Hello everyone, I’m delighted once again to connect with you via my blog. Here it’s my aim to share our journey together towards lasting positive change for better mental health and wellbeing.
“Tis the season for managing festive stress and anxiety.
With Christmas fast approaching it can be a stressful time, the extra cooking, buying and wrapping of presents, juggling work commitments with keeping the children entertained, additional social gatherings at work, and with family and friends – the list can be endless with organisation moved up a notch to the next level! If you’re already struggling with stress, the festive period can be overwhelming and exhausting, with symptoms affecting more women than men.
Excessive time spent on social media scrolling can also play a part in exacerbating your stress levels in the build-up to the big day, comparing yourself to others and their seemingly “perfect and magical” Christmas. It’s important to retain perspective as this could be staged or gifted – It’s all about the likes apparently!
You may be well versed with the symptoms of stress, but if not, below are some signs to look out for;
*Anxiety, & a constant sense of worry or dread
*Feeling overwhelmed & tearful, like you’ve lost control
*Finding it difficult to make the simplest decisions
*Being restless, unable to relax or sleep properly
*Lack of appetite
*Unhealthy coping mechanisms
Managing anxiety at Christmas….
With everything seemingly more intense and heightened during this time of year, from the crowds, music and lights to people’s expectations, it can be daunting, and if you’re struggling with anxiety things can feel even more intense.
During the festive period, it’s common for your usual worries to intensify, leaving you feeling anxious about a whole range of issues which affect your mental and physical health. Add into the mix the prospect of a disrupted routine, and having to see more people especially in person, it can feel overwhelming making you want to withdraw.
Symptoms of anxiety can affect people in different ways, including;
*A persistent sense of worry, apprehension, unease or dread
*Feeling tearful, paranoid and tense
*Feeling faint, dizzy or light headed
*Palpitations or increased heartbeat
*Churning in your stomach
*Being irritable or on edge
If you’ve experienced any of the above symptoms, it could be a good idea to speak with a medical professional.
Thankfully there are a range of things you can do to manage your mental health and wellbeing during the festivities. Getting back on track with your usual routine as soon as possible after Christmas can help ease the New Year transition. It’s important not to bottle things up or attempt to ignore how you feel as this won’t help in the long term.
Avoid unhelpful social comparisons
If you feel like you don’t measure up to those you follow online or see in person, it can have a negative impact on your self-esteem. Social media and repetitive advertising can make matters worse, leading to feelings of inferiority and inadequacy.
Try to limit your social media exposure and consider unfollowing those who don’t make you feel good. Focusing on yourself and those close to you, in terms of your finances set a financial budget and stick to it. Know it’s also ok to say “no” if you don’t wish to do something, you don’t have to give a reason.
Have realistic expectations about family gatherings
If you’re spending Christmas with your family, the expectation is that the festive season is a ‘time for family’ which can add further pressure on any strained relationships, particularly among people you don’t see very often and aren’t used to spending much time with.
Being realistic about what you can expect from your time together will help to avoid disappointment and help you get more out of it. Prepare yourself beforehand, think how you’ll answer any sensitive questions and plan an exit strategy in your mind. If the conversation is heading somewhere you’re not comfortable with, remember you are in control. If a matter needs addressing consider leaving it for another day when emotions may be less.
Participate in your local community
For some, Christmas can be a time of increased isolation with loneliness being particularly painful for those who have suffered bereavement. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, I understand that it’s likely to feel extremely difficult coping with the festive season without them. Many organisations offer support at Christmas, so finding out what is available in your local area may provide you with a powerful source of support.
Alternatively, volunteering at a local event might be a good way of reducing loneliness and giving you a sense of purpose if you’re spending Christmas alone.
Take a break
Allow yourself some well deserved “you time” if you find your stress levels rising. You may want to head out for a walk, pop out for a coffee, listen to music or snuggle down with your book – whatever will help you to relax or unwind. I understand this can be hard to achieve if you’ve lots of responsibilities, so plan your opportunity for a break in advance. Could you arrange for your partner to take the children out for a few hours to give you a break? Or manage others expectations advising them you will see them another time?
