Victoria Hall

How To Cope With Anxiety Over Christmas

Festive Anxiety

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but for at least a third of Brits the festive season can be tarred with high levels of stress and anxiety. It’s not just the stress of Christmas shopping and higher workloads that stresses people out, it’s also social anxiety over the endless festive get-togethers and parties.

A couple of years ago, Mind revealed that one in four adults battle with social anxiety or shyness during the party season. A fifth of people go as far as to feign illness and one in 10 blame lack of childcare to get out of their work Christmas party. ‘Coping with social anxiety can be difficult at any time of year but at Christmas there are extra events and demands that leave you feeling even worse than usual,’ explains Rachel Boyd, Information Manager at Mind. ‘The pressure to feel on good form and join in at work when everyone around you seems to be having fun can have an effect on both the body and the mind.’

Over eight million people in the UK suffer with a form on anxiety. For the majority of people Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but for a third of Brits it can be tarred with intensified stress levels and anxiety. With just two weeks to go and plenty of festive parties to attend and Christmas shopping to do, stress levels can skyrocket. Here’s some helpful pointers from the experts…

How can you keep your stress in check?

First and foremost, ‘It’s key not to take too much on and to be honest with people close to you if you are finding it difficult to cope,’ says Boyd. ‘Keeping anxiety bottled up can make things worse so find someone you can confide in and let them know that you need some support.’

Make a list: Running through your to-do list mentally can send your brain into overdrive. Instead, take a leaf out of Jo Fairley’s book and embrace The Joy Of Lists. Whether it’s a handwritten list that you tick off or a digital one that you email to your other half, there’s something incredibly satisfying about seeing the completed tasks start to rack up.

Be selective: Despite December being one of the busiest months of the year, there is always a pressure to try and catch up with everyone in your contacts book. Don’t RSVP to every event you’re invited to. Be selective and don’t take on too much.

Get some sleep: In between gift shopping and catching up with friends, there’s often little time for sleep. Burning the candle at both ends can exacerbate our anxiety as we’re not getting enough sleep as our brain’s capacity to reason is much lower and our attention span is shorter.

If you find rising anxiety is keeping you awake until the early hours, introduce Magnolia Rhodiola Complex into your routine. The blend of herbs help to not only calm your mind and improve your body’s response to stress, but also physically relax your muscles.

Breathe properly: ‘Deep diaphragmatic breathing is a powerful anxiety-reducing technique as it activates the body’s relaxation response,’ says Abie Taylor-Spencer, TMS Technician at Smart TMS. ‘It helps the body go from the fight-flight response of the sympathetic nervous system to the relaxed response of the parasympathetic nervous system.’

Take time out: Over 60% of us complain that we don’t get enough ‘me time’ over the festive period. So much so, David Lloyd fitness clubs have created ‘Blissmas’, a mindfulness class that encourages gym-goers to switch-off, relax and reconnect in the lead up to Christmas. With a soothing piano soundtrack, healing Himalayan lamps and a calming blend of meditation and yoga techniques, the 30-minute class promises to leave you feeling revived. 

Rethink your thought process: ‘When people are anxious they are usually obsessing about something that might occur in the future,’ says Taylor-Spencer. ‘Instead, pause, breathe and pay attention to what’s happening right now.’ Often the situation changes and improves, but in that instance our mind often falls into worst case scenario rather than waiting to see what happens.

Does It Matter If You’re An Early Bird Or A Night Owl?

nightowl_vh

Some of us leap out of bed in the morning with all the gusto of a Duracell bunny, while others don’t fire up their energy until later in the day. Aside from feeling a little groggy in the mornings, up until now there hasn’t been anything wrong with being a night owl. What morning birds achieve before work, they fulfill in the evening.

However, new research suggests published in Advances In Nutrition suggests that those with the evening chronotype (natural preference to evenings) are more likely to battle with health concerns, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes, compared to those with the morning chronotype. Night owls are more prone to bad eating habits and fuel their mornings with caffeine and sugar.

Night owls also tend to build up ‘sleep debt’ and use the weekends to recharge lost hours, which disrupts their sleeping pattern for the week ahead.

So, what makes you a morning or evening person?

Some people would argue that they’re just not a morning person and they were born that way. And science doesn’t disagree. ‘We have found that your genes, ethnicity and gender determine the likelihood of you being a morning or evening type,’ says Dr Almoosawi, a Research Fellow in Northumbria’s Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Centre. Night owls are more susceptible to Type 2 diabetes and are more likely to have an unhealthy diet.

Your body clock also changes with age. Around 90% of 2 year olds have the morning chronotype, but this drops to around 53% by the time they’re 6 years old. Unsurprisingly teenagers tend to have the evening chronotype, while those over 50 years tend to divert back to the morning chronotype.

Can you become a morning person?

Changing your sleeping habits can definitely make mornings more tolerable. Bringing your bedtime forward by just 15 minutes per night for a week is a straightforward way to ease your body clock into going to sleep earlier. The simple tricks that we’ve all heard of, such as taking a warm bath or shower before bed and ensuring your bedroom is cool and dark, also help. 

For those that want to up their evening bedtime routine, we highly recommend incorporating magnesium into the mix. Whether you bathe in the salts with Ilapothecary’s dreamy Magnesium and Amethyst Deep Relax Bath Soak or massage it into your feet with the help of Magnesium Oil GoodNight Spray by Better You, magnesium can help to gently soothe and relax you mentally and physically.

One study found that every additional hour spent outdoors was associated with 30 minutes of ‘advance sleep’, so using that extra time in the morning to take a run around the park or utilising your lunch break, could help you sleep better. 

If the stress of balancing a huge workload with festive parties and preparations for Christmas is keeping you awake at night, investing in KSM-66 Ashwagandha Plus by Wild Nutrition could help get your through. Ashwagandha is an Indian herb that helps your body deal with both psychological and physiological stress.  KSM-66 Ashwagandha which is grown in Western India, has been clinically proven to reduce stress. Taking two capsules a day when you get home from work should help ease any evening stress.

There are plenty of apps to help you manage your stress and drift off to sleep, such as the renowned meditation app, Headspace. There are also books on the subject that can offer simple tips to becoming a morning person, including the international bestseller Morning Miracle: The 6 Habits That Will Transform Your Life Before 8am by Hal Elrod.

What about boosting your energy in the morning?

As we mentioned, research suggests that night owls tend to reach for caffeine and sugar fixes in a bid to fire up their energy reserves in the morning. This can increase the health risks associated with the evening chronotype. While going to bed earlier and sticking to a bedtime routine will help, you might still need an energy boost during daylight hours. Look to moringa, a superfood and adaptogen that is packed full of nutrients and helps improve your energy levels and focus.

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