Anxiety Disorder: Learn 7 strategies you can use to reduce anxiety during Christmas and New Year break.

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

anxiety disorder

 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.


Intrusive Thoughts- 3 most common types and discover why we fear having these thoughts.

What are intrusive thoughts?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association (ADAA), intrusive thoughts are involuntary and have no bearing on reality. They can be disturbing and create physical discomfort. These images can be random and repetitive. It can be triggered if you are under stress, having insomnia or undergoing hormone fluctuations. It can also be an aspect of a more significant concern such as depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome-PTSD or obsessive-compulsive disorder-OCD.

Treatment for intrusive thoughts can be talk therapy or counselling. These days counselling is available face-to-face or online. Online counselling is convenient as you do not need to plan your travel, and you can have your session in the comfort of your home. Medical doctors also often prescribe medication in conjunction with talk therapy.

Types of intrusive thoughts

These sudden thoughts can be harmful, violent or compulsive. They are often correlated with safety or risk and can be offensive and explicit.

Negative mindset

·I am not good at this; why am I even doing this?

·Surely, someone will see that I am a fraud.

·I don’t think I deserve the accolade; I am useless.

·I can’t leave a task unfinished. I will not be a good person if I do that.

Violent imageries

·If I leave the oven on all night, the house might burn down while I am asleep.

·The bridge will collapse when I walk over it with my baby in the pram.

·I might violate my baby if I clean them incorrectly.

 Compulsive notion

·I can’t stop eating, but I am already full.

·If I eat, I will get fat.

·I must wash my hands whenever I touch a foreign surface I don’t trust.

Harmful or disturbing thoughts can stem from presenting concerns about your relationship or life challenges. According to Dr Kerry-Ann Williams, a lecturer in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, many people who experience these thoughts don’t have a mental health disorder. She adds that life stressors can increase the occurrence of disturbing thinking patterns.

Identifying intrusive thoughts.

While these sudden perceptions can be disturbing, that does not mean that you will act on them or that you are somehow weird or a psychopath. Dr Williams indicated that people are often hesitant to talk about it for fear of judgement.

Consider what they mean before assuming what you are as a person.

·That is a weird thing to think about.-Consider if there is any reason for the image to appear in your mind or if it is just a random event that your mind decided to conjure up.

·Does it bother me?- If you find it disturbing and want to push it away, it is an intrusive thought.

·I cannot stop thinking about it.-Unpleasant images can be easily triggered. The more you think about it, the worst it gets.

How do I manage my intrusive thoughts?

Managing these unwanted thinking patterns requires a conscious effort to acknowledge, accept and
forgive the thoughts. When it appears, you can take the following steps to
address them:

1. Identify the thoughts as unwanted.

-Take some to process what you are thinking about. Tell yourself,” That is not real. It is not who I am nor what I believe.

2. Acknowledge and Acceptance- You do not need to fight these thoughts.

-Connect with your thought in the present instead of draining your energy to try and banish them. Connecting with your thoughts helps you create awareness when you navigate your thoughts through your values, beliefs and ambitions.

3. Forgive- Forgiveness is about connecting with yourself and telling yourself that it is okay to have those unpleasant thoughts. Reaffirm your mind that this is not who you are, and you will not be doing that.

Seeking help for intrusive thoughts.

Sometimes you will need to talk to a counsellor or a therapist about these thoughts preventing you from living your life. There are two widely used behaviour therapy treatments, Cognitive behaviour therapy -CBT and Acceptance and Commitment therapy. Both therapies help treat psychological issues such as obsessive-compulsive disorder-OCD, post-traumatic stress disorder-PTSD and social phobias.

CBT- Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

CBT Model.

CBT is a short-term treatment focusing on goal-oriented treatment. The main focus here is to help a person that experiences cognitive distortions and help them change their maladaptive behaviours. CBT helps a person analyse their activating event using the core principles below:

Ø  Thoughts and perceptions- What was the thought? Encouraging the person to explore the unpleasantness that emerges and process it in the here and now.

