The festive season tends to bring lots of excitement and anxiety as well. This year, everything has been turned on its head and we need to rethink and re-assess even the most basic activities. As a result, this Christmas could bring along new levels of stress, anxiety or even depression. This blog will explore some tips on how to support yourself when you feel these amplified feelings.

Awareness and acceptance of your feelings

The first vital part of supporting yourself is to be aware of what you are feeling, understanding what is causing these feelings and accepting that these are part of your current experience. You may be feeling stress in relation to how to make your children’s Christmas special despite COVID-19, or perhaps worry about not meeting all our loved ones in order to contain the spread of the virus. Remember that such worries, particularly this year, are normal and that it’s ok to not be ok.

Adjust your expectations

Let’s face it, the reality is that the chance of having a big Christmas party with friends and family this year are slim to non-existent. The sooner you come to terms with the fact that this festive season will be different, the sooner you can explore how you will be celebrating it instead. It can be very difficult to accept that you will not be able to find comfort in activities that in the past were a norm in this time of year. It is therefore helpful to explore how you can still keep your spirits up in new innovative ways, such as having smaller gatherings spread over several days, or even having virtual parties with the Christmas tree in the background. Remember that “necessity is the mother of invention”, you might find new ways of celebrating and enjoying yourself that you decide to adopt in years to come!

Stick to what you know supports you

Remember that self-care is very important when you are experiencing challenging moments. This can take the form of anything that you find gives you moments of calm and a peace of mind, be it going for a walk in the countryside, having a hot cup of tea or even speaking to a close friend or family member. By seeking such support, you will find that while your worries may not be gone completely, they will feel like they are smaller and more manageable.

Don’t shy away from saying no

Keep a look out for feelings of being overwhelmed or like you are backed into a corner. Being able to say “no” will allow you to feel in control of what is happening and the activities that you participate in. This season in particular may be challenging for those who find it difficult to say no, or tend to put other’s needs before their own. Reflect on what situations you find challenging to say no to, why you find those moments challenging and practice your response for that moment. This will support you to face this challenge feeling more prepared and supported.

This festive season will definitely present with new challenges. What will support us through this moment is to remember what we find supportive, seeking support when we do not feel our best, finding ways of making the most of this moment and remembering that, despite everything, this too shall pass.

Petra Borg is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist currently reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy from the Gestalt Therapy Institute Malta (GPTIM) and working at Willingness as a Trainee Psychotherapist. She has experience as a Triage Officer and has also worked closely with Willingness over several years, coordinating the international internship programme and providing support over diverse events and initiatives.