Christmas anxiety and exhaustion

Christmas anxiety and exhaustion is a real thing. Christmas is a jolly time for some but can be quite difficult for others. Some people struggle over the holidays because of a variety of reasons and this is more common than you think. In this article I list the most common reasons why some persons find the holidays challenging along with some remedies to help you cope better this season.

Christmas anxiety can show up as feelings of unease, stomach issues, tension or palpitations in the chest, headaches, mental confusion, inner pressure and can contribute to feelings of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.
Have you ever noticed yourself feeling more particularly anxious or exhausted around the holiday season? Feelings like not wanting to go to a family gathering for example? If yes, I bet these experiences tend to hinder you from the potential of enjoying the holidays with family and friends.

There may be a couple factors contributing to why you feel this type of holiday overwhelm and fatigue and a few remedies to help fight it this year. How to conquer Christmas anxiety and exhaustion.

Christmas anxiety and exhaustion
  • You feel responsible for getting everything done on your own.
    Sometimes we have psychological patterns of behavior that prevent us from asking for help OR even acknowledging that we need help. This can be learned behavior from our parents or community or be a coping strategy that protects us from difficult inner experiences. This pattern can result in a habit of over giving and sacrificing your own needs in order to show up for others. What it means is that often you are left feeling depleted, exhausted and sometimes even consciously or subconsciously resentful.
  • You may strive for perfection and lose the value or intention behind the activity.
    Have you ever felt that you just want everything to be perfect? Do you beat yourself up when something is not done to perfection? This could mean you have a tough inner critic and unrealistic or unhelpful expectations for yourself. You can begin to ask yourself why it has to be done in this particular way? What motive is fueling that desire? When it comes to the holidays, it is important to remind yourself of your values and ask yourself why the family is getting together in the first place, for example. What does it mean to you to host dinner for friends or buy gifts? If your inner critic is robbing you of your peace and joy in a holiday activity, you can ask yourself if the perfect expectations you had are really worth it.
  • Difficult relationships within the family.
    Family relationships are often some of the most tricky relationships to navigate. Maybe you feel misunderstood within your family, have experienced trauma or abuse, or there’s someone in the family that always pushes the wrong buttons and the Christmas dinner ends in conflict. Whatever the dynamic, these types of issues put a strain on your nervous system. You might find yourself going into fight or flight mode without really understanding why. Understanding why and getting to the root of the issue is something you can do with a psychologist or psychotherapist and might be helpful to your healing process. However, even without knowing the root causes you can learn to regulate your nervous system, set boundaries and take good care of your emotional needs around the family.
  • Doing too much of what you think you “have or should” do and not enough of what you want to do.
    This is a common mistake many make. Most people don’t give themselves the chance to even ask what it is they might want to do. When I ask clients this at New Life Portugal, often the answer is “I have no idea”. It is a bigger challenge than you might think because if we are constantly only doing responsibilities and obligations, we are blocking ourselves from relaxation, creativity and joy.
Christmas anxiety and exhaustion

New Life Portugal

Christmas anxiety and exhaustion

Here at New Life Portugal we see these symptoms of self-sacrifice and mental or emotional exhaustion and have noticed they get particularly exasperated around the holiday season.

Our 10 themed weeks help address these common issues in people’s lives and provide our guests with tools to better manage their emotions and experiences.

Drawing from these themes I offer you 10 tips that can help you better manage your emotions, self-care and boundaries this holiday season. What can we do about Christmas anxiety and exhaustion.

  • 1
    Ask for help.
    1. It’s hard to go against the old mindset that says you can do it all alone but try, you deserve that effort because in fact you aren’t alone. If there is some support you can lean on, please try to begin practicing receiving assistance where you can, especially if it’s offered. The usual response to an offer for help might be “no thanks, I’ve got it covered”. I really invite you to challenge that response this season.
  • 2
    Practice mindfulness to gain more self-awareness
    By cultivating more awareness of your thoughts, feeling and actions you will better be able to trace old patterns of over-giving and feel the urge to help at all costs even if you are running on empty. When you notice the old pattern coming in, mindfulness helps you press pause and obtain the power to choose differently.
  • 3
    Learn to regulate your emotions and self-soothe.
    When you begin to change old patterns of behavior, your nervous system might sense this as a threat. This is because our old patterns of behavior were all formed as coping strategies to keep ourselves safe when we were younger. The discomfort you might feel when changing unhelpful patterns of behavior is normal. Emotional regulation techniques like grounding, humming, splashing cold water on your face, deep breathing and more can help support you to make unfamiliar changes in your life.
  • 4
    Subdue your inner critic with self-compassion.
    Self-compassion means meeting yourself with kindness and encouragement when you “fail” or make a mistake instead of criticism, judgment and blame. It requires us to remember that we are only human and that no one is perfect. Sometimes we are aware of our inner critic but until we really see the statements do we realize it’s impact. You can write down all the statements that your inner critic says on a piece of paper and really see them for what they are. Then, after acknowledging that some of these statements might be unhelpful, unkind, untrue and unrealistic, you can write down a more helpful, encouraging and loving statement instead.
  • 5
    Get to know yourself!
    1. When we spend so much time on responsibilities and obligations we can lose a sense of ourselves. We forget to spend quality time or have meaningful conversations with ourselves. Journaling is a tool that helps us sit and talk to ourselves. You can also use journal prompts to get to know yourself again. Find out what your strengths and interests are and what you like doing as opposed to what you “have” to do.
  • 6
    Reassess your values.
    Values are extremely important because they help form our identity and simultaneously provide a guide for our behavior. As we grow older, our values might change. It’s always useful to do a check in and reassess what is important to you now at this stage in your life. Use this as a compass and follow the threads of activity and behavior that are aligned with your core values.
  • 7
    1. Maintaining your self-care and health habits is tough and you might have to end up being a bit boundaried with yourself in order to respect your goals and intentions. For example, you may have to be a bit assertive with yourself when it comes time to stop the to-do list tasks and go to yoga class. There’s power in your no, read more on this by clicking on the title of this point.
  • 8
    Make time to slow down.
    The Christmas season is often a busy one. You will naturally feel exhausted if you up the social activities but don’t increase your rest time. A healthy balance of rest, fun and responsibilities will keep you more centered throughout the holidays.
  • 9
    Find fun.
    It’s true that “suffering is a part of life”. There’s more than enough challenges and difficulties, your holidays doesn’t need to be another one. Think of what brings you joy, energy, laughter and fun and go do some (or a lot) of that.
  • 10
    Get extra support from a professional if the situation in your life is too intense.
    It is important to know that we could all use the unbiased, non-judgemental support of a professional at various times in our lives. Maybe during the holiday season is a time you could engage in therapy or a support group.

“Mindfulness is the pause- the space between stimulus and response: that’s where choice lies”.

- Tara Brach

If the holidays are difficult for you and you would like to try another approach to your usual traditions, why not try out a retreat at New Life Portugal?

Written by Simone Da Costa
Counselor at New Life Portugal

Another nice article about Christmas anxiety and exhaustion to read.

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