How do you live the Christmas season?
For many people, the end-of-year holidays are a source of joy and family sharing. However, they can also be a source of great suffering and anxiety. If you are wondering about your relationship with Christmas, this questionnaire is for you.
1. Why do the holidays make me anxious?
There are several reasons that can cause strong anxiety during the holidays. They are generally linked to a traumatic life event or to a complicated environment around these periods.
Anxiety is then learned to be associated with this time. This is followed by a cycle of avoidance that will gradually generalize the anxiety to the entire period and the elements associated with it.
Many external elements can add to the anxiety, including social pressure. “How can you not like Christmas?” people who are not affected by these difficulties will ask themselves. It’s often not even popular to not like the holidays. The pressure of presents, of the family, not always benevolent, and of the whole society that goes into holiday mode.
Suffering is made invisible, which can lead to more withdrawal and avoidance of these situations.
2. Qu’est-ce que la natalophobie ?
Natalophobia is the name given to the pronounced fear or anxiety of celebrating Christmas or the New Year. Although the scientific community is not in complete agreement on categorizing this anxiety as a phobia, the term allows many people to realize that they are not alone.
Anxiety around the holidays can take many forms. The first symptom is often the presence of strong ruminations throughout the month of December, or even before, with the tendency to bring up Christmas decorations earlier and earlier. These anxious ruminations begin to build anxiety even before the holidays have begun and revolve around the worst case scenario that leads to avoidance.
Pronounced avoidance of holiday-related situations is therefore the second sign that is often found. Family dinners, Christmas dinners at work, decorated downtown, gift shopping, whether the situation is the core of the problem or brings up thoughts and ruminations, all situations that are a source of anxiety end up being avoided. Avoidance often begins with a single situation, but over the years expands to include anything that brings the situation to mind. It eventually takes on disproportionate proportions that can be a source of great suffering.
When avoidance becomes too important, the situation may seem insurmountable. This feeling of being stuck may then lead to a low or even depressed mood associated with negative thoughts. This low mood appears from the first thoughts and can last well after the holidays if the situation is serious enough.
3. How to get out of Christmas anxiety?
As with all anxiety disorders, avoidance is the reinforcing motor of the problem, and exposure to anxiety-provoking situations will allow one to break out of this vicious circle and reclaim this time of year.
However, given the many factors that can cause this anxiety, it is important to take them into account as well. In particular, it is important to look at the social context and environment, in order to manage the pressure, expectations and judgments that may arise. In order to best address this part of the problem, assertiveness training will be essential, to learn how to assert one’s rights and needs, to express one’s limits clearly and to take appropriate action if they are not respected. While the holidays are seen by many as a time to share with loved ones, it is important that those loved ones are people who are beneficial to your life, who respect you and show you the affection you deserve. The exposure mentioned above does not mean voluntarily inflicting hours of derogatory comments, tension or insults on yourself. Assertiveness also means separating yourself from the toxic people in your life, after trying to deal with the present problems.
It is also possible to work on the traumatic memories that can taint the holiday season. The goal is not to forget, but to regain a healthy relationship with the memories and to learn how to manage the emotions that they may bring up, so that you are no longer a victim of your own memories.
In-depth work on dysfunctional thoughts, cognitive distortions and false beliefs around this period can also be extremely beneficial. Often, the brain remains stuck in a rigid way of thinking that worked at one time, but now causes more suffering than resolution of the situation. Exploring and questioning this way of functioning allows us to find a more flexible way of thinking that adapts more easily to situations and will cause less suffering.
All these efforts can be put in place with the help of a psychologist or psychotherapist. This accompaniment is recommended in order to structure the treatment in the best possible way and to progress in an efficient way while respecting your rhythm and your limits.
If you are wondering, don’t hesitate to take our test to better understand your relationship with the end of year celebrations.