There are holidays and there are holidays. There is one holiday that is different from the rest, happening at the end of the year and always looks like a parting gift that ends a year – whether good or bad – and transitions us into a new year – an opportunity for a fresh start.
It’s the Christmas holiday just in case you are trying to figure what other holiday comes close.
You know as well that once we enter the ‘ember’ month, the smell of Christmas starts filing the air because we can all already smell the holiday, taste the turkey and chicken – whichever one you do, and getting excited with thanksgiving and family presence.
But!!! It comes with its own pressure.
How do you handle the pressures of the holiday – from planning to shopping and ensuring everyone have a nice time while also trying to stay in budget because January usually comes with extra days. Or so it seems.
Christmas is a time for peaceful relaxation by the fire right; a wonderful time with family and friends, and also a peaceful, gentle walks and play at the beach with many entertaining events featuring all your amazing superstars – Wizkid, Dbanj, Davido etc., and non-stop magic and fun!
Well, not always so.
While Christmas is an exciting season filled with joyful celebrations, re-connections and quality time with those we cherish most, it can also bring it owns anxiety, stress and pressure. There is often an overwhelming pressure to get everything done — and to do it right — and financial concerns in regards to buying gifts, new clothes for the kids, fixing you’re your interiors, making sure the car is in good condition etc. can raise the stakes.
A common problem that many of us can fall into is the gap between our hopes, expectations and wishes for the Christmas season…and the reality.
Here are some key points to bear in mind this festive season to help you to manage anxiety and stress and cope with the added pressure Christmas can bring.
- Some people get depressed at Christmas
Most people get depressed at Christmas because of the excessive commercialisation of the season, with the focus on gifts and the emphasis on “perfect” social activities.
Others get depressed because Christmas appears to be a trigger to engage in excessive self-reflection and rumination about the inadequacies of life (and a “victim” mentality) in comparison to other people who seem to have more and do more. Others become anxious at Christmas because of the pressure (both commercial and self-induced) to spend a lot of money on gifts and incur increasing debt.
Others report that they dread Christmas because of the expectations of social gatherings with family, friends and acquaintances that they’d rather not spend time with. And finally, many people feel very lonely at Christmas because they have suffered the loss of loved ones or their jobs.
- Some people find the Christmas season to be very stressful.
There’s shopping,cooking, cleaning, parties, travel, crowds, the onslaught of advertising telling us about everything we “should” have, expectations, positive and negative anticipation, the fear of failure (giving the “wrong” gifts, an unsuccessful party, disappointing food, inappropriate clothes), the pressure from our family and friends about what they “want,” interactions with people we may not always get along with, and the ingestion of sweets, treats, drinks, and extra calories…to name a few.
SIGNS THAT THE HOLIDAYS ARE GETTING THE BEST OF YOU
• Irritability: “Some people show their stress by putting frenetic energy into trying to ‘fix’ things, ” says Parks. “They become irritable, which can make things more stressful by stressing out family and friends.”
• Withdrawal: Another common response to stress, she says, is withdrawal and despondency, which can cause someone to give up on their to-do list and holiday commitments, or disengage completely. This can present as sadness, anger and feelings of bitterness.
• Other symptoms: People with chronic stress or anxiety may also experience frequently disrupted sleep, an inability to focus or feel scattered.
SIMPLE STRATEGIES FOR A MORE RELAXING SEASON
- Take time for yourself
Make sure you schedule in time for yourself. Christmas can all too easily be about family, cooking, travel and boozy late nights with friends, which is great, but not if it makes your anxiety worse. Be sure to schedule in some time for yourself, take yourself off for a walk, and have a daily bath, sneak off to read your book, or meet friends for lunch instead of dinner and get an early night. Try to see it as an essential investment in yourself, recharging your batteries so you can be your calmest and happiest self for you and for others.
It’s easy to see how exercise can take a back seat during the holidays. You’re
out of your normal routine, there’s too much to do, you’re hungover, you’re too full of cheese, or the favourite excuse of ‘I’ll restart exercising again in January’.
The fact that we have all that going on, means that exercise is more essential
than ever. Exercise is one of the best things you can do to stay calm and to feel good.
- Take it easy with alcohol
It’s true that having a hangover can make you feel 10 times worse, more nervous, tense and edgy than normal and feeling rubbish about yourself to boot.
In addition, there’s nothing more anxiety provoking than that awful feeling of ‘what did I do last night?’ the day after the work Christmas party.
- Take frequent rest breaks
A great way to minimize the buildup of stress is to take regular rest breaks.
Making sure to take time to rest and relax each day can keep your body and mind healthy, especially during busy or pressure-filled times like the Christmas holiday season. Also, resting for even five minutes here and there throughout the day can be enough to diffuse and offset a build up of stress. Practising a daily deep relaxation technique is a great way to diffuse the buildup of stress and keep the body well rested during busy times. Research has shown that deep relaxing for 20 minutes can provide as much rest value has a few hours of sleep. So, making time each day to deeply relax is a small thing you can do to keep yourself healthy during and after the Christmas season.
- Enjoy your holidays moment by moment
Too often, we spend our time in the past (with regret, guilt, resentment, sadness) or the future (imagining the future in an apprehensive manner). When we do this, we convert the treasures in the present moments to the despair of the past events that are often long over or to the angst of future events that may never occur. Our life experience is derived from how we think about things. As we allow our thoughts to ramble, so plays out our life experience and quality of life. Learning to be more at the moment is a great way to eke out every joyous moment of the Christmas season. As we savour each joyous moment, we improve the overall quality of our life experience.
- Watch that credit card.
Do not overspend to have a good time. Hide it for the next two weeks and use your cash only as and when you wish to do so, without any outside influence.
Work out a sensible budget, so it doesn’t undermine the whole of 2019 for you. Christmas is only as “commercialised” as you let it be, and it can work on any budget. It is the things you do with people and the way you are with people that matter the most, not how much you spend on them. YOU are the greatest gift you can ever give – it requires no money whatsoever.
- Accept your relations just as they are.
They mean well and they are doing the best they can with their current level of awareness, knowledge and understanding. Enjoy their special company and eccentricities today – no one knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, never mind by next Christmas.
- Volunteer your time and contribute to others.
Focus on others and spread good vibes all around you. Think who you can help – perhaps a neighbour with the food shopping or babysitting. How about throwing a children’s party? Or feeding the homeless on Christmas eve?
Although some people can react strangely to you when you say you’re having a soft drink, remember, their response is about THEM and often their own issues around drink and wanting to have a partner in crime; don’t let it affect your life!
Make this Christmas the best ever for you and the family. Sit down right now for half an hour and decide for yourself what you can do this year to make it so.
Staying healthy Recognising and changing behaviours that contribute to your stress will help you get through the Christmas period. Remember to stay healthy – eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep can help you cope with Christmas stress. For those of us who don’t have difficulties at this time of year, it’s an opportunity to reach out to those who become depressed.
For those who are depressed or lonely, it’s an opportunity to take action to think, feel and act in ways that break free from the past. There are many free services available that offer mental health support at any time of year, such as Lifeline, who can be reached on 13 11 14.
If your symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression are severe or long-lasting, see a doctor who can provide some guidance and treatment options.
If you’re withdrawing or micromanaging, there’s a strong chance you’re under stress this season
Find all the peace in you to have the best 2018 Christmas you can and don’t forget the reason for the season is love.
Seek out someone to love, give a gift to someone that can’t pay you back and see how much time you can make to help out at an orphanage.
Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels
As you enjoy the peace and joy that comes with Christmas and the holiday, but somehow still feel the pressures, join our health and wellness community to talk directly with an expert.