IT’S that time of year again — John Lewis has released its Christmas advert and gifts and decorations are appearing in shop windows.
But experts say the countdown to the big day can make people start to feel nervous about the holidays.
While the festive season is a time of joy and celebration, for many it can also be a source of anxiety and stress.
People are feeling the pressure earlier because the start of the winter sales is being pushed back in the calendar every year, psychologists say.
Dr Ree Langham at Impulse Therapy, told The Sun: “The festive season is supposed to be a time of joy, but for some people, it can be a period of stress and emotional strain.
“Referred to as Christmas creep, some can find the festive build-up very triggering, and overconsumption patterns can have a negative effect on well-being.”
Dr Sarah Boss, clinical director of The Balance, said: “The commercialisation of the holiday season, with sales and decorations now appearing in October, can lead to a sense of urgency and also remind us that we’ve got lots of tasks and shopping to do.
“This can all create feelings of panic internally. The festive season can also resurrect feelings of personal memories and emotional triggers, which can further make us anxious.”
Signs you’re suffering from the creep are the same as those caused by regular stress.
They include anxiety, sadness, headaches, body aches, struggling to sleep and irritability.
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These are especially likely during the cost of living crisis, when the financial pressures of the holiday season can affect people’s mental health negatively.
Feelings of inadequacy can also be triggered by worrying you’re falling behind in Christmas preparations, according to Rachel Matthews, of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.
She told Patient UK: “We need to accept, without guilt, that Christmas can be a challenging time.
“Being honest with ourselves is the first step, and accepting the reality of the situation rather than adding additional pressure to it.”
What to do to treat Christmas creep
1. Plan ahead
The festive season can feel like a rollercoaster, with family plans all coming at once at the same time you feel pressure at work to get ahead before time off.
Experts suggest you create an action plan to help relieve some of this stress.
Make a list of all the things you need to do and prioritise them by what is most important.
This can help relieve tension, knowing everything has been planned for and you do not have to remember all commitments over the period.
2. Put yourself first
Taking care of yourself makes it easier for you to take care of others.
Setting time aside to do things you enjoy and making sure you get in your regular exercise are important ways to stay sane over Christmas.
Similarly, don’t let the busy schedule impact your normal night routine — getting a good night’s sleep is vital.
Dr Boss said: “There are various coping strategies.
“Mindfulness and self-care can help in the hectic period, keeping individuals balanced and grounded.
“This includes yoga, breathwork and meditation.”
3. Set a budget
Feeling out of control with your finances can induce anxiety.
Christmas can increase the risk of this happening, so it is important you set a budget to put yourself in charge and reduce feelings of stress.
Don’t forget to factor in regular costs like heating and energy bills, which might be higher if you have family over or are spending more time indoors while off work.
4. Don’t be afraid to say no
It can often feel like you have to say yes to every event you’re invited to in December.
However, it is important to say no to things you know you won’t enjoy or will cause more stress than they are worth.
Dr Langham said: “It’s important that individuals are aware of their triggers
“Don’t be afraid to say no to commitments or events if you feel like things are getting too much.”
5. Be honest
Being open about feelings of stress or anxiety around Christmas is important.
Friends and family members may also be feeling overwhelmed, so talking about it can help you normalise some of the issues.
If you are struggling with your mental health, it may be helpful to talk to a doctor or self-refer for counselling on the NHS.
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Dr Langham said: “Professional help can be effective and can help you to understand the thought processes behind behaviours as well as develop healthy coping strategies.
“With early intervention and knowledge of Christmas creep and its potential triggers, you can enjoy the festive seasons without risk.”
6 signs you’re suffering from the ‘Christmas creep’
Holiday stress symptoms are similar to regular stress symptoms.
- Body aches
- Struggling to sleep
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