Ø  Feelings- How did you feel about it? Explore the emotions that emerge from having unpleasant thoughts.

Ø  Behaviour – How did you respond? What did you do? Check-in on the actions taken by the person when they have experienced a bad emotion.

Ø  Physical reaction – Bringing the focus back to the physical sensations the person has experienced, such as shortening of breath or tightness in their chest.

The end goal of CBT treatment is to empower the person to develop an ability to query their thinking processes before taking action when experiencing unpleasant imagery or thought.


 ACT- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

ACT Model

 ACT is a branch of CBT therapy. This therapy uses a holistic approach to encourage the person to take the journey through unpleasant experiences to uncover the meaning behind those experiences and achieve psychological flexibility. There are six core principles to ACT therapy:

Ø Acceptance – Encouraging the person to embrace the unpleasant negative experience and move away from the denial or attempt to change it. The aim is to help the person expand, allowing the unpleasant feelings and thoughts to be felt and discovered so they may identify why the experience is unpleasant.

Ø Cognitive defusion- help the person separate their association with the negative perceptions towards their thoughts, memories or images. The ACT therapist can encourage them to step back and analyse those perceptions that they currently have.

Ø  Contact and connect with the present moment- ACT looks at how a person connects with the mind, the body, the thoughts, the images and memories in the present. Letting the person tell the story of their values and interest and how they came to be who they are.

Ø  The Observing Self – Creating a transcendence sense of self. Developing an awareness that the physical body, the thoughts, the feelings, the sensations and memories are all parts of the person, but those parts individually do not make the person.

Ø  Values and clarification – Focuses on the qualities the person wants to work towards and hold onto at any moment. Clarity is vital to define what those values mean to them. Values are not to be confused with goals. Values are about our priority in life, so we feel more wholesome. A good example is family values. A happy family requires us to work on things such as working and looking after our young ones. Therefore, we set goals to work more efficiently and have more time with the family.

Ø  Committed action – Setting the goals. Explore the desire for the goals they have set. Explore the possibility of not achieving the goals. Reaffirming that failing to achieve goals the first few times does not mean it is not achievable infinitely.


Everyone is likely to have unpleasant thoughts from time to time. Most try and dismiss it and go about their day. If it becomes something you are likely to contemplate over and over in your mind, it is worthwhile to seek professional help. There is more value in getting treatment and reclaiming the pleasure of living than living in a vicious cycle of intrusive thought.


Anxiety – 10 Powerful Methods to Overcome

Anxiety Symptoms

To better understand your anxious feelings, you could try the Severity Measure for Generalised Anxiety Disorder. This self-assessment tool will help you identify how your anxiety levels compare to the general population.

 Let’s take a look at some anxiety symptoms:

  1. Sometimes your heart starts to race, and you get shortness of breath, you may begin to feel dizzy, and your body may tremble. These are all symptoms that you have a panic attack. Panic attacks, also known as anxiety attacks, are a type of anxiety disorder.
  2.  I am feeling uncomfortable and sweating more than usual when in social situations. Thoughts can be about being an outsider while at a social gathering. These are all signs of social anxiety that may start with leaving early and lead to complete avoidance. 
  3.  Anxiety can affect your ability to concentrate or focus. Forgetting things off the shopping list and getting distracted at work are signs of anxiety. The inability to concentrate can make a person useless, which creates further anxiety.  
  4. Are you feeling Nervous? It is normal to feel nervous about an event outside your comfort zone, such as a one-off public speech. However, suppose that anxious feeling is not event-based or based on something that is an everyday task. In that case, it is more severe and likely to be an anxiety disorder.  
  5. A sense of impending doom is generally a sense that something terrible will happen. The phrase itself tells us that there is a high level of fear and uncertainty about something that has yet to happen. The feeling of anxiety comes from a fear of what will happen in the future.
  6. Perfectionism is the thought that the finished result must be of a very high standard. Perfectionism is not realistic for most of us in a busy everyday life with lots of things to do. It puts a lot of pressure on the individual and could be the underlying cause of anxiety disorders. It could also be a symptom of the anxiety disorder, as doing things of high standard helps reduce anxiety for the person with the disorder.

