Coping with Anxiety at Christmas

December 16, 2021

Not only is Christmas a time for excitement and joy, but it can also be a huge trigger for people who deal with anxiety. And even people who don't typically experience anxiety can become quickly overwhelmed by the amount of planning and effort this time of year tends to demand.

Being overwhelmed or anxious around Christmas does not mean you won't enjoy the holidays; it just may take an extra effort on your part to find those peaceful moments. In fact, even feelings of excitement, which can feel so similar to anxiety, can be misinterpreted as dread or panic and end up preventing your ability to relax and have fun. But with a little reframing and preparation there's a good chance you can enjoy these next two weeks.

Here are 3 ways to cope with Christmas Overwhelm

Practice mental flexibility

A lot of the lead up to Christmas is spent planning and organising different events, which can cause huge amounts of stress and disappointment if they go wrong. Understandably so. But people who possess a more flexible mindset are better able to adapt when things pan out differently and are more open to alternative solutions. While it's easier said than done, try to approach Christmas with an open mind and focus on problem solving rather than the problem itself if they arise.

More ways to practice mental flexibility;

Lower your expectations

Some of those overwhelming and anxious thoughts may stem from the need to please others and live up to expectations that society or family members have placed on you. But that isn't what this holiday should be about. Christmas doesn't have to look a certain way to be enjoyed and it certainly does not need to be "perfect". You don't need to have ornaments in every room, cookies decorated to perfection or a dinner with everyones favourite form of a potato.

Try to be as realistic as you can when it comes to what you want to achieve this Christmas. Don't try to be superhuman and fit a million different things into the two weeks we have left. Just make a note of one or two things you'd like to do this Christmas and let go of the rest of it. It's not worth the stress.

Pay attention to your vulnerability factors

It can be fairly easy to spot your emotional triggers once you start to be more emotionally aware, but it's not so straightforward to recognise your vulnerability factors. These factors tend to be the various basic needs you need to meet to be able to buffer against your triggers. eg. If you're sick or hungry you may be more vulnerable to your triggers. Whereas if you're feeling fit and healthy, your triggers are easier to manage and overcome.

Other vulnerability factors can include; light exposure, crowded spaces, illness, pain, thirst, temperature, emotions, alcohol and social support.

By recognising what your vulnerability factors are and making sure they are all being met can help you overcome the stressors of Christmas more effectively and stand a better chance of having a good time.

Post by a member of the Feelmo team.

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London, UK