Surviving Christmas and New Year without crying

For most people, a holiday is a chance to relax, spend time with loved ones and feel well generally happy. However a holiday for some can end with feeling more stressed and ten times more anxious. I am still working on it myself but there are things that I do to help and I understand better why I feel like this when I’m on holiday, particularly Christmas and New Years.

My anxiety is partly a consequence of having OCD, having routine is essential for helping normalize my irrational fears and create a sort of structure to them so that they don’t devour me. For example every morning I check my straighteners, door and car door are turned off/locked two times and then on the third time I take a picture to remind me to not worry. For some this may well still seem unnecessary but it reassures me enough to not continue these irrational fears developing for the rest of the day. Other things like having the same breakfast and lunch routines help stabilize my thought process. However the holidays are a different story…. I wake up when I like, I don’t bother to straighten my hair unless I’m going out in the evening, I have different breakfasts, different lunches and just more time to irrationalise all these new things… This ultimately leads to becoming overwhelmed with irrational thought and to say this is exhausting is an understatement. It’s difficult for some to understand but my head is pedaling at 1000 miles and hour and adrenaline is pulsing through me to the point where I feel I need to explode. What I recommend would be to not get to this point as this is normally where you’d find me hiding in the toilet curling in a ball and crying… never my finest moment. What I would suggest however is sleep, times out from people and structuring activities in days where possible.

My doctor once told me that because I suffer with anxiety I will require more sleep. She explained how because of irrational thoughts I have have poorer sleep and less sleep you get, the less effective you are. Then you also have more to do: get more worried about irrational thoughts, and staying up trying to get it all done (or lie awake stressing about it if you’ve tried to resist). The next day, less sleep, even more anxiety and the cycle continues… My doctor told me that although for many reasons napping is bad for me when I have excess time to think she recommended I take it to nap because funnily enough you might not be quite so anxious…if you could just get some SLEEP. Goldstein et al: “Tired and Apprehensive: Anxiety Amplifies the Impact of Sleep Loss on Adverse Brain Anticipation” Journal of Neuroscience, 2013.

Some days my head can become so loud that actually I’d rather be away from people. My go to on these days is setting up in a safe, comfortable cafe with a book (normally about others with anxiety), drinking good coffee and wonderful food. When reading my head is silent to all other things and to read a book it takes up a good chunk of the day. I often run to silence everything but the absolute limit this can last is four hours, which I only did once and never intend to again, a comfy cafe for the day is more appealing sometimes… but each to there own!

I try to create some structure, even if its pre- planned free time, just so I can organize and normalize the days ahead. For example Christmas day, this year I knew: I’d wake up at 8am, go for a run with my family (sometime in the morning but not completely sure when), that I’d have avocado on toast and a little prosecco (again at sometime before 11am), then a family game time (interim period before dinner), Christmas dinner (the biggest apprehension of which is actually just being able to read to Christmas cracker joke as I’m dyslexic… so obviously I google some likely ones I can memorize and use just incase…), family walk (about 2/3pm) and then chill time (at which time I suggest a film or game- depending on how well we’re all getting on after two days together). I’ve found leading decisions, although I find them hard, better during Christmas and New years as it gives me control of one element at least.

Overall take time for YOU and REST!



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