It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Well, at least in theory. The truth is December IS one of my favourite times of the year, but I understand that it can also be very stressful and overwhelming for a lot of people. I have experienced this anxiety first-hand. Between financial stress, issues around family, generalised social anxiety and much more there is a lot that can go wrong for us. In this post I hope to lay out some of the most common causes of holiday worries, and also discuss how we can go about trying our best to get through them.
This Christmas in particular will be even more challenging for many of us due to the added pressure from the Covid-19 Pandemic. Not being able to relieve stress through seeing some of our friends and family, and the added social pressure that this Christmas needs to be bigger and better to make up for a pretty bad year we’ve had. However, thinking along these lines sets us up for a sense of perfection that is unachievable for most and makes us forget the type of holiday we actually want.
A huge feeling of anxiety is in the air this time of the year. People are louder and more easily excited, and with this, more easily agitated. Being out in public with shoppers trying to buy their last-minute gifts can cause the feeling of being overwhelmed, whilst getting invited to holiday parties or staff outings, can trigger a whole bunch of emotions about having to socialise in public situations or draw a bridge between your personal and work life, an especially tricky task when you’re not overly fond of the latter. All of these and many more of the expectations placed upon us at Christmas to socialise more than usual can really leave us feeling drained and disheartened.
Another one of the most common causes of worry during the holiday season comes from financial stress. Christmas is a holiday where we are constantly encouraged to spend. Buy decorations, buy a tree, buy a Christmas jumper, buy ingredients for a nice fancy dinner, buy gifts for friends and family, buy drinks. All of these traditions and expectations add up very quickly and have us feeling pretty concerned about the numbers on our bank balance when we’re done spending. This is even more difficult if you have children to buy for as well.
One of the biggest causes in the rise of anxiety and depression levels for me personally around this time of year comes from family issues. Families at Christmas can be even more work than usual, and that’s not even factoring in what kind of history you may have with your immediate family. With some families, there is a lot of pressure added to their children in order to act a certain way around the holidays, and with other families they may overindulge in festivities such as drinking and allow things to get aggressive and spiral into a toxic environment.
The issue with all of these negative feelings is that during the holidays, if you act or voice the fact that you don’t feel happy, you may be viewed as a grinch or buzzkill. However, this shouldn’t stop you from voicing how you feel as this can be one of the key approaches to relieving some stress and allowing you to get back on track. Being able to open up to your partner, a close friend or a family member is always a valuable outlet, which allows you to relieve some of the pressure you’re feeling and stop your emotional anger from boiling over.
Another way we can work towards feeling better over the holiday period is to practice some self-care. Whilst I have laid some of these out in previous posts, at Christmas it can’t be stressed enough just how important taking some time for yourself is. This can take the shape of many different plans. It can be something as small as taking an evening to yourself now and then to relax and watch a TV show or a Christmas film (If you want to keep things festive), or it can be something a bit more indulgent such as taking a few days off work to go for a trip or have a self-care day.
If you can’t afford the luxury of days off work or an evening alone when you have children and other responsibilities, even just getting out for a walk at work for 15-20 minutes can help clear your head and make you feel a little better. Being able to at least take comfort in the small moments like this and getting a good night sleep or a warm meal, is something we should all try our best to achieve especially in this most stressful, busy time of the year.
A great method I have used over the years in order to help me with the overall anxiety I have around the holidays is through the creation of little traditions which I always look forward to. Each year on the run up to Christmas, I always watch my favourite move ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. It’s something I genuinely look forward to and love, every year without doubt it makes me tear up and gives me some much-needed catharsis to how I’ve been feeling. Another tradition I look forward to is Christmas morning breakfast. Every year for as long as I can remember I have had a pack of chocolate Pop tarts, and whilst it may sound silly, it’s something I really look forward to. These little rituals and traditions pack so much power and allow me to make an otherwise stressful time of the year much more enjoyable.
If nothing else, there may be something to say for the chaos this time of year. So many other people are feeling just as lost with everything going on. It seems like a strange piece of advice to give, but there can be a lot of humour to be found. Take some time to notice the goings on around you and you’ll quickly notice just how funny a lot of it is. There is definitely something to be said about people getting excited about tinsel or going a bit crazy over how many sweets they have in the house in case they have visitors over. It’s all part of the charm really and I for one, plan on trying to enjoy as much of it as I can. If you’re experiencing any of the feelings described in this post, or know somebody who is, then there are many things you can do to help. Talking to somebody about how you or they are feeling can be very beneficial. If you’re not sure what to do but need urgent help, there are many emergency hotlines that provide support and encouragement such as Mind.org and Samaritans.org. You’re not alone in feeling this way, others are there to help. Just because it’s the holidays, doesn’t mean you have to put your feelings on hold.