How to survive Christmas stress
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Maggie Lawson MBPsS MBACP (Accred) HCPC Registered Counselling Psychologist
18th December, 20120 Comments
From about the end November most of my clients start to talk about Christmas and what it means to them. Everyone has their own ideas of what Christmas means based on their history, personality and family traditions. For some it conjures up a magical scene of snow, lights, carols, presents, family, friends and fun. However, for many people it can be particularly painful, lonely and stressful.
Here are ideas you might like to put into practise if you are finding it difficult this year to help you cope and enjoy your day.
The time leading up to Christmas itself can bring up feelings of loss, loved ones gone, time passing by and dreams not fulfilled. Unresolved feelings from the past combined with ongoing difficulties can raise your anxiety by stimulating the emotional part of the brain so you become overwhelmed with adrenaline and cortisol stress hormones. Maybe you are aware that your anxiety levels and mood lowers during the time leading up to Christmas. You might be aware of why that is or have no idea of why this happens yet again. Often it is rooted in Christmas past. I have a client who repeatedly caused chaos in her family during the months of November and December by her levels of anxiety and refusing to comply with family arrangements. During therapy it transpired that her Father had walked out on her Mother when she was five years old just before Christmas. She had blacked this but on remembering it and exploring it meaning to her, effects on her and others helped reduce her anxiety and relate better to her family.
Letting go of your expectations and aiming for a good enough Christmas might just help to lower your anxiety levels. Learn to ask for what you need by becoming self aware and assertive. Also ask for help and learn to delegate. Prepare for Christmas by increasing your self care through exercise, eating a healthy well balanced diet and limiting your alcohol.
We take ourselves into Christmas, our personalities, our past, ongoing life events and expectations. Try to separate Christmas from our expectations of how it ought to be. One older lady I rang a few years ago on Christmas day as she was all alone said to me ‘It is only another day and that is how I manage it’. Life events and feelings pass and it helps to try to accept just where you are without wanting to change anything or push it away.
Mindfulness- based cognitive therapy is the most helpful tool I have found to relive stress and anxiety. By practising short daily meditations changes will occur in the emotional brain with a reduction in stress hormones. Mindfulness practice which can be learned initially through a trained therapist will enable you to quieten your mind, feel more serenity and accept yourself and your situation.
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