How to handle your anxieties during the festive period.Nov 28, 2023
“The magic is in the mess” - Brene Brown
It’s the season of so much joy, fun and excitement. A time where many people look forward to spending time with friends and family, and sharing celebrations. The festive period is the perfect time to cultivate joy into our lives, a feeling of deep connection, pleasure and appreciation.
Unfortunately the reality for some brings a totally different experience. As we get closer to the festivities, it can trigger high levels of anxiety, stress, unhappiness and loneliness. Although our negative thoughts can spiral, there are also many ways in which we can bring forward all the positives that this time can bring. Creating tangible habits that boost your mood and change your mindset.
“As I prepare to spend the next few days with my family and friends, my goal is to practice love and gratitude with the special group of folks who keep showing up and loving me, not despite my vulnerabilities and imperfections, but because of them.”
- Brene Brown
The festive season can bring on feelings of overwhelm for many due to calendar events overflowing, financial costs, estranged family members and that overwhelming feeling of another year coming to an end. You may miss family members that are not with you anymore. You might worry about things not playing out perfectly. Or it is a time where you feel like you should be doing certain things, but are left with the dreaded ‘fomo.’
As we begin to reflect, we are likely to begin to ask ourselves many questions and spiral with our negative thoughts. Questions we often ask ourselves are; ‘Will I be on my own this year?’ ‘Will I spend time with my loved ones?’ ‘How much will social events cost?’ ‘Did I achieve all I had wanted to?’ ‘Did I hit all my goals?’
Finding ways to change your mindset can be a game changer! New research released by mental health charity Mind suggests a third of people (36%) are too embarrassed to admit they are lonely at Christmas. We are going to discuss some helpful tips below that you can begin to see how you can work on your mindset and make the holiday season more joyful for you…
So how can we help combat anxiety over this time?
See the importance of taking a break.
There may be a feeling of pressure to be busy celebrating with friends and family, or feeling that you are missing out on certain events. But it is also a perfect time to take some much needed rest. Get cosy and relax with your favourite book or series. Take warm baths or cook yourself your favourite meal. Rest is something that is totally underrated. The happiest people in the world take naps during the day! Getting comfortable spending time with yourself and enjoying time alone is a wonderful thing to cultivate in your life - it might feel uncomfortable at first, but that's ok. It's in the discomfort that we grow.
Be careful with alcohol.
You may feel more tempted or pressured to drink more than you usually would. Alcohol can affect your mental health during this period by acting as a depressant, or perhaps you get the dreaded “hangxiety.” Be mindful of your alcohol consumption and take away any outside pressures. This is a brilliant time to practice setting boundaries - “I am very happy with my choice not to drink, I would appreciate us changing the topic of conversation.” Choose not to have alcohol available in your home if necessary.
Try a mindful walk.
Winter time when the sun is shining can be the most perfect time to get your walking boots on and head into the beautiful outdoors. Or even chucking on that raincoat and jumping in the puddles! Try visiting your local park, or research somewhere new you can take a walk. Join a local walking group. (One of my amazing clients set up her own walking group in Sweden a couple of years ago!) Walking outdoors is a habit we can all get into - even if you start with a 10 minute walk. Breaking down these habits into smaller chunks is a great way to start.
It doesn’t have to be “PERFECT"
Embrace the messiness! Outside noise such as adverts and the media make us think that the festive period should be this perfect time of year. It can give the impression that other people are happily celebrating or hosting lavish celebrations. But remind yourself that there is no such thing as ‘perfect’ and you have to do what feels right to you. Look after yourself, figure out what YOU need, want and what your values are and then align yourself to that. Perfectionism often comes from a fear of being rejected.
There is usually a lot going on in your local community during this time, which doesn’t require you to be part of a big family. Volunteering within your local community, homeless shelter or care home as examples is a fabulous way to connect with other people and boost your confidence. Click here for volunteer opportunities in London over the Christmas period.
Be around people.
When you are feeling low, it can be really difficult to push yourself to make plans with others. But we are social creatures and our self-esteem gets a real boost when we interact with others. Try and use this time to make plans with people you really value in your life, or look for ways to find new people to socialise with through your hobbies. Pick up the phone and have a chat to a friend who you can’t see in person. Look out for opportunities to chat to people around you - the barista, the waiter, the receptionist, people at the gym. When you choose to be friendly and ask people you interact with during the day how they are, you will experience a much more uplifting day, rather than having your head down looking at your phone.
