The ‘holiday’ season is almost upon us, and with its promise of pine-scented rooms and mince pies, for many, it can also be a harbinger of anxiety, stress, or loneliness. After so many months of rolling lockdowns, there may be added pressure for people to be hyper-social. However, the reality may be they would prefer rolling out social activities in a more understated and gently controlled way.
Even the most resilient among us are likely to find aspects of this particular Christmas season less than jolly. From the stressors of spending excess to the pressures of gift-giving. Then there are the anxieties of possible relationship clashes to the nervousness of possible health implications when it comes to socialising in larger crowds.
So how best to cope?
Make your physical and mental health a priority
This may not be the Christmas to say ‘yes’ to everything, despite the rush to catch up with as many people as possible as borders open. You can’t control what other people choose to do, but it is your right to opt out of any events that cause you worry or anxiety. Beyond any Covid concerns, try to practice moderation and maintain habits that you know are good for you – a healthy diet, regular exercise, time-outs for mental wellbeing and adequate sleep.
Setting realistic expectations is also important at this time of the year. Not everything needs to be perfect. The gravy may well be lumpy and that incessant politics argument is likely to resurface. If you can approach festive events with flexibility and an open mind, the focus on enjoying the larger holiday picture will be easier to maintain.
Set boundaries and stick to them
One of the best ways to prioritise you during the silly season is to actively allow yourself to say ‘no’. Decide what is going to best support your emotional well-being and then stick to those boundaries. Sometimes others will not understand or agree with your choices, but remember, you have the right to spend your time as you wish.
Conversely, this is also an important time to respect the boundaries of others. Your family and friends may also be feeling holiday stress at this time of the year. Acknowledging those emotions is a great way to strengthen relationships.
Limit spending and shop your way
Getting caught up in the excitement of the season can be joyful, but spending unwisely can cause financial burdens and increase stress.
The best way to counteract overspending is to set a budget and stick to it. If things are looking tight, 2021 is a great year to introduce new, more wallet-friendly, traditions. This might mean presents for the kids only, pooling money for a shared event rather than purchasing individual gifts, or wrapping up homemade items (a potted-up plant or freshly baked love cake, for instance, can make wonderful presents).
Almost as important as spending wisely, shopping wisely is another way to limit Christmas anxiety and holiday stress. All of the usual reminders apply here:
- Write a list and tick things off.
- Get onto your shopping early.
- Shop online where possible if that’s easier for you.
Acknowledge your feelings and seek professional help if you need it
It’s okay to feel less than festive at this time of the year and to feel a range of emotions. It is also okay to recognise that you need to take a step back from a particular situation or event and take a mental break.
And most importantly, it is also okay to seek help if you need it. Hash out your anxieties with an understanding friend or family member if that helps.
It may, alternatively, be constructive to speak to someone who’s not so close to the situation.
If your feelings and symptoms of anxiety and stress are severe or affecting your day-to-day life, talking to a counsellor can help with these seasonal challenges. This is particularly important if you are already dreading the arrival of the holiday season.
The warm and professional team at Happy Minds Psychology uses evidence-based Positive Psychology methods when it comes to facing holiday triggers. They will enable you to build resilience, to re-discover your strengths, and to create sustainable positive change. Counselling sessions are available face-to-face in our Ocean Grove office or via Telehealth across Australia.