How to stop feeling anxious and overwhelmed over the Christmas period and beyond
As we come into a second Christmas plagued with uncertainty I want to cut straight to the chase and offer you some ways you can deal with anxiety and stress.
Whether you’re wrestling with decisions on what to do and who to see, or are feeling the pinch from extra financial pressures, or just feeling overwhelmed and exhausted after another year in the “new normal”, managing your thoughts so that they don’t spiral into stress or depression is vital.
Christmas time is like one big trigger… dredging up memories, magnifying emotions and insecurities, and reminding us we’re coming to the end of another year. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, take a moment and check out these 7 tips to help you feel more in control.
1. Uncover your Christmas Story
Perhaps Christmas is the only time of year you get to show people how much you care through gifts and food. Maybe it’s the few times you get to enjoy yourself and be shown appreciation from others.
Do you feel guilty because you think it’s your job to make everyone happy? To be the life and soul of special occasions? To be perfect? To pretend everything is fine because you’re usually the strong one?
Are you trying to hold on to traditions because they remind you of happy childhood memories? Or is it important because you swore you’d never let your family have the same rubbish Christmas you had as a child?
Whatever the reason, deep rooted beliefs are driving your thoughts and feelings about Christmas.
Often we’re making up for something we didn’t have, or trying to re-create something we did have.
Just tuning in to that and noticing what’s going on in your head and comparing it to your reality now is quite revealing and can help you talk more openly with family members about why you may be feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
2. Notice Your Thoughts
Next time you feel down, notice what you’re saying to yourself and how you’re saying it. We are often our worst critic. Just bringing them into your conscious awareness can be enough to give you a more realistic perspective.
This is going to take practice. Because thoughts are so fast they can be hard to catch. I googled the speed of thought out of interest. In one article it said thoughts travel in virtually no time. Another said it was faster than the speed of light and similar to the speed of electricity.. anyway, you get the point.. so get into the habit of noticing and even better write them down. You’ll soon start to have a good handle on your common thought habits.
3. Break the pattern and stay present
Anxiety arises when you’re too focused on the future. One “what if” thought leads to another and before you know it you’ve created your own disaster movie of your life. Then your body’s chemistry joins in and you’re in fight or flight, which means you are no longer in control of yourself.
When you find yourself going down the rabbit hole of looping negative thoughts, these quick and easy techniques can be enough to snap your mind out of the pattern.
Try saying “STOP” in your head or out loud. Or if you’re a more visual person, picture a red STOP sign in your mind.
If you find yourself really overwhelmed, it’s important to ground yourself. So a good exercise that engages all your senses is to name 3 things you can see, touch, hear and smell. With continued practice you’ll find this becomes easy and effortless.
And the easiest one of all, get up and do something else. Anything.
4. Ask yourself is it true?
Next time you tell yourself a negative story ask yourself is it true? How do you know?
“They don’t want me to pop over this Christmas because they don’t like me”. Is this true? What else could it be? They’re worried about Covid? They’re busy with their own life and forgot to invite you? You didn’t actually say you wanted to visit?
You see most of the time we operate on assumptions, and the most common one is that people can mindread! We also think people are thinking about us all day. They’re not.
5. Check your boundaries
A boundary is a line you don’t want people to cross. Often these are weak or in our heads.
How can you spot weak boundaries? If you find yourself constantly compromising your needs, being taken advantage of or let down, this is a good indicator. Especially if you feel awkward or uneasy about a decision and feel worried about speaking up. Maybe you feel you need to bite your tongue or put up with a situation because you don’t want to rock the boat. Then you either end up feeling down, irritated or on the verge of exploding with rage! Hello migraines, IBS and unexplained pain.
It can be hard to say no to family and close friends, especially at Christmas. People pleasers find this especially difficult.
Again handling this is about changing your perspective. This is one of the few things you have control of when it comes to other people’s behaviour.
Most people prefer an honest answer. Even if that’s a “no”. Have you ever had that uncomfortable experience where someone agrees to something then makes excuses or lets you down last minute? Chances are they probably weren’t honest with you about what they wanted to do in the first place. So, think about how it feels when someone is honest with you. Better right?
Even if a “no” does hurt a bit, ask yourself why. Because deep down there’s probably a fear of rejection.
And if you’re the one struggling to say “no”, ask yourself this:
If I say “yes” to this person’s request, what am I saying “no” to for myself?
6. Be careful what you watch
And listen to.
Because everything that comes out of the TV, radio and your device is planting suggestions in your mind. When I tell people what I do they often tell me how fearful they are about being hypnotised, yet every day we are being hypnotised by the media. It’s estimated that the average person is exposed to up to 10,000 hypnotic suggestions per day.
Adverts are designed to make us feel inadequate, not good enough and to believe we can only be truly happy if we buy what they’re selling. The news is designed to keep us in fear because that makes us compliant.
So take back control, switch off the news, mute the ads, watch uplifting programmes and limit time on social media.
And on that note, when you’re feeling under pressure to buy more, whether that’s food or presents just remember, most of those thoughts that it’s not enough are not your own. And what most of us really want is quality time and attention from the people we care about. Not a plastic toy, some more bubble bath or another sausage roll.
7. Do the Minimum
When I’m coaching business women I always ask them this – what do you need to do to keep the lights on?
There’s always something that needs your commitment, time and attention. And they’re usually the things you feel you have to do and should do. Last in the pile is usually what you want to do.
But if you took a really good honest look and asked yourself what’s the minimum that has to happen to keep the wheels of your life turning there will be some things that can wait or don’t even need to be done at all.
So work out your version of “keeping the lights on” and do that. Set small daily goals and allow yourself to stop when they’re done. And how about making sure one of the things on that list is just for you, to keep you grounded and protect your energy?
I’ve given you 7 tips here, but don’t think you need to do all of them. If you adopt just 1 you’ll make a big difference to your mindset and help calm down anxious thoughts and feelings.
And if you're struggling with anxiety, overwhelm and just not feeling yourself, speak to me about what you can do to overcome this, because real change comes from getting to the root cause. And that's what I help you to do. Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.