We see it everywhere at this time of year in films, advertising campaigns and online; beaming faces surrounding a glorious feast, or joyful children carefully unwrapping the latest trend next to an immaculately decorated tree, sparkling next to a roaring log fire.
However, your vision of the festive season may fill you with dread and worry. It can also be a time of great stress as we put too much pressure on ourselves to deliver that perfect picture of Christmas - the money, the presents, the food, the parties, the awkward relatives... the list goes on!
If you live with a condition such as anxiety or depression, or you simply find the festive season overwhelming, we have compiled a list of ten tips to help you relax and enjoy Christmas your way!
|1. Forget perfection|
|We're surrounded by a picturesque ideal of a family Christmas each year through movies and adverts selling gifts, festive food and other such products. But don't be fooled, these are not real. Everybody's Christmas is different and rarely turns out the way you'd expect. Let's be honest - the ones that are less than perfect are often those you remember and enjoy the most! Be aware of when you are measuring your own expectations against an idealism and remind yourself that it is not real. Christmas is about people coming together and sharing love and laughter.
|2. Avoid the hustle and bustle|
|If you find the hustle bustle of the shops at Christmas too much to handle, consider shopping online. This way you can take your own time to browse for gifts in a comfortable environment. Most shops have an online presence and many offer a click and collect service which can save on delivery costs whilst reducing the time spent in stores.
I must add a note of encouragement for supporting your independent stores here - many of which also have online shops!
Where it isn't possible to shop online, try to avoid peak shopping times and head out towards the end of the day when other shoppers are filling their cars to go home.
|3. Be open & honest|
|If you are fortunate to have understanding friends and family, they will often appreciate you telling them if you feel overwhelmed and need a break from the celebrations. They will most likely be supportive and understanding if they know how you are feeling. If they are not supportive of your feelings, you should probably limit how much time you spend with them.
|4. Don't over-commit|
|If you're the type of person that struggles to say no to plans and events it can be a nightmare at Christmas. Try not to over-stretch yourself and if you feel like you need a rest, do just that. Stay in, get your PJ's on and relax. It is important to stay ahead of yourself and recharge your batteries, especially at this time of year.
Don't spend any longer at a party than you want to. If you've had enough - take yourself home. You don't have to feel obliged to stay the entire time. The host will understand that it is a busy time of year for people so you can graciously give your excuses and leave (unless they're a real friend then you can just be honest like I mentioned above).
|5. Awaken your senses|
|Make sure you don't spend too much time at home feasting on food and drink. Excessive eating and drinking can have a negative impact on your mood (what goes up must come down). A brisk walk at this time of year can help you to become more present. Walk to your own pace - if you're mind is racing or you feel funny, walk quickly. If you are feeling angry or upset, walk slowly. Take time to focus on the natural world around you and what's happening within it. Concentrate on the feeling of your feet making contact with the ground whilst you walk. Listen to the sound of your breathing. All these things can help you to re-energise and focus your mind.
|6. Buy yourself a gift|
|Christmas can bring on many emotions. For me, there's always been an air of sadness that I can never quite put my finger on. If you suffer with anxiety, depression, or low moods your mind might start to reflect on the negative aspects of the year. Things you could have done better, all those days you just "wasted" by feeling unable to achieve anything and other negative patterns of thinking.
Stop. Pat yourself on the back. Say well done.
This year you continued winning the battle. It might not be over but you've survived. And for that, you should reward yourself. A simple well done might be enough but I would suggest buying yourself something small to reward yourself, and to remind yourself on any future dark days that you have got through it once before and you can again. Because you're a winner!
|7. Get lots of rest|
|A good night's sleep is important at the best of times but none more than during the Christmas season. Feeling tired will naturally lower your mood, so make sure that you allow yourself a decent amount of sleep each night to begin the following day feeling refreshed.
|8. Plan ahead|
|Take control of the festive season by planning ahead. Planning allows you to be in control of each situation and reduces the potential of over-stretching yourself. You can be as flexible as you like with your plans and, naturally, plans may change from time to time but it is important to remember that you are the one that calls the shots.
Planning ahead for buying gifts can reduce the amount of time you have to spend browsing in shops and help you to maintain a Christmas budget. With visits and events you can mentally decide how much time you intend on staying, depending on how you feel. This applies to both gift shopping and visits/events.
|9. Limit alcohol|
|Sometimes we can try to mask how we feel by having a drink to "relax" and get through it. Especially at parties. However, alcohol is a known depressant and it will do you no favours to over-indulge. This is especially true if you take some types of anti-depressant medication. Instead, try some festive non-alcoholic mock-tails. We've found some delicious looking recipes here for inspiration!
|10. Remember you are not alone!|
|If you are struggling over the festive period and don't have anybody to talk to about it, or if you feel guilty and feel like you don't want to burden your friends during this time, you are not alone. There are support groups such as Mind.org or the Samaritans who always have somebody available to talk to through your dark times.
Note from the Author:
This is in no means an exhaustive list. Neither are we medical experts. This is simply a list of tips that aim to help you throughout the festive period, based on the experiences of somebody who deals with anxiety on a daily basis... and inspiration from many online resources!