If puzzles or crafts are your way of relaxing, simple repetitive puzzles or crafts induce a calming meditative state within your brain. The aim is to find a task which is satisfying and engaging without being overly complex. This is particularly beneficial to keep in mind if you are suffering with stress or anxiety offering you rest bite.
Everything in moderation
It can be tempting to over-indulge at Christmas, particularly as you navigate your way through spending time largely at home. However, there can be negative side effects from too much excess, feeling guilty afterwards, feeling physically bloated and unwell having eaten to excess, increased negative emotions from alcohol, which is a depressant interfering with prescribed medication.
If you can, try to avoid overindulgence, whether you’re home alone or in the company of others – don’t be afraid to politely decline, think of your boundaries beforehand and aim to stick to them.
Look after yourself
Your calendar might be filling up fast, but try to put some time aside to look after yourself. Exercise, even moderate exercise, healthy food and plenty of quality sleep are as important at Christmas as at any other time of the year.
Shorter daylight hours combined with lack of sunshine can impact negatively on your mood. Many people find themselves staying in the house over the cold Christmas period. However, it’s important you try to get out at least once a day, even if it’s just for a short walk. These small mood-boosting activities can help keep your mind fresh and focused – and better equipped to deal with any stress that might be lingering.
Meditate, listen to a calming music or an audiobook
Research has shown that just 5 minutes of meditation a day helps clear your mind, improve your mood, enhance brain function, reduce stress and soothe your sympathetic nervous system. If that wasn’t enough it also improves the levels of Dopamine within your brain enhancing feelings of pleasure, satisfaction and motivation.
If you’ve never tried relaxing meditation before or aren’t sure where to start, on Wednesday the 7thFebruary 2024 I’m holding a calming relaxation session at Lowick Village Hall, Northants, NN14 3BH from 7pm for 1 hour, price £12pp. I would love to see you there, to help you relax so you leave feeling refreshed, rested and at peace. I’ll publish further details in the New Year and if you’d like to secure your place please contact me here and I’ll provide payment details.
Don’t look back on the past year
At Christmas people tend to look back and reflect on what they have and haven’t achieved. If you’re suffering with depression, anxiety or low self-esteem, there is a real risk that any negative feelings of under-achievement, or the past year not living up to your expectations, are exacerbated. Try to focus on the positives instead and what you have achieved, what bought you joy and happiness, what you can incorporate more of in the New Year.
Now I’m all for having goals and things to aim for, but that said I am mindful of the whole “New Year New You” scenario which adds further pressure.
Support is available
If Christmas feels especially difficult, please know you’re not alone. There is help and support available for you whether you’re feeling anxious, stresses, depressed or alone, support is just a phone call or message away so please get in touch for a supportive chat. I offer a FREE no obligation confidential 45- minute initial consultation conducted online whereby I obtain enough information to allow me to understand what’s happened, where you are now and what you would like to achieve in a sensitive understanding manner – there is no rush. I’ll then formulate your bespoke treatment plan where the average number of sessions requires ranges from 6-12 depending on the individual, symptoms and desired progress. After your initial consultation, I’ll provide you with a FREE copy of my relaxing audio to listen to each day which will help you relax.
Each subsequent session is 60 minutes in duration, consisting of psychotherapy (talking therapy), concluding with deeply relaxing hypnosis. This enables your subconscious mind to begin consolidating new neural pathways unlocking your brain from its permanent stress response (think fight or flight), enabling you to cope better and move forward.
Subsequent sessions are available either online or face to face at Ironstone Wellbeing Centre, Ironstone Place, Kettering, NN14 1FN, it’s down to your personal preference and circumstances as to which you choose, and you could always try both to discover which is more comfortable for you.
Please know there is help and support available to you for whatever has happened or is happening right now, it doesn’t define you and there is hope moving forward.
Wishing you all a peaceful Christmas with very best wishes for the New Year.
Take care of you,
Jane Lyall – DSFH, AfSFH (Reg), CNHC (Reg, NCH (Reg)
Solution Focused Clinical Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapist
Tel: 07547 935519
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