For many people, Christmas is a time for happiness and being together, but for others, it can be so terrifying it can cause an increase in symptoms. The anxiety around money, the thought of having to go to family gatherings or parties, the pressure to be happy, the thought of being alone, having people tell you ‘pull yourself together, it’s Christmas!’ can be very unhelpful and make symptoms worse.
I used to hate Christmas and everything to do with it. I would avoid even thinking about Christmas but when it’s everywhere you look it can be hard to do that. The pressure of knowing I had to see people when all I wanted to do was hide, knowing I had to seem happy and put together was almost too much to bear at times. But unfortunately, Mental illness doesn’t take days off – no matter what time of year it is, and having the right tools to get you through is so important. Below are some of my top tips to make things more bearable.
Be honest about your feelings.
This one can be hard if you have people who don’t understand or who are not supportive of your struggles, but if you do have family who understands then be honest. If something feels too difficult or scary, let people know, they might surprise you and you might be able to come up with something that feels easier so you don’t miss out.
Have a plan.
If you have to attend Christmas gatherings or parties, have a plan. Decide what time you’re leaving so you have something to aim towards. For example – ‘I can get through this, there are only x amounts of hours left and it’ll be over’. If you’re responsible for hosting parties or cooking Christmas dinner, have a step by step list or plan so you know exactly what you have to do, so you’ll less likely to become overwhelmed.
Make time for yourself.
Self-care is important – especially if you find this time of year more difficult. It’s important to make time for yourself and your needs, away from anything that stresses you out. It can be something as simple having a bath, feeding yourself and drinking water – anything that doesn’t feel like a chore to do.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
There’s already enough pressure from society and other people, so there’s no good piling on more. It’s ok if you can’t do something, it’s ok if you have to leave early or not go somewhere at all, no good comes from putting too much pressure on yourself. It’s okay to say no if you can’t manage something. I know one of the hardest things for me is saying no, but it’s important to have healthy boundaries and realistic expectations for yourself.
Distraction, distraction, distraction.
With Christmas everywhere, it’s hard to escape. However, whilst you always have some degree of control, in the comfort of your own space, you are in the most control. If watching Christmas films or adverts makes your anxious thoughts worse, turn Netflix on and watch something not related to Christmas, listen to music, read books, anything not related to Christmas. It can help to have that space where you can pretend it isn’t Christmas and just relax.
Know where to turn for support.
Sometimes, no matter how much you prepare or try out different ways to cope, you can become overwhelmed. Below, I have listed various organizations you can contact if you need extra support:
- Samaritans (Call 116 123, open 24 hours, 365 days a year, Email, email@example.com, response time within 24 hours a day). For more information visit their website here.
- Shout (Text Shout to 85258, open 24/7). For more information visit their website here.
- SANEline (Call 0300 304 7000, 4.30pm to 10.30pm every day). For more information visit their website here.
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Do you have any more tips on dealing with anxiety at Christmas?