Whether you are celebrating Chanukah, Christmas, or just taking a holiday, this time of year is often filled with festivity and fun, but for many people this can also be a stressful time of year. While we all want to be able to relax in the festive season if you are feeling depressed or worried you can easily end up feeling isolated, when everyone around you seems to be having fun. Understanding how to effectively overcome Christmas stress, and find manageable ways to cope with feelings of anxiety will allow you to relax over the festive period.
With this in mind here are some top tips for coping with seasonal blues in these dark winter months that can help you relax and feel more like yourself.
Avoid Excessive Drinking
It’s hardly a secret that December can be a boozy month for many of us. Alcohol has been proven to exacerbate anxiety and depression, and if you are drinking more than usual you might behave in a way that you later regret. If you are worried about the negative impact of alcohol consumption, it might be a good idea to consider cutting back, or stopping completely. While there is a strong social pressure to drink, especially at office do’s and friend’s parties, you’ll be joined by a growing minority of people who are choosing to avoid alcohol altogether. Around 20% of us do not drink at all, so it might be reassuring to know that there is no longer the same social stigma when it comes to booze. Thinking about the health benefits of being tee-total can help you stay motivated – alcohol is full of empty calories and sugar, as well as worsening your mental health.
Communicate your feelings clearly
If you are ill your family will understand if you are not up to much, but it is essential that you tell them when you are unhappy, and quickly try to resolve anything that is stressing you out. Stewing in silence will only make things worse. If you are having a Christmas with your extended family or friends then it might be wise to talk to someone you feel comfortable confiding in ahead of time. They can then be there to support you should you need them, and possibly be ready to intervene if someone is behaving in an unpleasant way.
Being honest with yourself and those around you about how you are feeling can be a good way to manage people’s expectations, and it means that you will not have to feel guilty about missing out on things if you do not feel well enough.
Don’t worry too much about presents
Of course everyone likes getting presents. But that doesn’t mean that you need to make yourself stressed out and unhappy. It can be mentally strenuous to think about getting the perfect thing for each person – especially if you are writing personalised cards. You might consider making all your presents yourself if that’s easier, or even just getting a gift voucher. Buying experiences can also be a great way of giving a meaningful present. It shows that you have thought carefully about the other person and what they would like. If the cost of getting lots of gifts is aggravating your stress you might consider giving people vouchers to spend time together, such as a day out. This is a good way to demonstrate that you care about the other person and want to spend some quality time together, without breaking the bank. can be stressful itself.
Find time for yourself
This is especially important if you are more introverted. Christmas is a busy time, and can often involve lots of rushing around. Don’t be afraid to take some time out and relax by yourself. Maybe you’ll want to take a bath and relax alone for a bit, or enjoy a brunch. You might also want to ask for presents like massages or a day out that you can do by yourself.
Go for a walk
Whether you like to walk filled to the brim with food or to whet your appetite the Christmas day walk is a key part of the action for many. It can also help your mental health by allowing you to take a break from the bustle of a Christmas day house.
While the holidays can be somewhat lethargic it is important to stay active. This is an excellent opportunity to find some alone time, and focus on yourself rather than others.
Don’t compare yourself to others
Everyone likes to make Christmas look like it’s a care-free blissful time, but we all know that the reality is often very different. This can be exacerbated by social media, where everyone is encouraged to make it look like they are always happy. You should focus on making any celebrations suited to the way you want them to go, rather than attempting to make the ‘perfect Christmas’. Who knows, maybe you’ll make your own traditions.
Remember the small things
Christmas time can take a serious toll on you, and they can be exhausting. Try to recapture those moments that made the holidays so exciting for you as a child, such as decorating a tree or making mince pies. By focusing on the aspects of the Yuletide that bring value to you, and considering eliminating the parts that take away from the experience for you, you can make sure that the holidays are more meaningful and less stressful.
It’s not compulsory
If Christmas or Chanukah just aren’t your thing, for whatever reason don’t feel like you have to take part in it. As this excellent blog explains, one of the reasons that the holiday period can be so stressful for anyone with depression or anxiety is that there seems to be an expectation that you will enjoy yourself. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, and if you want to spend Christmas sitting on a sofa eating Chinese food and watching Friends then that is more than ok. You are the only one who understands your own feelings, and you should avoid being forced to do anything that you know will make you unhappy.
Fundamentally if you are feeling overwhelmed or unhappy at Christmas it is understandable. It can be a very emotionally draining time and can often be the hardest deal with depression as there is a high expectation of festive cheer. Don’t be afraid to assert yourself, and set clear parameters about what you are prepared to do for those around you. You should remember that your priority should always be your own welfare, and if you feel you are being made to compromise then you should draw a clear red line.
How do you look after yourself during Christmas? Do you have any tips or strategies that you have found to be successful? Feel free to share your experience below. If you are struggling with seasonal stress and would like guidance on how to manage anxiety, depression, or other psychological and psychiatric issues please fill out our contact form to book a consultation.