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Christmas Anxiety: What to do if You Don't Feel Christmassy

But . . . What If I Don't Feel Christmassy?

DOCTOR SEUSS' HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, Jim Carrey, 2000,  Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

So, it's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year ... but does it feel more like the Grinch stole Christmas? Whether there's this overwhelming feeling that the big day is just not the same as it once was, or the festive season brings back painful memories – rest assured, you're not alone.

In fact, 1 in 3 Brits witnessed their mental health take a nosedive during the festive period, found research by Skipton Building Society. While anxiety and loneliness is most prevalent among those aged 25-34, according to a 2019 study by YouGov. A feeling echoed by Tiktok user @thesavvysagittarius, who shared a video in November saying: "I am not feeling Christmas this year. I am already burnt out on the holidays and how much money people are spending."

While the cost of Christmas can undoubtedly dampen the festive spirit, the jolly season can elevate feelings of depression, anxiety, and low moods. "From my experience of working 1:1 with clients, many of them suffered from something I would call 'Christmas anxiety'", says Kelly Weekers, a psychologist and author of Happy Life 365. "During the holidays, difficult relationships are exposed and arise, and the grief of having to celebrate this time of the year without someone we love and have lost can be devastating. That's why it is important to never create expectations."

Why Aren't I Feeling Christmassy?

Though low moods can strike us all year round, the festive season has a way of spotlighting them due to the constant pressure to feel joy. "We can 'put on a happy face' and mask how we are feeling inside. In some situations, that might simply be what's required to avoid awkward questions. But that can in turn make us feel worse, as it encourages us to suppress difficult feelings, which can leave them to fester and spiral", Georgina Sturmer, Counsellor MBACP, tells POPSUGAR.

Navigating the balance between not feeling Christmassy and dealing with friends who demonstrate "Elf" main character energy can be a challenge, especially if your cultural background doesn't quite align with the traditional Christmas mould. "That might leave you feeling uncomfortable or out of place", says Sturmer. While shops turning into Santa's Grotto the day after Halloween (and sometimes even earlier) can make Christmas feel like a long slog to get through. "The year-on-year 'Christmas Creep' can make this painful period even longer and harder to endure, too", adds Sturmer.

Early festivities can increase the strain on purse strings as well. "I've found that my Christmas budget is not just for gifts and food but the lead-up to Christmas; invites to Winter Wonderland, ice-skating, or Christmas parties with various friendship groups", Laura, 30, tells POPSUGAR. "There's little costs you forget about like buying your child's teacher a present", she adds. Setting aside a budget to cover Christmas has led to 50 percent of Brits admitting that they began worrying about the cost back in January, according to budgeting experts at Park Christmas Savings.

It can also be a time of emotional triggers, from past trauma to losing someone we love. New grief, and "the first Christmas" after loss, can be particularly exhausting to navigate. "Remember that there is no set framework for grief. You feel however you feel, and the depth of your emotions might change each day. Accept that Christmas might be a difficult time and allow yourself to experience your sadness, frustration, or anger", says Sturmer. The family-focused time can also be triggering for those dreaming of starting their own, or may have recently experienced baby loss. "We are inundated with content that portrays the 'perfect family life' during this time of the year and for those who are struggling to conceive, this is a constant reminder that their lives don't look like this yet," Dr. Piraye Yurttas Beim, Board Member at the Endometriosis Foundation of America and Founder of Celmatix tells POPSUGAR.

Tips to Get Through the Festive Season

It's totally ok to not feel Christmassy, so rather than forcing yourself, we've picked some expert-led tips to make getting through it that little bit easier.

  • Be Vocal: It can be extremely liberating to say "no", especially if you don't want to do something. "Find the courage to suggest an alternative venue or price limit. Be honest about your motivation. Other people may well thank you for it," says Sturmer.
  • Revisit Old Traditions – Or Make New Ones: Christmas can really highlight those who are no longer with us. Revisiting old traditions that you did together can make it feel as though they are still there. "Or you might want to introduce something new, as part of your own mourning process", Sturmer adds.
  • Do Something Different: "I was working last Christmas and was actually on my own for Christmas day (I was invited to friends, but it didn't make sense as I had work early on Boxing Day). I didn't want a sad dinner for one, so I just booked into a Spa instead. It was one of the best Christmases I had", Olivia, 31, says. The big day is ultimately yours to decide what to do with it.
  • Limit Social Media: A social media sabbatical, or limiting your use, will allow you to stop comparing your day with others. Researchers at Iowa State University recently found that reducing your time to 30 minutes a day has a positive impact on depression and anxiety.
  • Acknowledge and Redirect: Meeting up with extended family members or friends you haven't seen since last Christmas can ultimately lead to questions you don't want to answer. "Politely acknowledge and redirect", advises Dr. Piraye. "I say I don't want to think about that today."

    How to Help Understand Someone Who Isn't Feeling Christmassy

    If you are full of festive cheer, but someone close to you is not singing along to "Jingle Bells", it's important to readjust your energy and put yourself in their shoes. "We never know what someone else is carrying around," says Sturmer. "Maybe the idea of Christmas fills them with dread or worry or anxiety, and perhaps it triggers reminders of things that they would rather forget. Resist the urge to turn it into a joke and call them a Scrooge."

    From suggesting non-Christmas related activities that won't remind them of the time of year to not putting pressure on plans or offering a listening ear, there are other ways of lifting their spirits.

  • Image Source: Everett
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