Christmas can be a shitty time if you struggle with your head.
Anxiety in particular is something that’s often hard to identify in yourself and in others and so can go under the radar – until it manifests itself as a sweaty, sleepless night or a panic attack.
I’m no expert but having dealt with anxiety and panic attacks and knowing others who have, here are a few tips that I’ve learned that might help someone else get by and enjoy the festive period.
Accept that you’re prone to anxiety and panic
If you try to drink, eat and maniacally laugh your way through the week off without acknowledging that you could become anxious, you’re asking for trouble.
Come to terms with the idea that a panic attack might happen and that it won’t be the end of the world if it does.
Know that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do…
If the pub, the family gathering of 40 people or the busy mass will make you uncomfortable, don’t go.
There are set patterns and traditions that can be hard to break out of at this time of year but if you put your wellbeing first, you won’t regret it.
… But also know that balance is everything
OK – you may not have to do something if you don’t want to, but be aware that lying in the same spot for three days under a tin of Roses won’t do you any favours.
Nor will living in the pub for a week avoiding your feelings, so plan a variety of activities while giving yourself time off in between.
Avoid social media
It can feel like there’s not much else to do when you’re off work for days on end but honestly, hold off as much as you can.
Someone else might look gorgeous or appear to be having a great time with their family or to be packing more into their festive break than you. It’s enough to rattle anyone so best stay away and try to remember that what you see on social media isn’t reality.
Plan for times when you might be triggered
My bursts of anxiety are the fun kind that can be prompted by anything or nothing, meaning I don’t always know what to avoid.
I have come to realise that hangovers don’t help – but I also don’t want to miss nights out for fear of being anxious. The best way I can avoid having a panic attack the day after is to plan to be around people I’m comfortable with, like watching a movie with my sisters or friends.
Consider what might set you off and try and make a plan around it too.
You don’t have to announce it at Christmas dinner but let one or two people know that you’re prone to episodes of anxiety and/ or panic attacks.
It’ll feel like a weight is lifted and mean that people are keeping an eye out for you.
Don’t beat yourself up
It is not your fault that you are anxious. You are not broken, you are not a burden and you are not letting anyone down by feeling the way you’re feeling.
Here are some organisations that can help if you are struggling.
Text: 087 2 60 90 90
Email: [email protected]
Aware (Depression & Bi-Polar Disorder)
Tel: 1800 80 48 48
Email: [email protected]
Pieta House (Suicide & Self-harm)
National Suicide Helpline (Pieta House) 1800 247 247
Bodywhys (Eating Disorders Associations of Ireland)