘After my mum died, Christmas became very anxiety-inducing for me. I would absolutely dread it and feel extreme panic on Christmas Day,’ the AP, sleep consultant and adviser, told Metro.co.uk infant.
“It was incredibly lonely, depressing and scary. I felt so scared and just wanted to be alone because being without my mom was devastating.
“Christmas is such a happy time for some, but a time of deep anxiety, depression and loneliness for others.”
Over the years, she has gone to therapy to mourn the loss of her mother, and now Emma has her own family to share new Christmas traditions with.
“I also listened to my anxiety and I know how to calm it down. My own family contributes to this sense of loss and grief, and I spend time with people I love,” she explains.
“I often see friends over Christmas time, and that really helps me.
“There’s still a sense of loss, but it’s easier to deal with now. I no longer hide from anxiety, I can accept it and live with it rather than running away.
Emma’s tips for dealing with loss anxiety over Christmas:
- Spend time with people who are supportive, can make you laugh, and lift your spirits.
- Understand why you are anxious and seek professional help.
- Write down your feelings to lighten the load.
- Go for a walk or do some light exercise to help you feel less anxious and more relaxed.
- Ask for help, you are not a burden and the right people will be happy to help you.
Trying to coordinate Christmas as a blended family can create additional hurdles.
When Miryka Yeates, 32, first shared Christmas with her partner, Martin, in 2016, she was “full of anxiety”.
“He has four children with his ex, and I have two children from past relationships,” the blended family guidance coach from Warwickshire told Metro.co.uk.
“I had so many worries and stresses about making it the perfect Christmas for everyone – like ‘will I be able to match everyone’s schedules?’, ‘What if the other parents cause trouble? and “how could we make it fair for every child?”
And despite the 2016 holidays, when Christmas 2017 arrived, Miryka started to feel “nervous and restless” again.
She adds, “I was so overwhelmed with everything, constantly worrying about everyone’s Christmas and forgetting about my own fun. I felt so isolated.
Seven years later, the stress has not gone away.
Miryka continues, “We are a blended family, so schedules and fairness will still be there, but we talk more about how we feel. We have a routine now, and I’m taking better care of myself, which really helps if the overload sets in.
Miryka’s tips for dealing with blended family anxiety at Christmas:
- Communicate with your partner to comfort and support each other.
- Find your triggers and dig deep to find out why they’re bothering you.
- Manage your expectations of what Christmas should look like.
- Give yourself permission to say no. It’s okay to say no to things that cause you more anxiety.
- Do not forget yourself. Self-care is a big expectation to help rebalance yourself and calm your mind.
For many people with anxiety during this time, there won’t necessarily be a specific cause. Christmas might not be your “thing”.
So what can be done to limit the general anxiety and stress induced by Christmas?
How to Cope With Party Anxiety
Go at your own pace
“My advice would be to take your time and take it one step at a time,” Zeal CBD health and wellness expert Jay Riggs told Metro.co.uk.
“Christmas can be a really busy time of year, but if you need to slow things down and just need a break from all the parties, drinking, shopping or even socializing, then don’t feel bad about it. take one.”
You might also find that public spaces can become too overwhelming with all the noises, lights, smells and long queues.
This can disturb you and complicate your daily tasks.
Jay says, “Your friends and family will understand if you just need some alone time. But make sure you don’t isolate yourself.
Be realistic and set limits
“If you have difficulty with certain family members, be realistic about how much time is healthy to spend with them,” says Dr. Elena. “Instead of staying the night, visit them for lunch.”
And give yourself permission to say “no”. Don’t force yourself to be in situations you don’t want to be in.
Keep your expectations low
“Don’t dwell on what the Christmas holidays are supposed to be like and how you’re supposed to feel,” says Dr. Sue Peacock, a leading consultant health psychologist.
“If you compare your festivities to an ideal greeting card, they will always fall short.”
do something different
This year, if the prospect of the usual routine fills you with dread rather than joy, why not change it?
“Try something different,” recommends Dr. Sue. ‘Christmas dinner in a restaurant. Spend Boxing Day at the movies or ask your family to agree to donate the money to charity instead of exchanging gifts.
Give yourself a break
“Christmas and New Years can be a time to dwell on imperfections, mistakes and things you’re not proud of,” warns Dr Sue.
“So be gentle with yourself and proud of how well you handled the year.”
Take care of yourself
“Commit to doing things that nourish you and give you a sense of well-being throughout the holiday season,” says Dr. Elena.
She suggests running an indulgent bath, sticking to your exercise routine, or taking nice walks.
‘If you are struggling, support is there for you. Speak to your GP or a private therapist,” says Dr Elena.
“The sooner you get the right support, the better your chances of a quick recovery.”
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