If you anything like me, it doesn't take much to stress you out! Unfortunately, this does include even the happy things in life like going on holiday and Christmas festivities.
This is unfortunately how the mind of an anxiety sufferer works, and for me personally, I often joke with people and say that I wouldn't be functioning correctly if I wasn't worrying about something. Even when I'm happy, I'm worrying about something and even when there is nothing to worry about, my anxious mind conjures up all sorts of irrational scenario's.
If you suffer with an anxiety disorder, then I am sure you can relate. For me, I love Christmas, the atmosphere and colours, snow and all the pretty lights and decorations make it so happy and festive, but another part of me just wants it over and done with as well.
Well if it does, then read on because I have compiled a list of some very stressful 'Christmas' scenarios that I have seen or experienced myself, and have provided some handy tips to help other anxiety sufferers get through the holiday season with a smile and as little anxiety as possible:
- Plan ahead. Planning ahead is your best friend from purchasing the presents to organising the food. Firstly compile a list of everyone you want to buy a present for. Then what I do, is next to their name, I write down what I would like to get them. Then I go and research which stores I can find the presents at, and if I can just order it online. Ordering online (especially when delivery is free) is an absolute God-send for people who struggle with social anxiety. Also make sure you have enough gift wrap, sticky tape and cards or tags.
- Shop off peak. If I need to go out to go and buy some presents, I follow two simple rules. Firstly, I use one of my favourite social anxiety tricks, and that is to go early morning or in the evening when the shops are quieter. Secondly, because of the research I have done, I know exactly which stores I need to visit to purchase all the presents I want.
- Start early. Don't be one of those people who do their Christmas shopping on Christmas eve! That will most certainly trigger an anxiety attack. The shops are absolute mad houses, and it is not worth you having an attack the day before Christmas.
- Wrap your gifts as you buy them. I don't know about you, but I don't necessarily get all my gifts on the same day, so what I do is I space it out. I buy a few and then I wrap them and under the tree they go, that way you don't have hoards of presents laying about.
- Write Christmas cards ahead of time. I'm not really the sort of person who sends Christmas cards, but if you do it, then start writing them early December and send them out ASAP.
- Know what's going on. In our family, we always discussed what food we would like to have and who would cook what, and at whose house we would have the Christmas dinner. My granny always cooked the dinner when we were younger and it was the highlight of the day. However once my cousins and I were older, we decided it would be easier to have a lunch, and have everyone cook or make something and bring it to whosever house was hosting the lunch. So first things first, you need to establish what sort of food you would like, also taking note of special dietary requirements, who will be making which dish and whose house is hosting.
- Make a list. Make a list of food that you will need to make your dish or if you are cooking the whole dinner, then make a list of everything you will need. If you are hosting the dinner at your house, I suggest making a list for other things as well, such as: Plates, cutlery, napkins, decorations, chairs, drinks, glasses etc.
- Everyone should help. If you are hosting the dinner at your house, then take your list and allocate a chore for everyone to do. So one person can buy the napkins and crackers, one person can buy some drinks, another can help with food preparation etc. Remember, no matter whose house is hosting, the work should be spread out amongst all the family members.
- Dietary requirements. People with special dietary requirements usually see to themselves, and trust me, I would know because I have special diet requirements, and I always make my own food and take it with, but my family is always really good about making sure there are things I can eat. If you are cooking the whole dinner, simply ask the person if you can make them something or if they will bring their own food. Trust me again, they will appreciate you taking the time to ask.
- Plan ahead. Again planning ahead comes in handy. Cook or make what you need to do the day before. If you are hosting the dinner at your house, you need to clean up, put up the decorations and set the table. So space this out accordingly. Aim to do decorations first, and clean up two days before and set the table the night before.
- Speak up. Christmas dinners whether they are with friends, family or work collegues can sometimes involve toasting, prayer and speech making. Make sure that whoever you are spending the day with knows not to ask you to say anything in front of the other people, as it will really distress any person suffering with anxiety. You don't have to open up about your anxiety disorder but just make sure that you are not volunteered to do anything like this.
ON THE ACTUAL DAY
- Get up early. If you are hosting the party at your house, then get up early to get an extra start on things. Heat up food, make sure the table is set, the crockery and cutlery, napkins, crackers etc are all set out, and make sure your house is tidy and clean.
- Pack properly. If you're going to someone else's house, make sure you have your food ready to take with. Ensure it is covered and contained well for the journey. Make sure all your presents are packed as well.
- Pamper yourself. Get into a hot bath and just relax for a while. Add some calming essentials oils such as lavender and drink a soothing tea like camomile.
- Dress comfortably. Of course you want to look nice, but I also like to be comfortable in what I am wearing. If I'm not comfortable in my clothes, I get this irrational fear that everyone will look at me!
- Try to lay off the alcohol. I always recommend that anxiety sufferers stay away from the alcohol but if you want to have a small glass of champagne just to toast the new year, then go ahead, just keep it minimal and drink a glass of water afterwards.
- Refined sugar. This is the season of eating more, and that means lots of junk food like cookies and chocolate, so of course, go ahead and indulge in some of these, but also remember you are an anxiety sufferer and refined sugar must be kept to a minimum.
- Smile and laugh. When all else fails, smile and laugh - it's the best medicine!