Anxiety disorder can increase during the festive season. In New Zealand, we are truly fortunate to have a summer season to enjoy festivities like Christmas and welcoming the new year. The end-of-year break brings much anticipation of unwinding from work commitments and preparing for the upcoming celebration of family and fun. The need to achieve better life satisfaction becomes more significant at this time. It usually results in high anxiety levels due to financial and emotional stress.
Anyone can have an anxiety disorder. As humans, we love connections and celebrations. Seasonal festivity environments tend to drive us to create the perfect holiday experience. It a time where we feel justified to be spoilt by the abundance of choices available in the commercial market.
Six reasons you are likely to have anxiety disorder during the festive season.
1. You want to work this Christmas because it is good money which means less time with your family. It is hard to feel festive when the focus is on generating more money to spend.
2. You need to plan a trip away for the family so the children can have some time away together. The anxiety of planning and coordinating a trip away significantly lowers your mood for festivity.
3. You dread socializing with extended family members, but you need to do so this time of year. The fear of family tension can significantly increase your anxiety disorder.
4. You must choose to spend on bills or a good Christmas experience for your family. Tough choices can increase your stress level if you feel significantly underprepared this holiday.
5. You do not want your family to think less of you because you can’t give them a good Christmas. When you start measuring your self-worth based on your material ability, your sense of self-worth can decline. Low self-esteem is one of the common signs of anxiety disorder.
6. You do not want to spend time alone. Anxiety disorder can heighten the sense of loneliness during the Christmas season.
Being overly focused on your worries can prevent you from appreciating the important people and moments in your life. Setting high expectations or trying to meet the expectation of others does not always mean you get the best sense of accomplishment. High anxiety and stress can lead to a sleep deficit. Lack of sleep can easily lead to depression.
Seven strategies to help reduce your anxiety disorder this holiday
Keep your festive anxiety away using the strategies below:
1. Plan ahead.
Take time for yourself or your partner to discuss the goals for this end-of-year break. Planning helps you clarify what you can afford to do time and money-wise. Together you can decide what your needs and wants are. If you have teenage kids, involve them in the planning process. Use a G.R.O.W strategy- Goal, Realistic, Options and Way forward. It is a handy strategy for planning your time and money. The ultimate goal is to have a more fun time and reduce your anxiety level.
2. Lower your expectations
Anxiety disorder can easily set in when you have to keep up with the Joneses. High expectations often leads to higher level of disappointment when you fail to achieve them. Gifting comes in many forms, such as a connection, a card or an act of service. A festive meal does not have to be grand. Plan your menu, decide on a budget and stick to it. It is ok if you cannot afford to partake in an extended family getaway. You can catch up with them when they are back at their house.
3. Set a new family ritual.
Start a new ritual for you and your family. Volunteering at the local community kitchen or planting a tree in your backyard will help foster a meaningful new tradition. If you do not currently know your neighbours, reach out to them and make a new connection. invite them over for a drink, a meal or a board game.
4. Ask for help.
There is nothing wrong with asking for help to prepare for the festivity. More hands make light work. Involving the family in the decoration and food preparation promotes a greater sense of belonging and togetherness. If the extended family offers to bring food, say yes. One less item of food to prepare is always a bonus. What if there is not enough food to feed everyone? That is your anxiety disorder talking. Turn it off.
5. Make time to rejuvenate your well-being
Allocate time to reflect on your journey this year. Anxiety disorder can also manifest when you are filled with self doubts. What are the highs and the low of this year? How is your well-being? Take advantage of this break to do a maintenance check on your relationship goals. How is your interaction with each other? What can you improve on in terms of your communication with each other? If you have kids, check in with them. How are they doing? What has been exciting and new for them this year? You might learn something new from your kids!
6. Aim for simplicity.
You do not need to go overboard. Reducing your spending, food and alcohol consumption will lead to greater enjoyment of time together. You also need not feel obliged to stay too long at a family gathering. Plan your leave once you think you have built adequate connections, and take your family home to enjoy some personal time together. Allow adequate time for travel to reduce your travel anxiety. The journey home from a gathering requires complete focus; you will likely encounter intoxicated drivers and traffic jams. Road rage is a common behavior resulting from an anxiety disorder.
7. Seek professional help
Suppose you encounter issues that you need to talk to a counsellor urgently. Start looking for a counsellor who can work with you through Christmas and the holidays. Counselling centres usually close for the holiday period. Online counselling will be the best option for seeing you in your time of need. You can connect with them via Zoom if you have a workable device such as a smartphone. If you are currently receiving treatment, find out ways to have the treatment during this holiday
period. Plan now for your ongoing treatment to ensure you have some stability this holiday.
How can I help someone with anxiety during this time?
According to NZ Survey 2021, our life satisfaction consists of the following:
· Income- Ability to earn enough money to cover everyday expenses and have enough to set aside for savings.
· Health – Having good health to function and connect with others daily.
· Housing – Has a house or flat to live in that is comfortable, secure and dry.
· Social Connections – Has a vast network of connections and has not felt lonely in the last four weeks.
This festive holiday period can be challenging for those with a less satisfactory quality of life.
Sharing is caring. It is always good to think about others that may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. There are many ways you can help support them:
· Maintain Connection – Staying in contact with them. Nothing is more comforting than the knowledge that someone is thinking about them. It can help reduce their anxiety during this festive season.
· Show Empathy – Avoid judgement in their time of need. Let them talk about their feelings and walk alongside them. Let them know they can talk about their anxiety disorder and that it is ok for them to be vulnerable in your presence. Be the shoulder they can lean on when they feel pain.
· Be present – Show an interest in the topics they like to discuss. Find out things that help keep them calm. It can help them feel less stressed as they shift their focus from being anxious to happy.
· Be inclusive- If you are going for a walk or a long hike, invite them for the adventure. If it is appropriate, ask them to join in your family festivity. Help them experience joy and love through your interaction with your family this Christmas season.
· Show gratitude- Let them know how much you appreciate their presence in your life. Share fun memories you had with them. Show them the impact they have had in your life.
· Allow the person to grieve- If you have a friend or a family member grieving, stay alongside them. Let them talk about their pain in missing the person. Anxiety disorders can present themselves in their withdrawal from connection due to grief.