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How To Feel Calm When Christmas Makes You Socially Anxious

Christmas can turn you into a nail-biting ball of tension and nerves.

A tricky time for all.

On the one hand, it’s a mix of joy, mistletoe, laughter and optimism - for others, it indicates stress, loss and grief. Pair that with overeating, overdrinking and overspending and the 12 days of Christmas often turn out to be some of the most difficult of the year.

Free suicide helpline CONSOLE experiences a threefold rise in calls over the Christmas period every year, with an average of 165 calls per day. 

According to a recent study compiled by Eurostat, the EU central statistics office, one in eight Irish people have experienced chronic depression – meaning that Ireland now has the highest rate (12%) of chronic depression in Europe.

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So, how do we combat this during one of the more intense periods of the year?

The good news is that you are in no way helpless when it comes to your own mind. Despite the hardship a mental illness can bestow upon you – help is everywhere and there are so many ways you can help yourself along. 

It all starts with being proactive.

Don’t overindulge

Easier said, but how about this year rather than overindulging, sample and eat less overall.

Also, eat slower. Because it takes approximately twenty minutes for the brain to let us know that our stomach is full – when you eat slower, you often end up eating less than what you would have done before. 

Plan out an events calendar

An organised mind lessens the all-consuming feeling of anxiety considerably. Set out which events you’re set to attend or not attend and inform the hosts of that fact ahead of time to discourage last-minute bailing.

Set time limits on your attendance and reward yourself for staying longer than you thought you would. 

And for all the times when you've really tried but decided that tonight isn't the one for you – take a breath, count to five and set out a realistic plan for the next ten minutes. If that involves walking to your car, do it.

Maintain a steady sleeping routine

Often overlooked, but so intrinsic to your overall wellness.

Make bed a nice place to be. Invest in lavender oil to sprinkle on your radiator/bedsheets and fill the room with the scent. Switching off your phone is also essential. 

Forgive yourself for missing certain events

Some nights are just not your night.

Adapt good breathing rituals

As people, we have a tendency to live in the past (hanging on to old memories) or in the future (projecting fictional-reality).

The majority of things that we project about never come to pass. The present moment is, in fact, the only reality. Breathing wholly, smoothly and slowly is the key to setting yourself up to being totally present.

Keep moving

It may seem like the last thing you want to do is get active – but a winter walk or a quick house tidy could do your mind, body and head the world of good. Fresh air and frosted views do wonders for calming.

Move at your own pace

Not feeling the pub tonight? Grand. Not hungry now, but might pick later? Perfect. You don’t have to be ‘on it’ 24/7 for this fortnight, even if it seems like everyone else is.

Rest as much as you can

Go with the weather and try to switch off gradually when it starts to get dark - and yes, that means your phone, too. Mid-day cat-naps are welcomed and, often, encouraged.

This season, plan on doing more things you want to do rather than things you feel you have to do. It's alright to say ‘no’ to requests or demands you don't want to fulfil.

Yes, some people may be upset with your choices, but that's their issue and not yours. You have a right to do the things you want to do. Be good to yourself - you’re the only one of you there is.

If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, Aware provides information and emotional support to those affected. Visit their website or call them between 10 am and 10 pm, seven days a week at 1800 80 48 48.

Main image by @untitleddaydream on Instagram

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