How To Deal With Christmas Anxiety: Useful Tips
Christmas is for many one of the most wonderful times of the year. However, for some people to celebrate it, you have to go through a lengthy to-do list first. If you’re prone to feeling anxious, this can be an incredibly challenging period. The festive season comes with many challenges that can worsen your symptoms: social obligations, money problems, having more duties, the pressure to be happy, etc. Luckily, feeling a bit overwhelmed doesn’t mean you have to let your anxiety take the wheel; there are many ways to cope. Read on to find out more!
Why Do I Get Anxiety at Christmas and the Festivities?
The Christmas season might not be that merry to some. According to recent statistics, 19% of people agree that the festive period hurts their well-being.  Up to 40% of young people struggle with increased anxiety and loneliness. If you consider COVID’s impact, the percentage might be even higher.
These statistics aren’t that surprising as holidays can be nerve-wracking. While we’re bombarded with an idealised image of Christmas in the commercials, most people’s reality may look very different from what’s seen on TV. Yet, the pressure to meet society’s-imposed expectations may feel huge. We might subconsciously want the festive season to be perfect. The problem is perfection isn’t real. But anxiety sure is!
The festive period is stressful for many people – heightened stress levels can result in anxiety or exacerbate existing anxiety issues. You can find examples of how it can affect you below.
1. Increased number of responsibilities
If you already struggle with anxiety, you may be particularly at risk of suffering from Christmas stress. That’s because of the increased number of responsibilities that can exacerbate your symptoms, especially if you find it difficult to say no and struggle to be assertive. If you take on too many responsibilities, you might feel overwhelmed and worry you’ll be unable to complete them all. For example, suppose you have school-aged children and other parents ask you to get involved in Christmas celebrations. In that case, you might find it hard to refuse for fear of being judged. This can be especially difficult for people who suffer from social anxiety and worry about what other people think.
2. Increased worries and COVID concerns
It’s also easy to overthink during the festivities; you might worry that you won’t be able to find the right kind of present for your loved ones or that your gift won’t be as good as, or better than, a gift from the previous year. The idea of entering a mall during the busiest season of the year might be daunting, especially while the risks of Covid are far from forgotten. If you suffer from generalised anxiety disorder, everything can become a worry if you’re under a lot of stress. You might even worry if the festive period will go ahead at all, considering the increasing number of restrictions.
The festive season often involves attending family gatherings. For some, this might be an opportunity to reconnect with loved ones. For others, it can be a reminder of childhood difficulties or the loss of a loved one. You might also feel obligated to socialise outside the house. You might feel pressured to attend work Christmas parties or catch up with an old friend, as well as being asked to take part in a secret Santa. If you struggle with social anxiety, these instances can be especially dreadful and flood your thoughts with worst-case scenarios.
4. Financial worries
The Christmas season can generate a lot of financial worries. Mainly, if you’re expected to stay away from work, are self-employed, and won’t generate as much income as usual. While days off are great, they can be a source of stress if you can barely afford to buy presents or if spending money on Christmas celebrations will leave you broke. This can have a significantly detrimental effect if you’re struggling with other mental health issues as financial worry and money problems are linked to chronic stress and depression.
5. Food and Drinking Challenges
Other reasons you might feel anxious during the Christmas period include worrying about relapsing into drinking alcohol as most celebrations may involve drinking. You could be more likely to rely on unhealthy habits if you’re under a lot of stress. Keep in mind that taking the edge off with a drink, although representing a short-term relief, can worsen your anxiety symptoms in the long run.
You might also worry about putting on weight or being judged for it if your family members are likely to comment on your appearance. This might be particularly concerning for someone who previously struggled with unhelpful eating habits or an eating disorder. You might feel pressured to eat or worry that you’ll relapse into binge eating due to heightened levels of stress.
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How to recognise holiday stress
It’s not always easy to recognise that you’re under stress, especially for someone with anxiety who might already feel edgy daily. This is why it’s a good idea to keep track of your mood. You can either download an app that allows you to rate your mood and describe it in a few adjectives or keep a diary where you write about your day. This will also allow you to spot any unhelpful behaviours you might start engaging in due to Stress.
Tips To Reduce Christmas Anxiety
Whatever has the most significant impact on your anxiety, there are ways you can keep it at bay this holiday season. Remember – you aren’t alone. Holidays stress affects many of us in one way or another. Although it may be only temporary for some, it can exacerbate pre-existing mental health issues for others. Once you’ve recognised that you need to take a step back, it’s half of the success.
Lower your expectations
Christmas might be called the happiest time of the year, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that. Remind yourself that it’s impossible to meet everyone’s expectations, and things don’t always go according to plan. Recall the previous Christmas season and ask yourself, did everything go perfectly? For most people, the answer would be a ‘no, it didn’t’. Let’s face it: there’s always something that goes wrong. Everything going perfectly is simply not realistic. Tell yourself you’re doing fine even if not enough items have been ticked off your to-do list yet. Repeat it to yourself every day, even if you feel like you’re failing.
