Ms Jessica Hoskins
BSc (Hons) Psychology
When approaching the Christmas period there can be an expectation that we “Should be happy” or “should be relaxed and enjoying ourselves”. However the truth is that the Christmas period is full of many stresses to manage, and many more emotions than just happiness and calm. So when you are experiencing anxiety and/or depression this can be a particularly challenging time. To help you prepare, we have developed 5 tips of how you can cope at Christmas when experiencing Anxiety or Depression.
5 Tips for Coping at Christmas with Anxiety or Depression
Although this can be so difficult as our initial urge is to block and ignore our emotions because they are painful to experience. However this can actually intensify them – just like trying to not think of a pink elephant, or maybe this time of year a pink reindeer.
You are allowed to feel what you feel, and it is understandable that further anxiety and low mood can be triggered when you are in such an intense time of year with people and plans.
Think about how you may react to these and any challenges you may face when there, then how you can use any skills you have learnt to manage these.
Write down the things that you need to do (or buy) for the Christmas holidays and even when you can do these. Writing things down helps to stop you worrying over all that needs to be done and helps you to remember things.
Planning ahead helps you to feel prepared for what you are doing over the Christmas holidays and reduces extra stress and anxiety from unknowns. However, it is important to not keep checking and re-checking this list, which adds worry back in.
Although it would be great if we could read minds at times, that is not a current reality. So currently we need to try to tell people when we are struggling with our depression or anxiety.
Identify person that you can talk to about your thoughts and feelings and let them know what they can do to help you during Christmas.
By taking part in activities, you can distract yourself from any anxiety or depression thoughts that are coming up.
Do what you think is manageable. If you know that a situation would make you too uncomfortable or overwhelmed, this may be one that you need to politely decline an invitation to.
You do not need to feel as though you have no choice.
Also try to avoid over-filling your time. Let yourself take some time out of the day to relax. Being busy and around people constantly is likely to be mentally exhausting.
Try to set yourself goals on what you might like to talk about and focus on over the Christmas period, even how you might practice therapy tasks. This helps to shift your attention from anxiety and depression worries and keeps you focused on recovery.
If you feel things have not gone to plan, or your anxiety or depression symptoms have slipped in, try to move on and not allow it to stress you out.
Take it step by step and try to accept each thing as it comes
All eyes will not be watching you and judging; usually people are too busy enjoying their own meal and chatting.
Finally, remember you don’t have to be happy and smile all the time – no one expects it.