Christmas can be a magical time. It can also be a stressful time with lots of expectations, and the pressure to be happy during the holidays can feel overwhelming. MyMind Psychologist Beatriz Moreno shares advice on how to best manage your stress levels and avoid anxiety at Christmas.
Before Christmas day :
- Manage expectations about Christmas day. Ask yourself if your expectations about the Christmas season are realistic. Do not let the anticipation of that day affect your every day now. If you are attending counselling or psychotherapy already, it will be worth talking about this with your therapist. Both of you together should find a way to reduce anxiety about whatever you think it is going to happen this Christmas and your fears around the holiday.
- Make a list. If the thought of Christmas is upsetting you, you might consider making a list of 5-10 possible scenarios (things that you think might happen), starting with the one that is creating you less anxiety and finishing by the one that causes you the highest level of anxiety. Recreating these situations in your imagination first will make you feel more confident and prepare you for what might trigger anxiety. Remember that your brain doesn’t distinguish from whatever you are imagining and what is actually happening or not, so it will be worth telling your brain that you are capable of confronting it.
- Plan ahead. Try to ‘brainstorm’ and think of ideas that would make Christmas more enjoyable and right for you.
- Remember that Christmas day is just one day, one dinner, one occasion in a whole year. Remember that Christmas is about taking a step back from every day obligations and spending time with your loved ones ( family, friends, pets.). Also – do not believe the TV ads that make you believe that everybody is happy at Christmas – this is simply untrue and the pressure to be ‘happy’ and ‘cheerful’ will have the very opposite effect.
After Christmas day:
- Avoid social media. Every year as we come closer to New Year’s day, we see posts on Facebook/Twitter of people celebrating the goals they achieved during the year, and how many more goals they are planning to achieve in the New Year. Now it seems that everybody is going to change their lives overnight, just because it is New Year’s day.
- Do not compare yourself with people. By checking social media, your mind may go straight to asking ‘What have I done this past year?’ Well, you have done just plenty. Sure, you could have done something differently but that doesn’t mean you need to change who you are. Even if you think you have not achieved the goal you wanted, you have worked very hard on your way towards it and are a lot closer to achieving your dreams that last year. Remember that change takes time.
- Try and challenge your mindset. Forget about “achievement” and ” goals”, and ask yourself, ‘Have I loved this past year?’, ‘Have I smiled’, ‘Have I had fun?’ These things are much more important.
- If you are doing New Year’s resolutions, try and make them more realistic, and achievable, give yourself more time, and don’t be so hard on yourself. Start by changing the language you’re using now, towards a more positive one. If your goal for this year is not to eat so much chocolate, try and to change it to a more manageable goal. Instead of saying you’re going to give up chocolate, why not aim instead for eating one square of dark chocolate instead of three squares of milk chocolate.