Quarter of adults feel anxious over Christmas - here’s how to stay calm amid the festive chaos

Alexandra Thompson
Exhausted and overwhelmed woman packing Christmas gifts
Christmas is a stressful time for many. [Photo: Getty]

With a turkey to cook, presents to wrap and relatives to entertain, the “most wonderful time of the year” can leave many feeling anxious.

The pressure to attend Christmas parties can also take its toll, with a quarter of adults feeling anxious at festive gatherings, according to Anxiety UK.

Nearly a fifth (19%) even admit to faking illness to get out of office dos.

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While it can be overwhelming, taking just five minutes out to refocus your thoughts could leave you feeling calmer.

Anxiety UK recommends noticing five things that happened in your day that would normally pass you by. This could be the warmth of your coat or the sound of birds.

You could also focus on your feet and how they feel against the ground. “Scan” slowly up to your head, playing attention to the different sensations in your body.

Repeat, noticing your breathing, relaxing on every exhale.

Some may prefer to meditate. While it may sound “new age”, this has been around for thousands of years, with evidence suggesting it reduces levels of the stress-hormone cortisol.

Beginners may find it confusing and even frustrating. Anxiety UK therefore recommends a guided website or app, like Headspace.

For those who prefer silence, sit or lay somewhere comfortable, close your eyes and focus on your breathing for five-to-10 minutes.

Some find imagining a light or object helps them stay centred if their mind starts to wander.

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Sleep is important all year round, but particularly during stressful times.

To ensure you get plenty of shut eye, try and unwind with a warm bath or book before bed.

It it also important to take breaks throughout the day. Whenever it gets too much, sit down and take it easy for a few minutes.

When it comes to Christmas get togethers, know it’s okay to turn then down.

“Be honest about how you’re feeling and explain why you can’t make a particular event,” Anxiety UK wrote in its Christmas and Anxiety Workbook.

“What seems normal to one person can be terrifying to someone else.

“Be open about the consequences of forcing yourself into a situation you are uncomfortable with. Apologise but be firm.”

Many dismiss their own anxiety as “silly”, particularly if everyone around them seems to be enjoying the festive celebrations.

READ MORE: Just one bad night’s sleep could trigger anxiety

“Don’t bottle up your feelings or feel pressured to pretend everything is fine,” Anxiety UK said.

“Confide in a trusted ally and make sure you’re not suffering in silence.”

While it may be easier said than done, try and let go of things you cannot control.

“Your aunt and uncle arguing over Christmas dinner is unpleasant, but their actions are not your responsibility,” Anxiety UK said.

“Try to focus on only things you can change, like making sure you leave yourself enough time to travel somewhere on a certain day or picking out an outfit you feel awesome in.”

It’s also important to give up on trying to be “perfect”.

“Remember touching movie scenes, photos on Instagram and chapters in books are all carefully crafted moments,” Anxiety UK said.

“You will inevitably burn the parsnips or make a joke that nobody laughs at. You’ll laugh about it next year.”