Additionally, try to spend less time on social media. Comparison is the biggest killer of joy. People love sharing photos of their families and decorations, which might make you feel like you’re falling behind.
Include self-care into your routine
Christmas is about sharing love with other people but don’t forget about the most important person: you. Make sure to include self-care in your routine; engage in relaxing activities such as having a hot bath, reading a book or watching your favourite show. Celebrate Christmas by making yourself a priority. Self-care may be the most precious gift to make these festivities.
Plan in advance
Lack of organisation can only add to your stress. As soon as you realise that the holidays are approaching, make a (reasonable!) list of things you must do, but don’t overdo it. Read it and then cross out items that aren’t necessary. For example, if you want to get some decorations, you don’t have to go to a supermarket to find them, it may be easier and less stressful to buy them online, unless of course going out would benefit you.
Similarly, you don’t have to send a postcard to every person you know; it’ll be easier to send them wishes via text. Think of activities you can give up on this year because the only thing you should never give up on is your health. If you overwhelm yourself with a lengthy to-do list, you won’t have the time to take care of yourself.
If you feel like sugar is the only way to survive this holiday, you aren’t alone. Unfortunately, while it can give you a temporary sense of comfort, it won’t do you any favours in the long run. If you want to avoid emerging from this season feeling even more on edge, stick to a healthy diet. It will benefit both your mental and physical health. For example, you can allow yourself to eat snacks only at a particular time of the day and start a day with a healthy breakfast to ensure you crave sugar less.
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What is the Best Christmas Present for Someone with Anxiety?
While you don’t need an expensive gift to show someone you care about them, why not treat yourself or a loved one to a present that can ease their anxiety this Christmas?
Follow the list below for some inspiration.
Have you ever noticed how the weight of a person hugging you can make you feel at peace? This is how heavy blankets work. They use pressure to put you in a calm state and improve your sleep – they are called anti-anxiety blankets for a reason. Plus, they’re great at keeping you warm, so you’re killing two birds with one stone.
White noise machine
Anxiety can negatively impact your sleep which might be even more disturbed during Christmas and, in turn, worsen your anxiety symptoms even more. This is why you should aim to get a restful sleep. A white noise machine can fulfil this function by drowning out the outside noise and forcing you to focus on the sounds instead of your thoughts. This can help you calm your mind and result in better quality sleep.
A mug with inspirational quotes
For most people, anxiety worsens in the morning or in the evening. Getting an inspirational mug is a great gift for someone with anxiety as it will get them to read what it says whenever they have a cup of tea or coffee and boost their mood as a result. A simple way to turn someone’s (or your own) day around. You could include a quote that has significance for the person you’re gifting it to or an inside joke. Why not consider searching for a quote online if you’re out of ideas?
Here are some examples:
– “Life is ten per cent what you experience and ninety per cent how you respond to it.”
– “You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.”
– “Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important.”
– “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the aeroplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”
Don’t underestimate the power of a nice, hot bath. It’s one of the best ways to unwind after a stressful day, which is especially important for someone struggling with anxiety. This is a coping skill you might be already familiar with. Still, you can make it extra special by adding relaxing bath bombs. Some brands offer bath bombs made with essential oils, which have various health benefits. For example, lavender improves relaxation, and ginger may lift your mood!
Anxiety can make you engage in many unhealthy habits, so it’s essential to have techniques you can rely upon to reduce its symptoms. A stress ball is an instant stress reliever that can be taken everywhere and used all the time. Whenever you feel tense, just give it a squeeze – it helps a lot.
Lava lamps are pretty, but their function goes beyond that. Watching the paraffin wax melt can make you feel relaxed and distract you from negative thoughts.
Himalayan salt lamp
Just like lava lamps, Himalayan salt lamps are more than a decoration. The salt they’re carved out of is said to have many health benefits, such as boosting your mood and improving your sleep. Plus, they create a pleasant atmosphere that can help you relax.
Subscription to a meditation app
Practising meditation regularly can do wonders for your mental health by teaching you how to live in the present and decreasing your levels of stress and anxiety as a result. Most apps have various types of guided meditations that can suit anyone’s needs, so it’s an ideal gift for someone who struggles with anxiety.
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Anxiety Therapy in London and Online
While anxiety symptoms are likely to ease once the Christmas period is over, in some cases they can carry on to the next year and have a detrimental effect on your wellbeing. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to reach out for help as soon as your condition worsens, or if you feel it’s not getting better.
At Therapy Central, we have qualified therapists that specialise in various anxiety treatments. Contact us for a free 15 min consultation to see if our help would fit your needs.