If anxiety or depression are a current part of our daily landscape, how do we do this? I've been thinking about this a lot lately and have found myself discussing this in session with many patients as we get closer to the day. Here are the words of wisdom I both offer, and have received , from the many patients I am journeying with at the moment.
1) Place self care on your to do list. There are so many tasks associated with Christmas, each of which can be very demanding and draining of our emotional and physical energy stores. Self care, whatever that means to you, needs to be on your to do list.
2) Limit activities or functions that drain you. Anxiety and depression can be very exhausting and sometimes the thought of attending a long night of socialising can be overwhelming when we are struggling to get out of bed every day. Decide in advance what you feel capable of managing and give yourself permission to say no to those activities that fill you with dread. Perhaps you will feel less overwhelmed if you decide to go to an outing for 45 minutes rather than thinking you need to go for the whole night. Let people know in advance that you can't stay as you have another commitment. You do have another commitment - with yourself.
3) Have an 'evacuation plan' organised in advance. I'm not talking about escaping floods or fire, but rather if on Christmas day it all feels like too much, plan in advance how you will manage your escape and follow through with that if it all feels too much. Knowing in advance that leaving early is an option can sometimes help the day seem manageable.
4) Be prepared for difficult conversations and interactions. Lets face it, on Christmas Day we often find ourselves having to spend time with people we rarely see or those we wish we didn't. It's very important to be self protective and in advance, practice ways that you can manage those interactions and exit conversations gracefully.
5) Create your own rituals for Christmas day. If your experience of Christmas day has been one of stress and tension in childhood, adulthood offers a chance to create your own rituals. If you were forced to endure a ten hour feast with dysfunctional relatives in childhood, Christmas as an adult offers you the chance to recreate the day in a way that is not only less stressful but also more meaningful to you. It might be that catching up for a one hour coffee with a few treasured relatives or friends is all that you can manage this year....and thats ok.
6) Don't forget to practice your healthy coping behaviours. A big part of managing depression is a commitment to do simple tasks of daily living. Get out of bed at the same time, have a shower straight away, put on some nice clothes, eat breakfast, sit in the sunshine, go for a walk, watch something you enjoy on Tv, call a friend, read a book, get to sleep at a reasonable time. Such simple things really do help with depression. It can be tempting to spend Christmas Day in bed, feeling overwhelmed, but this may be the very worst thing you can do. Often the best, and most simple antidote to a crash in mood is to get moving and do something. Anything. It doesn't matter what. Engaging in purposeful activity can push a depressed or anxious mood back ever so slightly to make it more manageable.
7) Let the emotions pass. Emotions often come in waves. Anxiety starts to build, or a wave of sadness hits... and these feelings can feel both completely overwhelming and also endless. Yet, often if we have the willingness to just let them be there we find that within moments their intensity reduces even slightly. Imagine being on the ocean and riding out the roll of the waves on a surfboard. It is the same with emotions. The tension builds but eventually we get to the other side.
8) Do things to improve the moment. As you wait for these emotion waves to pass, commit to doing something that makes the moment better. Have a shower, watch something nice on Tv, make a cake, have a cup of soothing tea. Research tells us that these simple actions can be helpful..
9) Be aware of your thinking - if negative self talk is familiar, it may be even more so during this time when our minds can conjure up a thousand thoughts which make us either feel anxious, overwhelmed or deeply sad. The thought 'I can't cope with all of this' will endeavour to make you feel just that. The thought 'It's just one day. I can do some nice things for myself and I can cope better that I think I can' may, in turn, make you feel just that.
10) Remember, this day shall pass. It is one day. Plan something on the day to look forward to beyond all of the things that create tension and stress. A nice glass of wine at the end of the day. Permission to have a nap in the afternoon or to spend the night reading a good book.
Whatever it takes to make this day less onerous in your mind, choose that path.
Originally published at www.leisatanner.com.au