It's a time of year we are asked to aspire to a completely unrealistic version of ourselves. One that has a perfect family, that arrives to all the parties looking great, affords wonderful gifts, and on it goes.
No wonder Christmas anxiety is a thing. If we are already an anxiety sufferer, our mind will have a heyday overthinking all that can go wrong.
So what can be done?
Pushing yourself to be as organised, festive, and perfectly turned out as others helps no one. For starters, we never really know how stressed or unhappy another person secretly is or isn’t, regardless of their perfect family portraits on social media or enviable party outfits. Why try to be like them?
Also be very wary to compare this Christmas to those past. This is especially important if you have lost a loved one or are away from your family. Worrying if you will ever again have as good of a Christmas distracts you from any opportunity that might arrive to enjoy yourself in the here and now.
Anxiety can be tricky. If we let it run the show we say no to everything. Yes, we feel 'safe' hiding out at home, but we miss out on connecting with others, and on having new experiences that lead to lasting memories. We end up feeling low.
On the other hand, anxiety can make us say yes to things we don’t want to do, as we are anxious about upsetting others or missing out. We end up exhausted.
Ask yourself, "If nobody else was involved and there was nobody to please would I want to do this? If I could be sure that nothing bad would happen if I went out to this event, would I? On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely is it that something ‘bad’ would happen? "
Yes, we need to make big decisions and have big conversations in life.
But there is a time and place for everything and the Christmas season is rarely it. There is nothing wrong with delaying asking your boss for a raise, telling your family that you are taking a job overseas, or even delaying a breakup. True, some things can’t wait, but if it can, then let it. See it as self preservation in a season of high anxiety.
And if it's someone else who always brings the drama, do you really need to agree to see them right now?
Yes, maybe other people can party seven days straight, sleep three hours a night, and keep it together. But if you are an anxiety sufferer you have to accept that this won’t be you. Poor sleep and hangovers make anxiety worse.
Instead, book in some self care now and make it non negotiable. If you need to be at the gym during the day on Christmas Eve to feel calm enough to navigate an evening with your family, or go to bed early the night before, so be it.
Do you have another friend who also has anxiety or depression, or at least gets it? See if he or she wants to be 'support buddies' over the Christmas holidays.
What this means is that you are on call should the other person be in a panic. Or course set healthy boundaries in advance. Agree, for example, to allow each other a five-minute timed and uninterrupted rant, but not more, or to not call or text during certain hours.
Don’t have anyone to turn to? Consider booking a therapy appointment. Yes, you have to pay. But the undivided attention of someone who not only doesn’t judge your anxiety, but completely understands it, and you? It can be more than worth it.
Ready to talk to someone about your anxiety and start to feel better? Find a therapist you like at a price you afford and be talking as soon as tomorrow.