How to face anxiety and stress this Christmas

02 December 2020 | By Mona Drar

Christmas tends to be a stressful holiday - and because of the pandemic, Christmas will be different this year. Maybe you can't celebrate Christmas with your family. Maybe your economy is at rock bottom. Maybe you are worried about your loved ones, or about the future? In this blogpost I share some thoughts on how we can meet feelings of stress and anxiety this Christmas.

A different kind of Christmas - allow yourself to face all emotions

This Christmas will be different for all of us.

It is important to allow yourself to be sad about not being able to spend time with family and friends. Take care of your sadness or other difficult feelings that may arise. Try to face your difficult feelings instead of trying to push them away. When we face our feelings, they eventually subside, but if we push them away, they remain in us and take on a life of their own. If we dare to meet our feelings, there will also be room for the positive emotions. Remember, it is okay to have fun even though you may be on sick leave. It is ok to have fun even though there is a pandemic going on.

While we need to allow the feelings of sadness and disappointment regarding that this Christmas will be different, it is also important not to forget everything that is actually available to us, even this year. Gratitude training is a powerful tool that helps us shift our focus from the negative to the positive. Starting and ending the day with a gratitude exercise can be valuable. However, it is important not to use gratitude training as a way to avoid difficult feelings.

Christmas is a holiday that often times involves a lot of drinking and alcohol. This year in particular, it may be even more important to limit both alcohol supply and alcohol intake. Sometimes we drink alcohol to alleviate anxiety and difficult feelings, but alcohol instead tends to trigger anxiety. In addition, high alcohol intake impairs our sleep, which is our main source of recovery.

Nature is always available

What is the most important thing around Christmas, for you? How can you manifest these values, despite the pandemic? Maybe you can record a digital Christmas greeting to someone you would have liked to celebrate Christmas together with this year. Or maybe something completely different, only your imagination sets the limits. Try to keep the level of ambition down so that your gift does not create stress and pressure. It is seldom the gift itself that is significant, but the intention itself.

Try to spend as much time as possible in nature. Nature is always there for us and now more than ever, there is reason to strengthen our ties to nature. Being in nature in silence adds an extra dimension to our experience. The silence opens up our senses and helps us to fully take in our surroundings. Nature also lowers our stress level and stimulates the senses in a calm way. In nature, we often feel a kind of reverence and an experience of meaning and context.

Take time for rest and recovery

For many of us, Christmas is a holiday focused on children. We want to give our children memories for life from their Christmases. This year, there may be an even greater tendency to try to compensate for this strange year by trying to create the "perfect Christmas". It is not at all difficult to understand, but it is an impulse that can be important to create awareness about and try to limit. Try to stay focused on what really matters and lower the bar so that you can be present. Try to face yourself with self-compassion instead of self-criticism when your strengths are not enough for everything you want or plan.

You can always give yourself compassion and kindness, it usually makes the difficult feelings a little less heavy to bear. Listen to your own needs and create time for rest and recovery. Showing our children that we prioritize well-being instead of achievement and perfection is probably one of the best Christmas presents we can give them. A gift for life.

Further reading

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Mona Drar

Mona is a licensed psychologist and self-employed with the vision of spreading compassion and mental health. She likes to use nature as an element in her work.

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