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3 Ways to Manage Anxiety During the Build-Up to the Holidays

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Jing-a-ling-a-ling… it creeps around quickly each year, bringing joy to most. Christmas. Whilst admiring the decorations scattering the streets as you drive through the night, or getting cozy in fleecy pajamas to a festive film, the build-up to this time of year can also be very anxiety-provoking.

Even for those who absolutely love Christmas, anxiety is normal. We want to get things “right” and sorted don’t we, so that we can relax into our plans on the “big day.” That phrase in itself brings anxiety, doesn’t it?! Everybody celebrates differently and we all have our varied traditions, which means what’s a challenge for one may be different to another. But to make it as enjoyable as possible, this year I’m going to take my own advice:

1. Decide on you Christmas budget – or, don’t have one!

The pressure on buying presents is real. Even when we say to each other “let’s not spend this much next year” or “I’ll just get you something little,” when it comes round to it, who really sticks to it? We buy anyway. Yeah, it feels
lovely to buy, but – is your bank account struggling? When you get older, presents lose their value in ways, and many of us find that what’s most important is time spent with family or others we love (and the delicious dinner).

This year, I’ve decided not to buy for my family or friends – and I told them all in advance. Not in a nasty way. You can use a sensible tone and be pro-active. Our family have always been too generous to one another, so as much as it pains me not to buy presents when others are buying for me – it’s their choice. I am immensely grateful for any present given to me, and as much as it’s difficult feeling the guilt of not returning, I am hoping that the time spent with my family is proven to feel what counts. The dodgy Christmas cracker jokes, the passing of multiple food items across the table to one another. The closeness.

If you are buying presents, make sure you stick with your budget and are not persuaded by glistening other offers whilst shopping, to buy more. That way, you’ll enjoy the spend without breaking the bank!

2. Treat yourself to a nice advent calendar

It took me years to do this again. As I have spent a few years with different
eating disorders I’ve only in recent times “allowed” myself to have an edible advent calendar. It’s the teeniest bit of chocolate that gives off the biggest sparkle of Christmas anticipation. I love the old-school ones with chocolates in the shape of wreaths, snowmen etc.

There is of course lots and lots of other types of advent calendars you can get – ranging from candle, to alcohol, to cheese, to make-up. Advent calendars don’t need to be expensive; you could even buy one without gifts behind the doors. But opening those festive window means you’re including yourself in the build up to Christmas without knocking yourself out. I think taking part in the advent calendar world means you’re also giving yourself a little self-care. This may, in the smallest of ways, help your mental health.

3. Take some time out!

As the atmosphere builds up around you, the tree appears, lights ping everywhere and you’re ticking off your Christmas to-dos, sometimes it’s helpful to ground ourselves. There is so much emphasis on the future, when we are preparing for Christmas, which is the main source of anxiety. If you’re struggling with anxiety, to ground yourself to “now” – stop. Stop what you’re doing and don’t do anything. Just breathe. This is really important. After giving yourself the space for a few seconds either do something completely unrelated to Christmas, talk to a close family member/friend… or use a guided meditation to help you. The apps like Headspace and Calm are great, as well as plenty of free YouTube videos to use.

The same goes for Christmas day. Take this point and do it as much as you need to and before you know it, you’ll hopefully have some happy Christmas memories without the overwhelm.

Getty image by AleksandarNakic

Originally published: December 6, 2021
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