The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire)
FESTIVE THERAPY TO CHANGE YOUR MIND-SET
Christopher Paul Jones is a therapist based at Harley Street. He specialises in anxiety disorders and believes Christmas can be a trigger for many people. Here, he explains how you keep your mental health in check.
As Christmas rolls around again, there are some things that you can be sure of; cards, decorations, jollity, Christmas songs… stress!
Yes, Christmas, can be stressful and that is part and ‘parcel’ of the time of year but I also see a rise in clients suffering with anxiety at Christmas. It’s possible these anxieties are always there but are brought into sharp focus over the festive season. So here’s what you can do about the ten most common Christmas stressors:
CHRISTMAS CAN BE LONELY
One of the most acute fears people have at Christmas is the fear of being lonely.
Maybe you were perfectly fine being single in March but come December, you start noticing people as ‘couples’ and question your own relationship status.
When you find your mind wandering to ‘really, should I be single?’ tell yourself that for every single person out there, there is someone in a relationship who feels equally lonely. Learn how to enjoy your own company. There are also fantastic initiatives going on within communities which mean you don’t need to spend the day on your own. Reach out, you’d be surprised at how many people are in a similar situation.
DEALING WITH THE ‘FAMILY’
You spend your whole year avoiding them, then Christmas comes and you’re obliged to spend an entire week with difficult relatives. Many people dread Christmas for this reason.
This year, why not tell loved ones you plan to restrict family time so you can have some ‘me time’. Set your boundaries before you hit the Christmas season.
If you really can’t avoid spending a lot of time with the family, make sure that you pencil in ‘me breaks’; a long hot bath, a walk alone, reading a book, a drive; to put things back into perspective.
YOU DID WHAT?
There’s always that one office story, where so and so kissed so and so… it’s too easily done when excess alcohol is flowing. If you find yourself stressing about what might happen, make a promise to yourself not to drink too much.
And drinking isn’t just an issue at the office party – Christmas in general can be a time when drinking issues are highlighted.
If you find that curbing your drinking is problematic, maybe now is the time to seek help. Christmas is a time for fun and celebrations but it can also highlight when someone has a drink problem.
DID I BUY ENOUGH?
You look at all of the presents as you wrap them and suddenly realise one person has less than everyone else. You panic and, before you know it, you’re shopping again, buying something else.
Many of us spend way too much at Christmas, more than we can afford, and a lot of it on credit cards. Give what you can afford, and it’s quite acceptable these days to let people know that you’re only going to spend so much – the chances are they’re worrying about the same thing. Set a budget!
THE TREE, THE DECORATIONS
These days, everything is shown off on social media, including the size of your Christmas tree, decorations, etc. You have two choices if this is worrying you: buy a really big tree and throw lots of bling on it or start a campaign online about people spending more than they can afford this Christmas, and actually take a stand on things.
WHO RECEIVES CARDS OR PRESENTS?
You didn’t plan on sending a card to your neighbour but they’ve sent one to you… You didn’t even think about buying a present for your friend in the office, but she says ‘wait until you see what I’ve got you’. How can you budget when you don’t know who to buy for?
Well – plan who you want to buy for, and then tell everyone else that you’re not buying many presents, and plan to donate to charity. It only becomes awkward if you aren’t clear about things.
THE WEIGHT FACTOR. WHO ATE ALL THE PUDDING?
You spent all of November on a diet, and then December arrives, and before you know it, you feel like you have eaten a month’s worth of food in one sitting. Part of our brain tells us that we should treat ourselves because it’s Christmas.
One way to tackle this is to plan your menu before Christmas, and allow yourself a certain number of treats per day. Then, stick to that.
ONCE CHRISTMAS IS OVER – WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE AGAIN?
There’s something about the festive season, and the approaching New Year, that encourages us to sit back and take stock of things. What exactly am I doing with my life? Seeing friends and family can really trigger this. Often they’ll ask you ‘what have you been up to? What are you doing now?’
This year, have a look at your life and assess things before Christmas arrives and turn up to family gatherings this year with your answer ready; ‘well, funny you should ask…’
HOW WILL I SURVIVE JANUARY?
Having spent more money than is realistic, when January arrives we have no idea how we will manage things when it comes to our hard-earned cash. If this is a worry for you, then follow some of the steps above.
If you have a problem with curbing spending then maybe you need to get help to address that. Often understanding the rootcause can solve the issue quite quickly.
I CAN’T FACE ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE
If you’re shy, or struggle with something such as social anxiety disorder the prospect of large crowds and family gatherings can be terrifying. Christmas can bring on a sense of panic and a desire to hide away.
Christmas can be so much fun, so make this year the year that you refuse to be a victim of social anxiety, and seek help to get this issue sorted. One or two sessions with a specialist may be all you need to enjoy Christmas to the full.