Setting boundaries can be difficult, but this is absolutely key to building self-worth. It is important to balance yourself between socialising, family time and rest time. It is important that you say no to things you don’t want to do. Boundaries enable you to prioritise your own needs and go at the pace that suits you best. It is important to be honest with yourself and your feelings. An example could be - “I would appreciate it if you didn’t ask me how my love life is, I have other things I would like to talk about.” Or if they persist “If you continue to ask me about my love life, I will leave the conversation.”
Meditation is a great way to help you refocus on what matters most during the festive period. You can’t control other people or events, but you can use meditation to help you navigate the overwhelming feelings. The thing about meditation - it brings you, back to you. You get to discover who you are without so much fear, without so many pressures holding you back.
When starting to meditate, guided meditations are a great place to start. Tara Brach has a whole selection of meditations on her website or podcast, the one shared here focuses on cultivating happiness, freedom and joy. We all have a deep conditioning to get stuck in feelings of fear, deficiency and separation from others. This meditation explores how to unblock the fears within us, that stop us from reaching our potential. It helps you focus on where you can develop on feelings of bringing presence and joy into your life. Try practicing meditations for 10 to 15 minutes each day, from now through to the end of the year. We have many meditations and visualisations at Move and Inspire.
When we practice gratitude, we have to pause and capture the feelings that come with appreciation. For instance - write it down, take a photo of it, share it with someone. The brain will release serotonin and dopamine which are the chemicals responsible for happiness. When we get flushed with feelings of gratitude; our stress hormones get regulated, reducing anxiety and depression. It’s such a simple and underrated practice.
Our brain is conditioned to notice the negative more than the positive. Our survival depended on this. Nowadays, we can start to train ourselves to notice the positive things, which happens during a gratitude practice. As we practice gratitude regularly, the brain learns, “Aha! This is what the person wants me to do.” We begin to build new neural connections to what psychologists call the brain's “bliss centre”. We literally rewire the brain by practicing gratitude regularly.
By practicing gratitude we can increase happiness, satisfaction with life, experience less burnout, enable better physical health, better sleep, less fatigue, greater resilience and it can encourage the development of patience.
“Gratitude for the present moment and the fullness of life now is the true prosperity.” – Eckhart Tolle
If you are interested in learning more, Eckhart Tolle speaks beautifully about gratitude.
This time of year is the perfect time to really focus on all that you are grateful for. As a start it may be useful by doing this daily, and writing down 5 things each day that you are grateful for in your life. This may be people you are thankful for in your life, what they have done and how they may have supported you. Or reflecting on something that you have achieved, or working to achieve.
There is growing evidence that gratitude journalling can improve physical, mental and social health. For long-term effects, it is important to commit to a regular practice. Brene Brown says that after many years of research, the most joyous people were those with a regular gratitude practice.
“I love thinking of joy as “the good mood of the soul” - Brene Brown
Affirmations & Mantras.
A great daily activity would be to adopt mantras alongside your meditation practice. Mantra is a Sanskrit word meaning a “sacred message or text, charm, spell, counsel.” Mantras are a string of words to help you centre yourself and provide meditative moments of connection throughout your day. You can chant a mantra during yoga or mediation, you can write it down or even just say it in passing during your day. The more you use mantras, the more you will start to see moments of wellbeing and happiness cultivated. Yes this practice feels strange at first but you soon get used to it!
Identify something that you want to improve or alternatively something you want to focus more energy on. For example: “I want to be more compassionate to myself and love the body I currently have.” “I approach everything, even small things, with love and acceptance.”
Click here for some more examples of affirmations for anxiety.
So, in summary, how do I deal with my anxiety over the Christmas period?
Instead of thinking of January as your time to reset, start again, make new resolutions etc… Christmas is a great time to begin to take good care of yourself, creating new routines that are tangible and truly lift you up. By focusing on all the points above, you begin to become present within yourself, building on emotions such as joy, happiness, calm and contentment. You begin to connect to yourself and in the process your connection with others deepens. Truly this is the time, right now, to start sitting in the driving seat - you get to choose to create a new reality... NOW! And I am here, rooting for you.
"Happiness is not something readymade; it comes from your own actions.” Dalai Lama
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