Overcoming Christmas Anxiety

19/12/2014 06:12 GMT | Updated 17/02/2015 10:59 GMT

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Christmas is a time for peaceful relaxation by the fire right? Wonderful times with family and friends? Peaceful, gentle walks in the country side and non stop magic and fun?!

Well, not always.

As a hypnotherapist working with anxiety, I know how much of a stressful time of year this can be.

A common problem that many of us can fall into is the gap between our hopes, expectations and wishes for the Christmas season...and the reality.

If you suffer with stress and anxiety, late nights, alcohol, shopping, family stress and the added financial burden can all get a bit too much.

Here are some key points to bear in mind this festive season to help you to manage anxiety and stress and cope with the added pressure this time of year can bring.

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Take time for yourself

Make sure you schedule in time for yourself. Christmas can all too easily be about family, cooking, travel and boozy late nights with friends, which is great, but not if it makes your anxiety worse. Be sure to schedule in some time for yourself, take yourself off for a walk, have a daily bath, sneak off to read your book, or meet friends for lunch instead of dinner and get an early night. Try to see it as an essential investment in yourself, recharging your batteries so you can be your calmest and happiest self for you and for others.

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Exercise

It's easy to see how exercise can take a back seat during the holidays. You're out of your normal routine, there's too much to do, you're hungover, you're too full of cheese, or my favourite excuse 'I'll restart exercising again in January'.

The fact that we have all that going on, means that exercise is more essential than ever. Exercise is one of the best things you can do to stay calm and to feel good. Heck, doctors even say if it was a pill, it would be the most cost effective drug ever. So make sure you keep up your routine this Christmas; jog around your parents village, explore the suburbs of your in-laws by bike or check out the numerous exercise videos available on Youtube. Like this one (Ok maybe this video is pretty cheesy, but those smiles and high fives certainly cheered me up!)

The added benefits of staying active over the hols' are that you (at least in part) mitigate any festive weight gain, improve your mood, burn off excess anxiety related adrenaline and if you're exercising outside, get a bit of happiness-boosting sunlight. Win, win, win.

Let others know

If you're feeling really stressed, anxious or nervy, don't suffer alone. The expectation that everyone should be chirpy and festive at this time of year can impound low mood and anxiety when you feel you should be feeling relaxed and happy. Let family and friends know about what you're going through and take the time to talk to someone. I'm sure they'll only be too happy to help. And if you really don't feel up to socialising, it's ok to take some time for yourself to reboot and calm yourself down.

Let go of musts, shoulds and oughts

It's Christmas, therefore you should be happy, enjoying every second, making the most of things and most importantly enjoying a MAGICAL time. Sadly, though, real life Christmas isn't always like the best bits of 'Love Actually'.

Stop 'shoulding' all over yourself and 'musterbating', take the pressure off and accept your thoughts and feelings as they arise. Christmas can be full of ups and downs just like any time of year, so try to let go of the expectation and the desire for things to be perfect.

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Take it easy with alcohol

'The alcohol anxiety' is a phrase I remember a lot of my friends saying at University after a drinking binge. It's true that having a hangover can make you feel 10 times worse, more nervous, tense and edgy that normal and feeling rubbish about yourself to boot.

In addition, there's nothing more anxiety provoking than that awful feeling of 'what did I do last night?!' the day after the work Christmas party.

Now, I'm not suggesting you abstain completely, you've got to enjoy yourself, but work on drinking moderately. I find sticking to the less palatable and quaffable drinks like vodka and soda slows me down in the drinking stakes, simply because it gets pretty boring to drink after a while! You could also alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks to ensure you're properly hydrated and don't suffer too much the next day.

Although some people can react strangely to you when you say you're having a soft drink, remember, their response is about THEM and often their own issues around drink and wanting to have a partner in crime; don't let it affect your life!

I'd love to hear your tips on remaining calm this Christmas. Please let me know in the comments below.

To get your free relaxation MP3 to have you feeling calmer all Christmas see www.calmer-you.com or click the button below.

* Photos supplied by Istock and 123 RF.