How to survive Christmas with anxiety

​Eli Bishop By ​Eli Bishop

GetOutside Champion Eli Bishop lives with anxiety. Here she shares her top 10 tips for coping during the festive holidays.

Eli on top of hillside

Photo credit: @jasonrawles

It's hard enough sometimes just managing day to day life when you have anxiety let alone Christmas. One of my triggers is having people come to my house; be it for a cup of tea, glass or wine or, god forbid a meal, or a party (a little bit of sick just came up then).

So, what can we do to make this time of year go a little more smoothly? Apart from going on holiday to India for two weeks!?

Eli at lakeside

Photo credit: @jasonrawles

‘Anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental health problems in the UK and elsewhere, yet it is still under-reported, under-diagnosed and under-treated,’ according to the Mental Health Association.

Almost one in five of us feel anxious all the time, or a lot of the time, let alone at Christmas when the pressure is on to meet all the ridiculous expectations that are being piled upon us every day by the media.

Almost one in five of us feel anxious a lot of the time

Symptoms for me (like yesterday which was a bad day) include a deep feeling of worry and dread, thinking too much about what other people may think of me, panic about things that are either out of my control or actually I am fine with (on my good days). Generally I feel overwhelmed, tearful and disappointed in myself.

For people with mental illness, ‘normal’ stuff can sometimes feel hard. But, it doesn’t make you a failure, or a weirdo; it just means that you have an illness that you have to be constantly aware of.

So MY tips are...

Eli on snowy path

1. Avoid too much alcohol - I know it Christmas but you know what, it is great waking up the next morning feeling fresh as a daisy. You can still have a glass of mulled wine or two, just avoid drinking the whole bottle!

2. Eat healthy, but do allow yourself a daily 'treat', it is Christmas after all, but if you take care of what goes in to your body then you will feel the benefit.

3. Exercise - keep moving, go for a walk everyday. Remember to GetOutside!

4. See people - many of us have social anxiety as well as general anxiety so it may just mean meeting one or two people for a coffee, just try to be social as talking and seeing people raises confidence. Really good friends will help you with this if you are honest with them.

5. Try to relax. Use breathing techniques to help when you are starting to feel overwhelmed. Take 5 minutes to go and sit on your bed with the curtains drawn and close your eyes and breathe deeply through the nose and out through the nose really noticing your chest expand with each breath.

6. Do something for someone else, it could be as simple as helping someone at the supermarket reach the tins on the top shelf, or giving up your seat to someone on the bus, or making the effort when driving to let people out in front of you. Trust me, if you have kindness in your heart then you will feel so much better,

7. Sleep - this is a hard one for me, but a good nights sleep is so important (hence no.1 & no.2 as they impair good sleep). Try to get a good 8 hours each night. If you have trouble sleeping then try the breathing exercises or try some yoga (YouTube 'Yoga Poses for Sleep') or download a relaxation app.

8. Be honest with yourself, and others. You will have good days and bad days. Accept it. Take the bad days as they come with the knowledge that for the one bad day you invariably will have lots more good days.

9. Remember that Christmas is a time for love and the most important person you can love is yourself.

10. Have fun! Its only a few days so just breathe and smile, breathe and smile.

View of mountains

Photo credit: @jasonrawles


If you're in need of more information or advice contact www.mentalhealth.org.uk

​Eli Bishop By ​Eli Bishop

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Eli Bishop is happiest climbing mountains and paddling rivers for mental wellbeing.

Find out more about Eli Bishop here.

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