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Festive Anxiety Disorder...and how to move past it!

How many of you are currently thinking…what one earth is festive anxiety disorder – yet another made up psychology term. Perhaps you are right. But how many of you feel stressed or anxious when it comes to the festive time of year. When we think of Christmas, we might think of Trees, mulled wine or the big man himself, but many of us also think of stress, finances and how to keep the kids from entertained over the 2 week period.

Studies have shown that more than 50% of us feel stressed over the Christmas holidays and until recently…I was definitely in that percentage. I have always been a bit of a scrooge, for years I worked over the Christmas period so didn’t enjoy the time off like a lot of other did. I have always felt it was just a huge cause of stress and would be more than happy is Christmas just disappeared. It is really only since having kids, that I have started to enjoy it a little – I could still take it or leave it, but at least now I don’t feel stressed or anxious each year.

So why the stress and what can we do about it?

Once of the biggest causes of anxiety I see at this time of year, is social anxiety. Social anxiety can be difficult at the best of times, but now you are expected to go and be jolly with lots of people, surrounding by lots of other people also being jolly. In actual fact what those with social anxiety want to be doing, is staying at home or spending time with a small group of people. But we are expected to go and join in the festivities and more than that, we are expected to have fun doing it – ‘the Christmas Spirit!’ It isn’t just those with social anxiety but people who are naturally more introverted will feel the impact of the social season too.

The first thing to remember is that it is ok to not look forward to social events and Christmas parties. More importantly, it is ok to say no…if you want to. If you do want to be part of the festivities it can be worth looking at exactly where that anxiety comes from which for most of us, is the fear of being judged by others. The truth is when it comes to meeting people, we never really know what they are thinking about us…these negative thoughts come from within our own internal thought processes. And when we think about the worst case scenario, it doesn’t feel pleasant. So when you are thinking about the worst thing someone might think about you, give yourself the opportunity to think about the best things they could think of you too, and then…the likely case! The likely case is the important one. If you can focus on the likely case that will feel much more comfortable than the worse case you are currently focussed on. Remind yourself you have a lot to offer when you meet other people and that they interested in what you have to say. And there is nothing wrong with practicing conversations alone before you go – this can actually help to allow you to feel a little more confident going into social situations.

So lets talk about the winter blues. For the majority of people, sunshine brings a little boost of happiness so when the early nights draw in and the cold weather takes over, many people feel a little ‘blue.’ Seasonal affective disorders effects up to 1 in 15 people in the UK and comes with symptoms such as low mood and lack of sleep. As much as we would like to spend the winter season in a beautiful paradise somewhere, there are other options that might be a little simpler! Eating well, exercising and make sure you spend time doing things that you enjoy can really help to boost your mood during the winter months. Keeping your environment as light, fresh and airy as you can is also a good way of working to beat the winter blues. Not only does winter often affect us negatively but Christmas is always a difficult time for those that have lost loved ones. It is okay to feel sad, but when you remember that they aren’t there, try and think of the positive memories that you cherish too. For every sad thought you have, there will be a memory to remind you of how much love there was between you and the person you lost.

Let's face it when talking about winter stress, we cannot ignore the sheer cost of the holiday! And not even just the presents, but all the treats, the food, the booze (my own wine consumption is enough to make me rethink how much I spend at Christmas!) and all the Christmas parties soon add up to an often, extortionate amount. With all the other financial pressures we are facing at the moment it is ok to rethink how much you spend at Christmas. If you are worried about budgeting on Christmas gifts, trying have an open and honest conversation. Especially as so many people are in a similar situation this year, others will likely be really understanding and appreciate that you are spending less than you may have in the past. Setting yourself a budget can also help to keep things more manageable for you and writing that budget down and keeping track can make it feel simpler and cause less worry and uncertainty.

The last cause of anxiety I want to mention is the pressure of saying yes. This is something that impacts many of our lives throughout the year, but at Christmas it is easy to feel the extra pressure of saying yes and trying to accommodate the needs of, well, everyone!! And when you have a huge family or your other half’s family to think about, it can feel like you need to see everyone and be everywhere at once. Besides reminding yourself it is ok to say no, the only thing I want you to think about is where and with who do you want to spend your Christmas? What you want to do with your Christmas is your choice and whatever you choose is okay!

I hope you have the absolute best Christmas because you deserve to feel happy…as you deserve to everyday!!!

Lauren xx

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