19 December 2013

Coping at Christmas

CopingxmasChristmas is supposed to be a time of peace, goodwill and cheer. The reality, however, is often a far cry from the Christmas card ideal.

The financial and social pressures of the season can often lead to stress and anxiety, even more so for people who are already experiencing these conditions. Difficult family and relationship situations can be brought to the fore at this time of year, and for many people the new year can herald a bout of depression.

Here are some simple things you can do to deal with the additional stresses and anxieties of Christmas.

  1. Do one thing at a time. Make a list of the things that you need to do to prepare for Christmas, and decide which is the most important. Do that one thing and forget about everything on the list for the time being. Then prioritise the next thing and so on. As you achieve each thing, the rest of your list will seem easier.
  2. Take a bit of time out for yourself. Even if it is just 10 or 15 minutes - it will help. Use this time to lose yourself in something completely unconnected to Christmas - read a few pages of a book, watch part of a favourite DVD, listen to some music, for example. Physical activity can help - try going for a walk or a bike ride. Or if you can make more time, pamper yourself with a long bath, a night out at the cinema or treat yourself to a massage.
  3. Try some simple relaxation techniques. The simplest of all is breathing. Concentrate for a few seconds on taking slow, steady, deep breaths, emptying your lungs as much as possible in between each breath. Simple stretches can also help. You can borrow CDs and books of relaxation techniques from local libraries.
  4. Talk about your anxieties with someone else - a friend or relative. Talking about the things that are worrying you can help you to realise that some of them aren't so important after all, and help you to focus on one or two things that are at the root of your worry.
  5. Don't place yourself under unnecessary pressure. At Christmas we often put ourselves under a huge amount of pressure - searching for the perfect gifts, cooking the perfect Christmas lunch, planning a perfect day. We need to remember that we are not perfect and we shouldn't expect too much of ourselves.
  6. Keep things in perspective. Compare your worries with those of others, or imagine how unimportant the stress of Christmas preparations will seem in a couple of months' time - or even in a couple or weeks' time.

Our free, self-referral psychology services (Positive Step in North Somerset, LIFT Psychology in South Gloucestershire, Bristol, BANES, Swindon and Wiltshire) help with mild to moderate mental health issues including anxiety, stress, depression through free local group workshops and courses and a range of online and self-help resources.

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