Surviving Christmas 2018
While many people look forward to the end of year celebrations, there are also many other people who struggle to survive and experience stress, anxiety and depression from the Christmas period.
For some, Christmas can be a costly experience that impacts on their financial well being. It can be an overwhelming period for people who live with anxiety and depression. It can be a period where high expectations are built, both by ourselves and from others, which can often be hard to meet. It can be a period where we eat too much, drink too much, or just party too much in general, leaving us feeling out of shape, fatigued and not feeling our best. Don’t get me wrong; it can also be a time of joy, happiness, child like wonder and an opportunity for harmonious families to get together. For every joy of love, peace and happy families though, there are an equal number who simply wish Christmas would pass quickly.
While not necessarily related, there has been recent research to indicate that Christmas music may not be good for your mental health. Now, I’m not sure if this is 100% true or not but it sure does make a great article.
What is important to consider though is just what control we have over how we choose to experience our Christmas period. While some may be experiencing hardships that are outside of their control, such as homelessness or experiencing grief for those who are no longer with us this Christmas, many of the psychological issues that Christmas can ‘trigger’ can be managed with a little bit of self-care.
People often spend too much this time and year and live beyond their means. This leaves them with a maxed out credit card that can be difficult to repay and a sense of shame and self-anger for getting themselves in that situation. They may choose to pass blame and rationalise it with statements like, ‘what else could I do?” however the simple fact is that if you’re living beyond your financial means, you need to be able to budget.
Before spending a single dollar, determine how much money you can spend on Christmas presents this year. Divide that into who you need to get presents for, and include one or two ‘John Smiths’ for those people who turn up with gifts that you hadn’t thought of. You can slide the amount on each person up and down as long as the total amount stays within what you know you can spend.
This may mean being a little creative on what you buy as a gift and you may need to tame that voice in your head if it believes an inexpensive gift can’t also be a thoughtful one. Some of the best gifts I’ve received have certainly been because of the thought put into them and not the price tag.
This time of year can often be about catching up with a lot of people and if you’re someone who frequently experiences anxiety, it can be overwhelming and frightening. Christmas is often filled with expectations about what you should and must do, and learning how to say no to things that you don’t want to do is healthy.
If you find that this time of year brings out the ‘people pleaser’ in you and you’re saying yes to parties and events because you think that is what people expect of you, then learning how to set boundaries and how to do what you actually like will help to reduce your anxiety, build your self-esteem and allow you to have the energy, time, and ability to be authentically enjoying the events and parties that you do want to go to.
Taking a mindful moment to yourself as well, to allow you to ground yourself and just become aware of the present moment can help you to enjoy the wonderful moments in our day that this season can provide without getting caught up in what you need to do next or what you should’ve done but didn’t have the time to do. Our minds are always going to try to focus on something we need to do, or kick us around if we failed to do something that we thought we should’ve done, and becoming aware of the fact that these thoughts are just thoughts and not fact will allow you to not get so caught up in their dramatic and stressful impact.
As I always say to clients, how does holding onto that stressful thought actually help you? What is it that you’re getting out of holding out of it? Let it go!
Sadly, loneliness is a new epidemic in Australia. Recent research has shown that one in five Australians experience loneliness and Christmas can often trigger this and make it worse for those who do not have family or a good circle of friends.
If you’re experiencing loneliness, then reaching out to those you can trust to talk about it can help to build that connection needed. For those experiencing loneliness, they can even be in a room full of people and still not feel connected so it is important to push through that feeling and to generate a connection when you can. Getting out and about can help to relieve some of those feelings of being lonely. Make plans for Christmas day to keep yourself busy, even if it is making a special breakfast that you can enjoy, or doing something that you can treat yourself.
Enjoy the Season But Be Responsible
If you’re worried about gaining too much weight, then you need to be responsible and watch what you eat and drink. It doesn’t mean that you need to be absolutely puritanical however you, and only you can be responsible for what goes into your mouth.
There are also excellent ways to get out and exercise that can allow you to reclaim a moment of your own time. A brisk walk or run can give you some space, allow you to collect your thoughts and focus, and allow the brain to release Dopamine making you feel fantastic. It will allow you to indulge a little more – if you want – and to not feel so guilty and having a treat or two extra.
Too many people view their weight as being something someone ‘did’ to them. “Ohhh, they brought this cake out and I had to have a slice – it would be rude otherwise!” I think we can all agree that we can occasionally cut ourselves some slack when we make excuses. We are, after all, only human. On the flip-side of that, if we find that every vice we have is excused from blaming something else, then we need to check our accountability and responsibility and realise that we are ultimately allowing it to happen.
Be Kind to Yourself
The simple fact is this; for those who find Christmas hard, it can often be the expectations that are felt around Christmas that make it so much harder. This year, reduce those expectations. Set boundaries. Be confident in saying no. Get the rest you need. Go to the events you want to go to and enjoy them with the people you want to enjoy them with. If Christmas music annoys the hell out of you, put on what you like.
Of course, I might be biased but a nice bit of self-hypnosis or meditation can also help to release any stress and anxiety, build resilience and self-compassion, and allow yourself to be more fully present to the moment so that you can enjoy what this season has to offer even when you normally find it difficult.
There is no crime in making sure that you start 2019 ready for it instead of feeling broken by the last few weeks of 2018.
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