Anxiety: How To Manage Anxiety At Christmas
If you’re one of the 8.2 million people in the UK who suffers from depression and anxiety each year you’ll know coping with anxiety at Christmas can be exhausting. Knowing how to manage anxiety at Christmas can help to reduce stress and make you feel more able to cope.
Millions of us are affected by mental illness each year. The latest figures show that mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental health disorder in Britain – that’s 7.8% of people. And in England, women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder than men.
There are many reasons you may feel anxious at Christmas time, including:
- Expectation that it’s the happiest time of the year.
- Expectation that you should be doing certain things.
- Reminder of lost loved ones.
- Increased pressure to socialise.
- The pressure of buying presents: Will they like it? Can I afford it?
- Feeling like you should, or have to, socialise with people you may not want to socialise with.
Whatever the reason for your anxiety, we understand that December can be a minefield for anxiety sufferers. Even with anxiety medication it’s important to have coping strategies and techniques for when you need them. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be a really useful tool for combating anxious thoughts and this, combined with medication can prove effective strategy for reducing anxiety.
Dr Irina Panihhidina, Consultant Psychiatrist at The London Psychiatry Centre, is highly experienced with complex cases of anxiety. She says: “There’s a pressure to make time to see all our family and friends over the Christmas period, which doesn’t leave much time for ourselves. But, if you’re suffering with anxiety, it’s crucial to set time aside to do things that you enjoy. Whether that’s listening to music or reading a book, try to be forgiving to yourself. Taking care of yourself at Christmas should be your main priority.”
Tips to reduce anxiety
Get some extra sleep
With the busy lives we lead poor sleep is increasingly common, and lack of sleep can have a considerable effect on anxiety levels. When we are asleep our body recharges. Getting enough sleep also helps to keep cortisol levels (the stress hormone that causes the fight or flight response) lowered, which in turn helps to keep feelings of dread and danger to a minimum.
Whether it’s having a lie-in, taking time for an early night or even grabbing a nap in the afternoon, getting some extra Zs can have a positive impact on anxiety levels.
Try not to overindulge
It’s easy to get caught up in the indulgence of Christmas. Mince pies, After Eights – and don’t forget that giant box of Roses. But remember that many foods and drinks are filled with sugar and caffeine which have an almost immediate impact on the body and mood. Sugar and caffeine can make us feel great in the short term, but after you will experience the crash, which has a negative effect both physically and emotionally.
“Whilst being a bit more relaxed than usual about food over Christmas can be good for you, try not to throw all your caution to the wind – enjoy things in moderation to keep a handle on your anxiety.” adds Dr Panihhidina.
Be present in the moment
Focussing on the past or future can make you feel apprehensive, guilty or a myriad of other emotions that will stop you from enjoying the moment. You can use some simple breathing and meditation techniques to help you focus on the here and now so you can enjoy the connection that Christmas time brings. Take a few minutes to try breathing deeply into your belly, counting up to 5, then breathing out and counting back down to 1. This is a great technique for helping to reduce stress and bring you into the present moment when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Have a plan
It pays to be prepared. When at social events it can be helpful to let a trusted friend know about your anxiety so they can have your back if you need some space or to make a quick exit. It can also be effective to seek out somewhere you can retreat to should you need some personal space – whether it’s a quiet bedroom, the garden or even the bathroom.
Exercise can fall by the wayside in the winter and it’s easy to see why – cold days, dark mornings… But exercise produces chemicals in the body that positively alter mood. It can also help you feel a sense of achievement, and increase self-esteem.
Not a fan of the gym? No problem! A walk around the park can be a good way to burn off some of that energy and trigger those endorphins. Need a moment to yourself after the chaos of Christmas dinner? Why not offer to walk the dog? Besides, a gentle walk will help the turkey go down. Exercise can also help you sleep better, and if you’re outdoors the vitamin D can also help to improve your mood.
There’s no need to cut out alcohol altogether, but drinking responsibly can make a difference to anxiety levels. Whilst drinking may help you to fall asleep, your quality of sleep (and in turn how you feel) will be impacted, and let’s not start on the hangover…
If you do drink, try to alternate with soft drinks to keep hydrated.
“Ultimately, it’s important to take care of yourself over the Christmas period and ensure you have copying techniques and strategies in place to help reduce anxiety.”
If you are feeling anxious and would like help to feel better, our team of experienced private consultant psychiatrists and psychologists are able to provide help. Call now on 020 7580 4224 to discuss booking a consultation.