Coping with Christmas Stress & Anxiety

Tips for surviving the Christmas period

1. Be realistic

The holidays don’t have to be perfect.

As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. People often feel compelled to keep family Christmas traditions alive long past the point that anyone’s actually enjoying them.  Don’t keep them going for their own sake. Start a new tradition instead. Maybe get the family involved in deciding this.

2. Financial stress

Identify what’s causing you financial stress. Buying gifts and attending social gatherings can be expensive. Plan ways to reduce spending. For example, you could suggest to your family and friends that you only buy gifts for the kids, or organise a ‘Secret Santa’ among the adults. Set a budget and stick to it.

.3. Family tension

Just because you’re related doesn’t mean your family members will all get along. Family and relationship problems can be a anxiety trigger especially at Christmas.

Here are some ideas for getting through:

  • Set realistic expectations. Christmas might not be the fabulous family reunion you hoped for. Plan how you will manage any feelings of anxiety or depression that may arise.
  • Put the kids first. If you have children, consider putting aside ongoing adult conflicts in their interest. Think about Christmas as a day for the kids and focus on enabling their happiness.
  • Drink in moderation. It may be tempting to drink too much during the festive period, but please avoid this if there is a fear that it can escalate an ongoing family feud. 
  • Avoid known triggers. If your family has a history of arguing over a certain topic, don’t bring it up, however if your uncle and your dad get into an argument at every Christmas dinner and it makes you miserable. What can you really do about it?  Remember your limits: you can’t control them, but you can control your own reaction to the situation.
  • Plan your visit. If you know that your limit is 2 days with the family before you start bickering, then plan your trip accordingly or perhaps stay in a local hotel so that you have an escape if things get too much.

4. Ask for help – but be specific

If the whole Christmas dinner preparation is overwhelming, consider asking for help, but being specific. Write a list of all the tasks that is need to create the dinner, cook the turkey and ham, prepare the veg, the starter, the dessert, setting the table, the clean-up etc and delegate tasks to the different family members so that you are not left to do it all  People are often more willing to help out than you expect; they just need some guidance from you on what to do.

5. Find positive ways to remember loved ones

Christmas may remind you of the loved ones who aren’t around anymore. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones for other reasons, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take a moment to cry or express your feelings. 

 6. Covid Christmas

Covid Christmas – again we are facing another Christmas with the dreaded virus.  We all have our own beliefs about how it may affect us. We all need to respect each other’s beliefs and if you are not comfortable attending a social gathering due to the fear of catching the virus, tell your host your concerns and do not feel guilty about this.  We all have the right to make decisions about our own health and welfare.

6. Don’t abandon healthy habits

 Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.

Try these suggestions:

  • Don’t go overboard on sweet treats or alcohol.
    • Eat healthy meals
    • Don’t skip medications
    • Get plenty of sleep.
    • Include regular physical activity in your daily routine.

While you may not feel like you have the time to exercise during the festive season, there’s evidence exercise can help prevent anxiety and depression. Gentle stretching can also help manage your mood and help you feel calmer.

7. Reach out  

If you feel lonely or isolated over the festive season, seek out religious or other social events that you could attend.   Volunteering your time is also a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships. If you need to talk, organisations such as the Samaritans, Aware or Pieta House are at the end of the phone, and you can call or text them.   Links in my website – www.serenitypsychotherapy.ie

8. Take a breathe 

Despite all our efforts to prevent stress and anxiety, sometimes it creeps up on us and we can become overwhelmed and get into panic mode.  If this happens, try the following.    Find a quiet space and check in with your body and notice where you feel the tension.  Usually the chest or stomach area.  Place your hand on the area where you feel the tension and gently massage it while taking long slow deep inhalations and exhalation right into the abdomen.  Keep repeating this until you feel calm again.

9. Practice Jin Shin Jyutsu.

The principles of Jin Shin Jyutsu adjusts the body’s energy whenever it’s been compromised (out of balance), and all of this simply by paying attention to the hands. Spending just a few minutes every day can quickly put the body’s energy into balance. Emotions like fear, anger, sadness or excessive pretense (arrogance, pride) are quickly stabilized with Jin Shin Jyutsu.

How to Perform The Technique on Yourself

  1. Start by taking one finger at a time, grasping it with the opposite hand and wrapping every finger around it.
  2. Hold each finger for one to two minutes. Wait until you feel the pulse. This is when you know it’s working.
  3. To aid in relaxation, apply slight pressure to the center of your palm with your opposite thumb and hold for at least one minute.
  4. Practicing this technique each day can help balance your core self and can help you to deal with daily stress effectively.
Jin Shin Jyutsu hand attitudes

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