The festive season comes with all sorts of pressures and expectations which is a shame because these details detract from what should be a relaxing time in the company of loved ones. The ideal Christmas image leads us to think that we have to achieve perfection in everything we do; in how we decorate our homes, buying expensive ornaments and gifts, maintaining completely harmonious family ties, being a social butterfly and flitting from one Christmas party to another and immersing ourselves in an environment centred around food, alcohol and indulgence. Whilst all of these things are part of the Christmas image we are sold and look good in the Instagram pictures we are inundated with, they can also produce a lot of anxiety in the many people who worry that they cannot achieve or keep-up with this level of so-called perfection.
Christmas isn’t supposed to be about competition; who’s got the best Christmas tree or how many designer gifts someone has received but the airbrushed images we are presented with lead us to believe that there is a certain standard we have to live-up to, no matter how unattainable it really is. For many, anxiety can be produced as a result of fearing failure or worrying about external expectations. When it is expected for people to attend their big work Christmas parties, for example, fear of being overwhelmed by the hectic environment and the unnecessary pressure to do everything in excess are not a part of the conversation. So, each person who struggles with anxiety at this time of year feels isolated and alone, like no-one else is going through the same things as them.
The following can be sources of anxiety during the festive period:
- Christmas shopping in busy areas
- Seeing relatives you do not meet with often
- Christmas parties
- The expectation to be festive and merry in all of your interactions
- Buying gifts and worrying if they are adequate
- Receiving gifts and stressing about opening them in front of the giver
- The expectation to indulge in food and alcohol when, for many, our relationships with these things are complex
And so many, many more situations, which others may view as tiny details in the bigger picture of their Christmas, can be anxiety-provoking.
Christmas is meant to be a time we feel the opposite of isolated and fearful of judgement. So, let’s make mental health and inclusion a part of the discussion within the bigger picture of Christmas this year and make sure that no-one feels iced-out of the celebrations.
If you want to hear my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter: @RyanBInNature
Here are some more of my Christmas-related posts:
Don’t feel alone this Christmas (resources about the festive period and mental health):