Anxiety and the holiday season
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Graeme Orr MBACP(Accred), UKRCP Reg. Ind. Counsellor
23rd December, 20130 Comments
One definition of anxiety might be an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, unpleasant feelings over something unlikely to happen. Anxiety strikes us all at some point in our lives: sitting and exam or awaiting the result of a competition gives us all some anxiety. However, this articles refers more to situations when people find it hard to control their feelings of anxiety; indeed, those feelings can begin to take over and completely control the actions and behaviours in that person’s life.
Anxiety will have different effects on different people but some of the most common effects are headaches, rapid shallow breathing (which can lead to panic attacks), a pounding in your chest and a thumping heart. It has also been shown that long term tension caused by anxiety can cause a weakening of your immune system. It is also common to withdraw from people or situations that make us nervous or threaten us.
This - as you might imagine - can make the festive season a very difficult time for anyone suffering from anxiety. With 1 in 10 affected by some degree of social anxiety this is not an insignificant problem. Typically we will be expected to mix with people and engage in small talk with them when we would not normally even speak to them; there is an expectation that you will constantly be having a good time, and that there is something wrong with you if you are not deliriously happy. There are also expectations around money - having the right party dress, money to go out and buy presents etc that can build up anxiety over finances. All of these target very key fears in the person with a social anxiety. What will people think - have they done the right thing? Have they slipped up again?
If you find yourself worrying about social interactions there are some practical steps that you can take to combat your social anxiety.
- Understand that you have put your best foot forward; you have put on the clothes that you are most comfortable in and been yourself. If others criticise you that does not make them right - it just means that they have a different opinion. Indeed, if they don’t like what you offer, wouldn’t that be their problem rather than yours?
- Try and avoid alcohol and non-prescription medication to help you relax and get you ‘through it’; while one drink can make you feel better, it is all too easy to go through a few and then, for obvious reasons, things can get much worse. Better never to start on the road in the first place.
- Watch your biases. When you are anxious you will assume that it is all about you (and that it is all negative) so try to be realistic; don’t make assumptions and don’t jump to conclusions.
- Find space for yourself in all of the festive chaos. Finding time for yourself is as important as for others; perhaps it’s a chance to relax or chill out in a bath, or even just to sit with your feet up - nurture yourself.
Anxiety is a difficult condition to live with, especially at Christmas, but it can be done by following some simple rules.
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