This “most wonderful time of the year” can also be incredibly overwhelming. It sometimes feels like there’s an obligation to party, a duty to feel joyful (spoiler – there isn’t and we’ve also written this guide to saying no) which can be very anxiety inducing.
To help with dealing with these feelings of anxiety, we’ve rounded up the best advice from leading mental health organisations to help you manage anxiety and stress during the festive season.
Anxiety UK Recommends…
“We know many people can feel anxious over the Christmas period and become especially anxious about social gatherings during the festive period; it’s quite common. People who experience anxiety and particularly social anxiety can feel pressure to attend the various social engagements and commitments that Christmas brings. This can lead to increased feelings of anxiety.”
- Keep Active // We can still go for a walk or maintain our exercise regimen during the festivities. Many gyms offer 24 hours access which means that we don’t need to miss out. ParkRun also have a lot of 5k runs with a great community feel.
- Drink Responsibly // Many people say that alcohol helps to relax their anxiety however, drinking too much and the following hangover can often lead us to feel worse. Know your limits and stay safe. Keep hydrated by drinking water and other non-alcoholic beverages.
No matter how or if you celebrate, it is normal that this time of year can affect your mental health. You may be feeling like you aren’t enjoying the things you usually do this time of year. You may be worried about friends and family or other things happening in the world. You are not alone. There are all sorts of reasons you might find this time of year difficult and that’s OK. Here’s some top tips & resources:
- Try a relaxation exercise // Sometimes something simple like controlled breathing can help us feel calmer. Muscle relaxation exercises can also help reduce feelings of stress or anxiety. These simple breathing exercises are easy to memorise and can be practised almost anywhere.
- Reach out // It can be hard to reach out if the people around you seem happy when you don’t. Talking to a trusted friend or family member is something we’d encourage you to try, however you can. Talking about how you’re feeling can help put things into perspective and may help you feel more positive about the future.
If you don’t have family or friends close by or don’t feel like there’s anyone you can talk to, you are never alone. Samaritans volunteers are here for you every day of the year, round the clock.
- Take time for yourself // Make time for something you enjoy. It could be doing something creative, watching a favourite movie, or wrapping up warm and spending time outdoors.
If you’re active online, making time for other activities can help you to take a break from the news or social media. If you find it hard to stay offline, try switching off your notifications or leaving your phone in another room for a few hours.
- State expectations // Make sure that you have conversations with your family and friends about everyone’s expectations of Christmas well in advance. That way you can deal with any difficult demands and make compromises that suit everyone.
If you’re worried about the cost of Christmas you could also set some spending limits for gifts or come up with ideas for presents that don’t need to be bought; for example washing the car or making someone breakfast in bed.
- Practical prep // If you’re hosting Christmas, it’s always a good idea to do some prep beforehand – simple things like making (or buying!) the food early or wrapping presents the weekend before can really help.
Make a list of tasks that need to be done in the run up to Christmas and ask your family and friends to each put their name to something. You can stick this up at home and even get the kids to decorate it with Christmas pictures or stickers.
The Vagus Nerve – or wandering nerve – links our brain with every other organ in the body. It is responsible for heart rate, breathing, reflex actions (like sneezing & gagging) and is believed to play a critical role in mental health and our parasympathetic nervous system.
Stimulating the vagus nerve has been shown to ease symptoms like stress, anxiety, depression and even PTSD. Try this quick exercise: place the heel of one hand on your breast bone (the middle of your chest) and the other hand on top. Press firmly & take three slow deep breaths, in for three, out for six and feel a deep sense of calm & grounding. Repeat as required to relax and return to the room.