20 Dec Coping with Christmas
For many people, the festive season is an exciting time to connect with others and celebrate. But for others, it can be the most stressful time of the year. Financial issues, family conflict and loneliness can increase stress for people with anxiety or depression in the lead-up to Christmas and the new year.
Being invited to social events and the pressure of living up to expectations can increase stress for people with mental health conditions. Some people also might start putting too much pressure on themselves about what they should buy or do for others. Others might dread catching up with family because it may end in conflict. Some fear the change in structure and routine over the break period as work provides structure and purpose, perhaps without leading to a slight loss of identity or purpose, or loneliness. Everyone experiences the Christmas period very differently.
Common Stressors Our Psychologists Have Found During The Festive Seasons?
Our highly skilled psychologists deliver focused psychological support for our clients and ensure to hold a safe space for a range of mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, stress, burn-out, relationship difficulties, eating disorders, poor body image, low self-esteem and sleeping difficulties. We’ve found common stress over this festive season to include anxiety around body image as well as exposure to a wide variety of foods including meats and sweets, and the associated pressure from family to conform to certain family traditions.
Top 6 Strategies to Manage Stress:
Here are some festive management strategies to help you deal with the holiday season – as well as tips to manage mental health over this time of year.
- Change your expectations – Your feelings are valid. Your thoughts however may not be. When you notice a little anxiety bubble up, start by writing down your unhelpful thoughts. What are you thinking about? What is that little voice saying? Reflect on these thoughts by writing them down. Are these thoughts facts or beliefs? Facts or assumptions? Perhaps based on our past experiences at this time of year; therefore we are predicting or expecting the worst. Let’s try and shift this a little so that it doesn’t feel so harsh. Unhelpful thoughts result in anxiety and low mood; you have control over reframing and/or interpreting these more rationally to reduce these catastrophic thinking patterns. Perhaps we factor in that we can disengage when it gets too overwhelming when needed at well. That takes us to our second tip.
- Understand your needs – You have a choice in how you spend your holiday season. It may be that you simply need to change your expectations for the day; change Christmas to meet your needs and spend time with supportive people. It’s 100% okay to listen to your needs and say no. You can find your balance – join parts of the festivities that you enjoy, but remove yourself from other parts. Christmas does not need to be an overwhelming to-do list or crammed with things you feel obligated to do out of tradition.
- Prevention of conflict – Christmas can be stressful if there is tension between your family or friends. Often the expectation is to just put on a smile. Most people are experiencing stress to some degree, for reasons we may not know about. Often it is not known, therefore we do not know why they are acting in that way, but we can feel the awkwardness or feel uncomfortable. All we can do is to try and keep as understanding as we can of other people’s situations. However, keep mindful that our role is not to resolve any family conflicts. Try to keep neutral and not engage in family difficulties; especially when having a few drinks. Keeping alcohol consumption at a minimum is usually best in uncomfortable moments.
- Break up celebrations – Spend time with one group of relatives on Christmas Eve and the other on Christmas Day if possible. Often when mixing separate groups we find ourselves feeling pressure to ensure everyone is comfortable with someone to talk to. This can be exhausting and can be outside of our control.
- Plan a group activity – One of the number one tips on Christmas Day is it ensures people are focusing on an activity, such as backyard cricket, board games, or outside games on the grass– to keep people focused and distracted especially when there is a little family conflict. Often these activities bring the group together positively.
- Reduce the amount of alcohol consumed – Try to avoid the silly season getting outside of control silly by reducing the amount of alcohol that could contribute to arguments. Do not mix drinks, have plenty of water and limit the time spent with alcohol.
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