Anxiety & Mental Health, The Anxiety Diaries

The Anxiety Diaries – Anxiety at Christmas

Anxiety at Christmas

Christmas can be an overwhelming and stressful time for everyone. But for those suffering from an anxiety disorder, the anxiety at Christmas can be almost unbearable.

I sit here on Christmas Eve with my daughter beside me on the sofa. She’s singing along to a Christmas song, “snow is falling, all around me, children playing, having fun”. Her sweet little voice sounds out around the living room, a compliment to the wood crackling on the stove and the Christmas tree lights twinkling in the corner of the room. It sounds lovely, doesn’t it? So why is it that I’m not enjoying it the way I should? Instead of taking it all in, I’m going over things in my head, anxiety at a high.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that Christmas is often stressful whether you are suffering from a mental health condition or not. I’m sure across the world people are worrying about not having everything they need for the big Christmas dinner, or if they have enough wrapping paper or if they have forgotten to buy a gift for someone. But for me, and many other people suffering with anxiety, it goes so much deeper than that.

Christmas is family time, and there’s an overwhelming pressure at this time of year for us to live in the moment and enjoy the magic that is the festive season. We’re encouraged to do things together, crafts, baking cookies, taking part in Christmas traditions. And sometimes, that pressure feels overbearing for me. I’m sure you may read this and wonder what pressure I’m talking about, that surely spending time with the family shouldn’t be a ‘pressure’. But you see, every day that goes by I worry that I haven’t done enough. What if my children hear about all of the fun things their friends have done with their families during the holidays and what we’ve done doesn’t live up? Will my daughter grow up and think negativeley upon her childhood because we didn’t do enough crafty things together. If I don’t do enough, will that negatively impact on their memories of childhood? It’s common for parents to experience this kind of ‘guilt’ as it’s often called, but with generalised anxiety disorder, these thoughts are multiplied to a point where they begin to take over.

Right now, as my daughter sings her sweet songs and excitedly tells me about the new Pokemon she’s caught, my mind is wandering. A voice in my head tells me I’m a terrible parent because I’m not fully taking in what she’s telling me. I feel awful for not being completely present, but my thoughts can’t help but wander. I’m thinking about the worst things that could happen between now and Christmas morning. What happens if the cats climb the Christmas tree, somehow breaking the cord that we have tying the Christmas tree to the wall (so it can’t fall over, because I’ve already spent hours thinking about the possible dangers of that happening), the tree may fall and somehow touch the wood burner, going up in flames and killing us all while we sleep. Maybe someone will break in to the front window and steal all of the presents while we lie oblivious in our bed. Maybe I’ll undercook the Turkey and leave us all seriously ill. Every possible thing that can go wrong, and all of the things that probably will never ever happen have gone through my head.

The worst of it is, not everyone understands. If you aren’t suffering from anxiety, it can be hard to see things from the same point of view. Hearing things like ‘chill out, it’s Christmas’ and ‘don’t be mental’ when you voice your concerns about the elaborate Christmas tree falling in to the fire scenario, can only help to fuel the anxiety. I often start to worry that I’m ruining Christmas for everyone else by worrying about other things, or that I’m a freak because I can’t just chill out and enjoy myself like other people can.

To anyone reading this who doesn’t have anxiety, I urge you to just be a bit more careful with your words this holiday season. What seems silly to you may be a genuine concern for someone else.

So while I should be enjoying Christmas with my family, my head is filled with a deafening amount of thoughts and worries which make it hard for me to enjoy anything. Don’t get me wrong, it will be lovely to watch the kids open their presents on Christmas morning. I’ll share some laughter around the dinner table as we eat our Christmas feast. I will enjoy the day, but not without a constant stream of anxious thoughts that those around me won’t see. And that’s the reality of my Anxiety at Christmas.

This is a part of my regular series ‘The Anxiety Diaries’, to see more posts in the series click here. As part of this series I will be featuring guest posts, get in touch if you’d like to be involved!

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5 Comments

  • Reply Beth @ Twinderelmo December 24, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    Hope you manage to enjoy some of it darl. Merry Christmas to you all xx
    Beth @ Twinderelmo recently posted…The Christmas TagMy Profile

    • Reply Lauren December 24, 2016 at 5:41 pm

      Thanks wee petal, Merry Christmas to you all too x

  • Reply Myra Meyer December 25, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    Lauren, I wrote you earlier about the mental health problems in my family. My daughter is so full of anxiety, I do not ever remember her enjoying Christmas. She is always overcome. We try to make things as low key as possible. She is an adult with children of her own and wants to have an enjoyable time for them but cannot seem to do it without lots of help. I take her shopping list and buy many of the gifts she gives, often returning them for something else because it is not quite right. I wrap all the gifts. I help her on the day of gift giving. She feels free not to come to our house for the Christmas dinner. She does not attend any Christmas events. It helps that I homeschool her children and there are no concerts or school programmes to go to. I hope you found bits and pieces of good times during the day.
    Myra from Winnipeg, Canada

    • Reply Lauren December 28, 2016 at 12:18 am

      Hello Myra, thank you for taking the time to comment again. It sounds like your daughter really struggles with the holidays as much as I do, but it’s great she has you there to support her and doesn’t have as much pressure on her with regards to the school things. I think sometimes just knowing that you have someone by your side to help out when things get too much can be a great help. I did manage to have a lovely day despite all of the anxiety because my husband was on hand to talk me down when I started to get worked up about things. I hope you and your family had an enjoyable time too.

  • Reply RachelSwirl December 29, 2016 at 1:31 am

    I suffer from anxiety too and it can run high at christmas, I use my kids to keep me grounded as they remind me about what matters most x
    RachelSwirl recently posted…#TuesdayTreasures 27/12/2016My Profile

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