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Anxious About Christmas? You’re Not Alone!

Anxious About Christmas? You’re Not Alone!

Dec 01, 2021

The festive season brings so much joy, but it’s also incredibly triggering for a lot of people.

It can feel like everyone else is having the time of their lives in the run up to Christmas, but if you find the holidays hard, you really aren’t alone. In fact, new research from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) – the UK’s largest professional association of expert counselling professionals – has found that over 9.1 million UK adults are feeling stressed or anxious about Christmas this year.

The most common causes of anxiety include: being unable to afford presents (37%); the pressure to make sure everyone enjoys themselves (23%); the risk of getting ill (20%); missing loved ones (15%); being alone, or worrying about feeling lonely (15%), and the expectation to see friends and family members you don’t particularly like (14%).

Interestingly, nearly a fifth (17%) of UK adults actually preferred the restriction-heavy Christmas of last year, where ‘low-key’ was the order of the day – with 14% feeling additional pressure to make this Christmas extra special.

Despite these shared worries, over a third of people (34%) feel it’s taboo to talk about the impact of Christmas on their mental health. But as we know, nothing ever gets better if you don’t talk about it – and being open about our mental health is one of the most powerful ways we have of eroding that outdated (and unhelpful) sense of stigma.

Parents More Stressed Out than Most

Perhaps unsurprisingly, parents of children under the age of 18 experience the most stress and anxiety pre-Christmas – but they’re also less likely to talk about the impact of the festive season on their mental health, with 46% seeing it as taboo.

Financial worries represent a significant concern for 40% of parents, with an additional 30% of those with young children feeling pressured to make sure their children enjoy the magic of the season.

But parent or not, being stressed out and run down really isn’t good for anyone; which is why BACP’s ‘Seasonal Stress’ campaign is shining a light on the importance of counselling to help manage the anxiety of Christmas.

Why Talking it Out is Good for the Soul

A lot of people attend therapy in the new year to help them process the stresses and strains of December, but speaking to someone on the lead up to Christmas is actually much better for your mental health. It’s important to have someone to talk to, but it’s also crucial to learn coping techniques for the healthy management of stress, anxiety, and negative thoughts and feelings.

As well as helping to remedy existing issues, therapy is extremely powerful when viewed (and used) as a preventative measure. Seeing a counsellor doesn’t necessarily mean you have a problem, and it certainly shouldn’t be taboo. Talking to someone is simply a way to ‘workout’ your mind – much like exercise helps us to workout our bodies.

In addition to counselling, there are some really powerful ways that you can help yourself this festive season:

  • Never feel pressured to spend more than you can afford on presents, entertaining, or anything else that leaves you worrying about money. If you need to, manage expectations by explaining that you’re setting a spending limit, or agree with friends and family members not to do gifts this year.
  • If Covid is still a concern for you or your family, you have every right to keep socialising to a minimum. Be open about how you’re feeling, and perhaps suggest a socially-distanced festive walk if you’re not comfortable getting together at home.
  • Accept that you are not responsible for other people’s enjoyment. You’re not Santa! If you have children, it’s not about how many presents you buy or where you take them; spending time together is the most important thing.
  • If there are friends or family members you’d really rather not spend time with, don’t give in to the pressure of seeing them. Your mental health is the most important thing here; even if you have to tell a few white lies to get out of a situation, it’s better than putting your wellbeing at risk.
  • Feeling lonely can be incredibly difficult to contend with at this time of year. Are there friends, family or neighbours you can reach out to? What about your local community? Are there any groups you can join, or events you might be able to attend? Put the feelers out, and be honest and open about wanting company; you never know who else might be feeling the same.

If you’re struggling this Christmas and need to talk, you can get in touch with me at [email protected], or use My Little Therapy Box to help start the conversation with someone at home.

Access your FREE 'Creative Therapy Training'

My Little Therapy box all started with my passion for helping clients in therapy who struggle to open up and articulate their feelings into words.

In this 30-minute training session, I share the barriers some clients face in therapy and how we as therapists can help them overcome this by using creative ways to help them engage and get the most out of the therapeutic relationship.

This is the same presentation I was invited to deliver at this year’s BACP Annual Online conference.


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