I’ve heard Mo Gawdat talk about his equation for happiness being event minus expectation and this is never more true than when it comes to Christmas. The mental pressure we can put on ourselves to create a Christmas experience which matches those images of perfection in films, what we perceive others to be getting up to or even the stories we can create in our own heads means that the festive period can often end up being a potent recipe for stirring up stress and anxiety.
All of Me Matters
The reality is that life has ups and downs and as human beings we also have ups and downs and this is the case whatever the date on the calendar. The brain also doesn’t appreciate the additional pressure of feeling like we have to be feeling and showing up in a certain way and can work against us in going into overdrive to look for why we’re not good enough or we’ve not worked hard enough to enjoy Christmas time in the way we think we should.
Out of Balance
Also challenging on our mental outlook is that balance can go out of the window as well as our normal routine. With at least 60% of what we do every day being a habit, our brains get to reset and restore by being on autopilot but by changing everything up alongside losing balance when it comes to things like food and alcohol, we can really make it difficult for ourselves to find calm during this time when we might feel we disconnected and disorientated when it comes to our normal coping strategies.Here are six ways to consider when dealing with anxiety ahead of Christmas 2021…
Tis the Season
The pressure can really build when we try and put too much expectation on one or two days being perfect in every way possible. Think about enjoying moments throughout the Christmas period as a whole and create opportunities to do what you love, take time out for yourself and be with people you love regardless of what the date is.
Avoid Playing Catch Up
The last few Christmases were painful for many with the uncertainty and anxiety of the pandemic. I can completely understand why people might attempt this but try not to use this Christmas to compensate for last year. Consider using it as a time to reflect on what you noticed is really important to you about Christmas and the power of keeping things simple.
It’s Cold Outside
With the routine change, lots of activity focused on being indoors and not to mention the weather, it’s easy for all of us to spend too much time inside. Try and get out, even if just for five minutes at least once a day to get some fresh air, move your body, give yourself some space and notice the beauty of the season.
Spot Your Food Stories
Christmas means I like to eat special and different things – there’s nothing like a Christmas treat especially during winter evenings. A few years back, I spotted an unhelpful story circling my brain that said I needed to eat more treats because it was Christmas and that’s what you do. Creating imbalance in your diet can definitely impact your mental health and feelings of stress and anxiety. Notice any ‘shoulds’ popping up in your mind and challenge whether they are really true or whether you can still enjoy yourself regardless.
Spot Your People Stories
Family and loved ones can easily trigger us and our negative feelings just as much as they hopefully trigger our positive feelings. Reflect on any patterns from the past that caused anxiety through certain dynamics around the people you spend time with during Christmas. Think about what you could put in place to support you cope more effectively. Journalling or writing this down can really help you think this through as well as talking about it with a trusted loved one who might also be able to help you set some boundaries.
Delete Those Apps
Not only does a social media break help you become more present with the things that are really important it also stops you falling into the comparison trap around who is having the best Christmas. Delete those apps and look inwards rather than outwards for at least a few days.