So here we are, it’s Christmas 2020! Although it’s been a different kind of year, Christmas is still going to be a joyful time for many, where we spend time with loved ones and try to enjoy some rest and relaxation. Of course, the reality is that with so many expectations,  it can also be a time of year that triggers anxiety and stress, and this is something that Shirley Anne at Sac Therapies explores in this piece… Christmas Anxiety. Have a read!

I woke up on the morning of the 28th November, opened my curtains only to be met with the biggest blow up, plastic santa in his sleigh being pulled by plastic reindeers. As if that wasn’t enough, he was surrounded by hundreds of flashing red fairy lights.

An uncomfortable feeling developed in my solar plexus.  I recognised it as a feeling of anxiousness exacerbated by the feeling of not having enough time. I hadn’t got a Christmas tree or decorations, I hadn’t bought any Christmas presents, I had no idea what I was going to buy for family members and friends.  I began to feel uneasy which developed into a mild panic.

I sat with my first coffee of the day and asked myself – why on earth was I feeling like this?

It dawned on me I have anxiety – not severe enough to name it; like Generalised Anxiety Disorder, OCD or phobia. I have Christmas Anxiety and if the truth be known, I actually have it every year around this time. Seeing my neighbour’s external Christmas decorations reminded me how close we are to Christmas and what very little time I have left to do all the things I need to do.

A psychotherapist would define Anxiety as a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

I began to experience other familiar anxious feelings such as I hope uncle behaves himself this year and cousin one doesn’t have an altercation with cousin two and grandma doesn’t complain about the food and refuses to eat any of it, as she did last year.

We all have these anxieties about Christmas.  Some of us recognise that feeling of impending doom, others enjoy that feeling of positive anxiety (or excitement) induced by the uncertainty of an outcome of a longed-for family get together – especially this year – or the receiving of a Christmas gift.  Others are taken right back to being a child again and are comforted by those ‘anxious’ feelings of excitement, happiness and magic.

It’s all about uncertainty and not being able to control what’s in the future.  Although you may feel fearful; it’s different from fear as fear tends to have a clear object whereas anxiety doesn’t.

So, what can we do to alleviate anxiety?

If that lack of external control and powerlessness, frequent causes of anxiety, can give rise to the tension, fast, shallow breathing and discomfort associated with being anxious then perhaps we could do the opposite.

We could induce a tranquil feeling by relaxing our body and mind through meditation or simply by slowing down our breathing.

Try breathing in through your nose deeply, expanding your torso and ribs, hold for a count of four and breathe out through your mouth, exhaling fully, to a count of eight.

Ultimately, we need to establish a sense of control to dissipate the feeling of insecurity.

Perhaps we could start thinking about Christmas earlier than the 1st of December.

We could write down our plans as lists that we tick off when Christmas jobs are done.

We could just put our faith in the universe that things will turn out fine and relinquish our need to control events.

We could tell ourselves that there is no need to stress because things have a habit of turning out ok.  As long as no one is hurt or damaged, which is the worst-case scenario, we will cope with anything else.

Look, I can’t tell you how to fix anxiety.  Nobody can.  It takes internal work.

But it is important to recognise that we are not alone in this – it’s quite normal to have Christmas Anxiety.

Adopt a new outlook on it; by accepting the fundamental uncertainty of life and the fact that anything may change at any time.  Just like the surfer who happily glides on waves rather than trying to control them.

Merry Christmas!

– Shirley Anne find her here