Christmas can be a very stressful and anxious time for many. The financial stress only part of it, many dread spending time with family preferring to avoid arguments, for others they may not have family or friends to spend the festive season with. Hopefully this blog will provide some useful suggestions how to manage what can be a stressful time of year.
If you would prefer to avoid the festive season altogether, then you might consider going on a holiday. There are many last minute deals available and if you don’t fancy a busy airport then look into exploring your home country. On your own or if friends can’t travel with you then companies such as Intrepid or Tucan Travel offer group or individual tours (there are many more you just have to check online). You simply chose your destination, type of tour (comfort, basic or active) length of stay, then sit back and look forward to your holiday. A guide will be there to meet you at the hotel on the start date along with up to ten or more travellers from all around the globe. Together you will head off and explore all the sights, experience the culture, the food, the music and learn some history maybe even the local language. Don’t want to be with the group all the time, there are days set aside for you to go off and do your own thing. I have done this type of travelling for over over seven years and I have enjoyed it immensely, visiting South America, Cuba, India, Thailand and Africa. I have made some friends along the way and have since gone to visit some of them in their home countries. Other holiday options include what I term hobby holidays. Into yoga, photography, cycling, walking, writing, there are many holidays catered to these interests. If there is a reason you can’t go on holiday maybe consider booking something for January, sometimes having something to look forward to can help you get through difficult days.
If a holiday is not an option, then have you considered volunteering over the holidays or even on Christmas Day? In Dublin for example there is the Big Feed in the RDS where they provide food and entertainment for the homeless. You can sign up to help out on the day and feel better knowing that you helped make the day that little bit special for someone else. Check out your local community notice boards or ring around organisations to see if they need a helping hand, you don’t need experience to help serve food, make tea or sit and chat to someone.
Don’t have family to spend Christmas with then reach out to friends. Find out what they are doing, why not ask can you go along for dinner or pop over later in the evening? They may think you have other plans or imagine the last thing you might want to do is spend it with them and their family, so bite the bullet and ask. Other friends on their own? Why not invite them around to yours? Do a pot luck each person brings a dish that way you’re not left doing all the cooking. Suggest a Chris Kindle that way everyone gets a present but there is not the huge expense of buying gifts for everyone. Remember sometimes you have to take the bull by the horns ask, suggest or arrange, put aside your fear of rejection, others because of their own fear of rejection may not. If for a variety of reasons you will be on your own, go on line. Websites such as meetup.com have a number of social groups that arrange activities around this time. For example in Dublin there is a walking group meeting on Christmas morning and a number of other groups are arranging social events to celebrate New Years Eve. There are so many groups on this website it would be difficult to not find something to cater to your interests and if not, you have option to establish your own group. Check out the website for more information. If you are unable to go outdoors check out Sarah Millicans #Joinin which goes live on Twitter Christmas day. Other people who can’t go out or who are on their own reach out and chat to each other on the day using the hash tag #joinin. Loose Women are also running a campaign Lighten the Load offering a forum where people suffering from mental health issues can reach out, talk, listen and support others in a similar situation.
If you suffer from social anxiety, depression or low mood disorder this time of the year can be extremely difficult due to the large number of social engagements and Christmas parties that you may be invited to. If attending causes anxiety you may turn down invites leaving you sometimes with feelings of guilt and worrying that people might think you are a bit of a part pooper. Remember though that you are still a good, kind, friendly person even if you do say no. Saying no to others is allowing you to say yes to yourself, it is okay for you to make yourself a priority. So let go the guilt and love yourself. If you would like to attend social events choose smaller ones and go with someone you feel comfortable with. Too anxious to go out or have no events to attend but would like to get into the festive spirit then why not organise an event at home where you will feel comfortable, you can also control who you invite choosing people you feel most comfortable around and who love and accept you for you.
If you have to spend family with friends there is a couple of things you can do to reduce your stress. Firstly, if invited for dinner then only show up thirty to sixty minutes beforehand and ensure to leave an hour or two afterwards or as soon as you begin to feel anxious. If you can’t manage the fuss of dinner why not arrange to visit for a Christmas breakfast or tea instead. Another useful tip when dealing with people who you find are difficult, challenging or confrontational is to breath, step back, think then respond. It is important to acknowledge that this time of the year can be stressful for everyone and sometimes people while not meaning to hurt you, can say or do things that do. For your own personal development I think it can be useful to question for yourself why it hurt you, that way you can work on it, the next time hopefully it wont be as painful. Finally never forget that sometimes your best response is silence.
Speaking of family or friends when it comes to buying gifts for our loved ones some people believe or think the bigger and more expensive the better. Deep down though we all know that the people who love us only really care about the thought that was put into the gift and not the price tag. If you don’t have a lot of money to buy gifts and are worrying about the expense of Christmas then try to think outside the box. If you are creative make a gift, knit the scarf or hat, write a poem, take a photograph and frame it, paint a picture, bake a cake, create vouchers offering babysitting services, or vouchers for lunch, dinner, cinema dates that can be cashed in 2017, that way you don’t have the cost of gifts now but instead spread it out in the new year. For children, nieces or nephews create vouchers for a day out to the zoo, swimming, cinema, the local panto whatever your budget can afford. Children get so many toys this time of the year and the promise of a day out will be so much more exciting and is creating fantastic fun memories for them to enjoy in the future. So before you start buying gifts consider that the best you can give anyone is the gift of your time. The memory and feeling of it will last longer for all.
This festive season and in your life in general it is okay for you to make yourself a priority. You are allowed to choose your own happiness and peace of mind. So this Christmas do what suits you, what you like to do, what makes you happy. Compromise is important just never sacrifice your own happiness for the happiness of others.
If despite your best efforts to stay positive and you are dreading the festive season it is important to remember Christmas day is only 24 hours. It can be difficult but try get outdoors for a walk, day light and being surrounded by nature can really help with lifting your mood. Finally, remember to be the best gift to yourself, be kind and do something that makes you smile and feel good.
Happy Christmas, wishing you good mental health in 2017.
The Samaritans ‘Give the Gift of You’ this Christmas is their latest campaign encouraging us to enjoy a #RealChristmas and to give the gift of listening to our loved ones.
Click here for gift vouchers and more info