If you take a ‘social media’ approach to Christmas, it really is the most wonderful time of the year. There’s visits to Santa’s grotto, hot chocolates, film nights with mulled wine and plenty of family time with food. However, as always with social media, it isn’t always as happy as it all seems. In a new survey by mental health charity MIND, their results have concluded that 76% of people have trouble sleeping at Christmas and 60% have experienced panic attacks over the festive period. Reasons people gave for struggling at Christmas included getting into debt (41 per cent) feeling lonely (83 per cent) and finding Christmas stressful (81 per cent).
For many, Christmas will be the happiest time of year. While for others, it’s a real struggle to stay afloat as issues with family and their own personal problems become elevated during this time. For mothers, a lot of the pressure of Christmas falls on their head. From buying the Christmas presents, to organising Christmas activities for the kids, to cooking Christmas dinner for the extended family. Mums feel the pressure to provide the best Christmas possible for their kids, often feeling pressured to spend more than they can afford to make their children happy. On top of this, social media makes it so easy to compare our own situation to that of others and question if what we are doing is good enough. Have we bought enough presents? Decorated the house nice enough? Bought enough food for Christmas dinner?
So how do we deal with this type of anxiety during the festive period? Here’s a few tips that work for me;
Identify what’s making you anxious
It might not sound like fun, and it’s easy to say you don’t have the time to do it, but sitting down with a piece of paper and writing down what is making you anxious is the first step to dealing with it. Think about when you felt anxious and what could have triggered it. Everyone will have different triggers. It could be financial, health related, grief for a loved one, overwhelm of your to-do list, loneliness. Write it down and acknowledge it.
Identify 3 goals that could help you
I tend to only write 3 goals at a time, otherwise you can get overwhelmed and give up all together. Write down 3 goals that will help alleviate some of this anxiety. Remember, not all anxiety can be ‘cured’ as easily as this and you should speak to your medical professional if you feel that it’s more serious. For me, what makes me anxious is a lack of routine or planning. So my 3 goals would be:
1. Use my Wunderlist app to write a to-do list every day of what needs to be done before Christmas.
2.Start early so that I can make small progress every day rather than leaving it all to last minute.
3. Ask for help when I feel that I can’t do everything on my to-do list alone.
Nobody is immune to comparing themselves to strangers on the internet. If it makes you feel even worse, unfollow it. Set a timer and spend 15 minutes each day going through your social media and unfollowing anyone that makes you feel inadequate or unworthy. Follow people who make you feel inspired, supported and happy.
My favourite thing to do when I’m feeling anxious is to keep a ‘Happy list’ in my phone notes and schedule in 1 thing per day to do for myself off my list that makes me happy. It can be as simple as take a bubble bath, eat some chocolate or go for a walk. It can be easy for mums to forget about themselves at Christmas because they’re too busy running around after everyone else but we have to prioritise ourselves too.
Christmas is about so much more than expensive presents. It’s about tradition, spending quality time with your loved ones and celebrating the end of another year. Whenever you feel anxious, sit down and write a gratitude list. Reminding yourself of everything that you have to be grateful for this year helps you to come back to the moment and find happiness in it. You don’t want to miss a whole month of potential joy because you’re too busy stressing about the build up to Christmas.
Unlike some people, I’m very fortunate to have a big family who all love each other very much. Christmas is a very lonely time for a lot of people who don’t have family or friends and everyone else celebrating with their loved ones and plastering it all over Facebook really doesn’t help their feeling of loneliness. My personal experience of social media has only ever been a positive one. I have experienced the most positive amount of support from other women on Instagram. Sometimes we expect the worst of people when actually, if you’re brave enough to reach out and connect to somebody you could be surprised at how lovely people really are. And if you’re lucky enough to have plenty of loved ones this Christmas, reach out to somebody less fortunate, send them a Happy Christmas text, give them a small gift to let them know that you’re there. It really could make someone’s year.
If you are struggling with any type of mental health issues over the Christmas period, here are some helplines. There are plenty of people who are willing to talk to you and help. You are not alone.