For many, Christmas time can be a time of great joy and celebration, particularly for children. Most adults too enjoy meeting up with friends and family and enjoy much needed time off from the stresses of the work place. For others though Christmas can be a stressful time, a lonely time and a time where many people who have depression and anxiety feel even more isolated, lost and scared.
So why is it then that people who suffer from mental illness suffer even more so during a time that is meant to be a time of great joy and celebration? People who suffer from depression and anxiety feel the stresses associated with Christmas far more acutely. Reasons for why anxiety is increased during Christmas time can vary. For example, the Christmas rush, be it large crowds during shopping peak shopping times, or during social gatherings within the work place, such as the office Christmas party; where people who suffer from social anxiety are in a situation where they have to engage socially with people, who they would normally prefer not to. It can be other reasons such as the financial pressures associated with Christmas, particularly buying presents for children, who are demanding more and more expensive gifts. Some people often get into large amounts of debt over Christmas that they have trouble paying back, adding to the high levels of anxiety that they currently have.
Christmas time can also be a time where people think about the people in their lives too, people that they have loved and lost, be it a partner, child, parent, grand parent or friend. The loss of somebody dear in itself is stressful and harrowing, yet at Christmas these feelings are even more intense as we long to be with them during times of togetherness such as Christmas.
Increased levels of stress can bring about anxiety, for those who already have anxiety, increased levels of stress can be like putting petrol on a fire and can make feelings of anxiety far worse, leading to disastrous consequences such as self-harm and even suicide.
Many people say that alcohol helps to relax their anxiety however, drinking too much and the following hangover can often lead us to feel worse. Know your limits and stay safe. Keep hydrated by drinking water and other non-alcoholic beverages. Don’t feel pressured to get caught up in the whirlwind and rush of Christmas. Our reality of Christmas isn’t what we see on TV and social media and that is ok!
If you are heading out to a party or night out, be sure to have a plan in place for if your anxiety does peak. Speak to a friend ahead of your festive plans and discuss the best methods to help you if you enter a panic. This means that you have a trusted person who is equipped to help you cope and make you feel safe.