Christmas is less than a month away. Eek!
For many people the run up to Christmas is exciting, but for others it can be a distressing time.
Are you one of those people who is already beset by Christmas worries and anxiety?
If you answered ‘Yes’, check out the three effective techniques below, to help you reduce your Christmas related anxiety.
What is Worry?
Worry involves thinking about the potential outcome of real or imagined future events. The outcome we imagine may be positive or negative. Worry is a natural and useful and we all worry to some extent at times. It prompts us to plan and prepare for future events so we can take advantage of opportunities and reduce the impact of risks.
Worries manifest in “What if ….” thinking, such as:
“What if ….
…. it rains on Xmas day when we’re supposed to be having a barbie?
…. no-one turns up on Xmas day and I've wasted loads of money and food?
…. the Xmas dinner I cook is a disaster?
…. family and friends are disappointed with the presents I’ve bought?
…. I’ve bought someone something they already have?
…. I spend too much?
…. I don’t have enough money for food and presents?
…. I or a member of my family gets sick over Xmas?”
The potential list of ‘What ifs?’ is endless.
In prehistoric times, our ancestors had good reason to worry – they were faced daily with physical threats! Today we worry about a myriad of low-level ‘threats,’ real or imagined,that leave many of us in a state of constant anxiety.
Interestingly, when it comes to worrying, research informs us that:
- Our mind has a negativity bias and in most cases the outcome we imagine in response to our "What if?" thinking, is negative and, to make things worse, our mind exaggerates the negative outcome.
- About 85% of the things we worry about never happen.
- If what we worry about does happen, 80% of us will handle the outcome better than we thought we would.
The consequence of unhelpful worry is anxiety
Our body responds to imagined negative outcomes almost exactly the same way as it does to real and present danger. So, when experiencing anxiety, we feel the same or similar physical sensations as we do when stressed,with the addition of ‘black and white/all or nothing’ thinking and negative feelings (e.g. nervousness, dread, fear).
3 Effective Techniques to help reduce your Christmas related anxiety
To help reduce your Christmas related anxiety here are three simple and effective techniques:
Change your Physiology – Belly Breathing
When you are feeling anxious, you may notice that your breathing becomes shallow.
If possible, stop whatever you’re doing and take a deep breath.
Breathe deep, pulling the air in with your diaphragm, so your belly inflates instead of your rib cage.
Count to five as you inhale, and then count to five again as you exhale. Mindfully focusing your attention on your breathing will help slow down the worrying thoughts and ground you in the present moment.
Change your Thinking - Worry Time
Rather than try and ignore our worries or try and push them away it is better to face them and look them in the eye. When we hold our worries up to the spotlight of rational thinking we find that they suddenly become quite transparent, fragile or malleable. They may change before our very eyes!
A technique many people have found effective is to schedule one or two short periods of 'Worry Time' each day, during which you give yourself permission, and time, to worry.
Engaging in Worry Time helps us to learn:
- not to react to worrying thoughts as they arise during the day.
- develop control over the urge to worry
- that the majority of our worries are related to hypothetical or imagined situations
Check this out ….
Here’s a 4 minute video from the BBC Radio 4 on the subject of Worry Time.
BBC Radio 4 - How to manage your worries: A quick and easy guide on how to cope with the things you worry about. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03rwr72
Change your Emotional State – Name the Emotion
The process of identifying, labelling, and quantifying emotions has been shown to lead to significant reductions in their intensity. For example, at the first warning signs of anxiety, I might say something to the effect; “Right now I'm experiencing anxiety. And I know I'm not the anxiety I'm experiencing, and this too shall pass.”
Research has found that just saying a statement like this can actually stop you from becoming intensely emotionally aroused.
By consciously becoming aware of your emotional state in the moment, you activate the prefrontal cortex and allow it to suppress the amygdala (the part of your brain responsible for recognizing dangerous situations and arousing fear). For example, in one fMRI study, appropriately titled "Putting Feelings into Words," participants viewed pictures of people with emotional facial expressions. Predictably, each participant's amygdala activated to the emotions in the picture. But when they were asked to name the emotion, the prefrontal cortex was activated and this reduced the emotional reactivity of the amygdala. In other words, consciously recognizing the emotions reduced their impact.
By defusing the intensity of the emotion, you retain access to your rational, logical thinking brain. That means you can think about what to do next to productively solve whatever problem you are worrying about.
This is a 2-step process.
Step 1 - identify and label the emotion, such as saying something to the effect, “Right now I'm experiencing anxiety” (or whatever emotion(s) you’re experiencing in the moment), and
Step 2 - remind yourself, “I am not the emotion I'm experiencing, and this too shall pass.”
I encourage you use one or all of these activities whenever you are feeling anxious. You’ll find they are effective in lowering your anxiety level and will help make the run-up to Christmas more enjoyable.
Helping people to regain control over their stress and anxiety is my passion. If you'd like to explore how I can help you control your worrying and reduce your anxiety contact me on 021 056 8389 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the Book Now button.
REMEMBER - "When you change your mind you change your life."
Tony helps individuals to harness the power of their mind to achieve success and well-being in life, work and business. Tony's particular area of expertise lies in helping people to 'change their minds' so they gain freedom from worry, anxiety and stress, overcome limiting beliefs and unhelpful habits. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of solution focused coaching, neuroscience, positive psychology and clinical hypnosis.