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It might be a festive season, but it’s not necessarily an easy one. How can you deal with Christmas anxiety when it rears its less than cheery head? And your usual techniques for staying calm aren’t cutting it?
How to deal with Christmas anxiety
You aren’t alone in your struggle. An Australian study found that one in four adults felt anxiety thinking about Christmas.
Here are some quick tactics to get you back to balanced if you suffer from Christmas anxiety.
1. Say the one word you’ve avoided saying.
Many of us pretend we’ll say no…… then we don’t. But this little word is one of the fastest and most powerful weapons against stress and anxiety.
One little no can open up tons of time and energy to take care of yourself, while one more yes can mean you push yourself so hard you end up seeing in the New Year in bed with the flu.
Convinced saying no will be the end of the world? It’s likely you are a pleaser, projecting your fear of rejection onto simple social transactions and it’s time to learn some boundary setting.
Write a list of all the things you have to do this week. How many items are things someone asked you to do, versus you decided to do for yourself? And what one thing could you now call up someone about and say no to? What will it feel like to have less on your list?
2. Pass the Christmas cracker on.
If you can’t say no entirely, then try the secret of all big entrepreneurs… delegating. It can be a magic weapon in the face of Christmas anxiety.
Before you say that’s not possible, ask yourself the following:
- Am I really the only person who can do this (be honest)?
- Does doing this task actually make me happy or just make me feel righteous, useful, good, or pleasing? What is my real reason to do this?
- Given my hourly rate for work, is this really worth my time to do myself?
- Who else could do this? Could I hire someone?
- What would that mean I could then do instead?
3. Word out your Christmas anxiety.
Sometimes anxiety and stress need an instant outlet. And sometimes we need to unload immediately, and without alienating those we love with the force of it.
A blank page or journal is non judgemental, it’s instantly available, and can be ripped up afterwards.
Let yourself write out anything you want, uncensored, don’t worry about whether you handwriting is legible or about being ‘nice’. Remember, you are not keeping it, you are shredding it. Some find it helpful to imagine they are literally ripping up and throwing out their stress and anxiety as they tear the pages.
Sound too simple? Try it before you decide. It’s the cost of a few pieces of paper.
4. Clear up the confusion about anxiety.
Many of say we are anxious, when really we are stressed. And the difference matters when it comes to tactics that work. (And can be why your other attempts to stem the tide have had little to no effect).
The main difference between stress and anxiety is that the former is rational with an actual trigger, whereas anxiety is illogic, free floating, and with no exact cause.
If you realise it’s just really masses of stress you are under, you can get clear on the trigger and plot better ways through (read our series on “Managing Christmas Stress“.)
If it’s anxiety you are dealing with, then practical steps don’t necessarily help as your mind just finds something else to be worried about. It helps to callout your anxiety for what it is, then recognise it is a state that will eventually pass. Then use techniques to calm your nervous system, as detailed in the next step.
3. Really is anxiety? Yawn and take deep breaths (it’s scientific).
When anxiety hits, we go into the very physical fight, flight, or freeze mode, which sees the sympathetic nervous system roar into action. This is why your heart races and your muscles tense.
And what slows that reaction down? The counteracting ‘parasympathetic’ nervous system, and in particular the powerful vagus nerve.
So how to stimulate the vagus nerve and slow down your anxiety?
Deep breathing is the most studied and proven tactic, but it has to be from your diaphragm, and needs to be done for a good 10 minutes. Your in and out breaths should equally be about five seconds, and it is thought to help to hold your breath for a second at the top of each breath before exhaling.
It has been suggested by research that you can supercharge deep breathing by simultaneously practising focused positive thinking. This involves choosing happy thoughts, such as thinking of a partner, child, family member, or family pet.
Other tactics thought to help stimulate the vagus nerve include:
5. Reach out.
Arranging for a ‘support buddy’ over the holidays is helpful with Christmas anxiety. The very idea that someone out there knows and gets it can alleviate anxiety levels, and stops us from having ‘anxiety about anxiety’. And if it’s simply stress, a good friend can help you brainstorm your way through it.
Don’t overlook professional support. Nowadays counselling and therapy is only an online call away, and can be a very worthwhile way to spend an hour once a week.
Harley Therapy connects you to a team of highly regarded anxiety counsellors and online counsellors who understand what you are going through and can help.
Still have a question about Christmas anxiety? Post in our public comment box below.