Overcome Anxiety:

1. Be in the present. It is helpful to think about the past and learn from it. It is also beneficial to think about the future and be better prepared. Also, spend some time in the present, a place where you are free from past regret and future uncertainty. To bring yourself to the present, think about what you see around you, what you can hear, smell, and taste. Use your senses to get yourself to be in the present.

2. Believe in yourself! Having confidence in yourself means that you can handle things no matter the hurdles you have to overcome. You are willing to take on risks and overcome obstacles. Sometimes it is easier said than done.

3. Look at your past accomplishments. What makes you proud? What wise decisions have you made in the past?

4. You are your own worst critic. So it is time to think about what others have said that they admire or like about you. What positive things do your friends say?

5. Do tasks where you feel you have control. Prove to yourself that you are confident.

6. Lower the bar. Things do not have to be perfect. Affirm yourself for giving things a go. Think about how no one is good at everything, and most of the time, it takes practice to build skill and confidence.

7. Diet, Exercise, & Sleep. These three things are essential to keep your body and mind healthy. If they are out of balance, it will increase your anxiety. Start by making three easy changes:

  1. Go to bed at a regular time.
  2. Go for a 20-minute walk each day.
  3. Reduce alcohol and caffeine intake.

8. Just get started. Anxiety can be paralysing, and the longer you wait, the more stress can build.

9. Do something that makes you proud. Activities that will help improve your self-esteem and confidence.

10, Anxiety Benefits. Recognise anxiety as a natural feeling and acknowledge that it is not something you want to
eliminate. Anxiety helps us be productive and meet deadlines. Anxiety helps us avoid dangerous situations where we put ourselves at risk.

Early intervention

Like any health problem seeking early treatment can mean a faster road to recovery.

Start using the cognitive interventions described in this article. Measure the intervention results using the Severity Measure for Generalised Anxiety Disorder tool. If you do not see any improvement, book your first online counselling for free here: 

Are you Hypervigilant?

Hypervigilance can lead to anxiety and stress.

In Omicron Phase three, we are no longer being restricted on places we can and cannot go. In this self-management model, it is up to us to keep ourselves safe including our loved ones, workplace and the local community. While we are vigilantly doing this, we often ignore the impact it has on our mental well being.

Common symptoms can include:

  • Feelings of losing control.
  • Experience of emotional distress.
  • Feelings of sadness and emotional pain from memories.
  • Feeling alienated thinking that you will be judged and made to feel unwelcomed.
  • Difficulty being around people that appear to be erratic or chaotic.
  • Urge to constantly keep tabs on the whereabouts of your family members and friends.
  • Feelings of frustration and anger when the internet connection cuts out or when the electronics fail to function properly.

There are ways to cope with hypervigilance.

  • Exercise -Regular exercise promotes positive health focus. It also helps reduce the stress hormones namely adrenalin and cortisol. Exercising helps create endorphins in our brain. Endorphin is beneficial in elevating our moods and acts as a natural painkiller.
  • Medication – Please consult your doctor on suitable medication to help regulate your moods. It is also normal for your doctor to recommend talk therapy in conjunction with medication prescriptions.
  • Talking therapy or counselling therapy is a good way to help address the stressors that lead to anxiety. The most commonly used therapy modality is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). The main focus of CBT is to analyze the negative thoughts that fuel your anxiety and address them. There are many ways you can get counselling therapy, either by contacting a counselling centre or finding them online.
  • Complimentary therapies such as meditation and psychoeducation can also be helpful. We get better as we learn more ways to cope with our worries.

There are many solutions out there on how to cope with anxiety and stress. The first step is to acknowledge that you need help. I offer one on one online counselling sessions. Bookings are available on