Feeling Anxious at Christmas

With Christmas fast approaching, lots of us take the opportunity to catch up with friends, family and colleagues. However, this can translate into feelings of anxiety if (like many people) you tend to feel a little overwhelmed in social situations. Sinéad Rafferty – Centre Manager and Clinical Director of Pieta House in Galway – shares some helpful advice on what do to if you’re feeling lonely or anxious this Christmas. 

Negative Thought Patterns

“Social anxiety is often at an all-time high for people over Christmas”, Sinéad begins, “particularly if they find going to office parties, meeting people or large crowds overwhelming.” We often spiral into negative thought patterns in those situations; assuming things are a lot worse than they are. “Unhelpful thinking habits like ‘mind-reading’ can be easily triggered”, she explains. “This is when someone thinks they know exactly what another person thinks of them – and it’s usually negative.”

You’re Not Alone

The important thing to remember, says Sinéad, is that lots of people feel the same way. “Remember that although social anxiety is often isolating, you’re not alone”. Her advice is to acknowledge how you’re feeling, without judgment. “Recognise your feelings of isolation instead of denying them; they’re real and worth exploring. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing what you're going through with family or friends, consider talking with a Counsellor.” 


When struggling with negative emotions, Sinéad says it’s also important to cultivate a sense of self-compassion. “Take care of yourself. Do what you can to reduce stress, and connect with things and activities you enjoy. Get plenty of rest, eat delicious and healthy foods, go to a museum or movie, get a massage, take a bubble bath; do whatever feels safe and brings you comfort.” Another option is to reach out and offer your services to someone else in need – maybe at a charity, old person’s home or homeless shelter. “Volunteering is a powerful antidote to loneliness, because it boosts one's feelings of self-worth and usefulness”, Sinéad explains.

Accept Your Worth

Finally, Sinéad points out that when we’re feeling isolated, we tend to become a little more paranoid when someone does actually reach out. “Case studies show that loneliness makes us underestimate the extent to which those around us care”, she says. So, if a friend or colleague invites you along to a lunch or event, accept that they genuinely want you there! “Even if we’re sceptical about it, we should assume the person who invites us is happy to have us”, says Sinéad, “otherwise they wouldn’t have asked us in the first place.”
If you experience any suicidal ideation or self-harm over the Christmas period, contact the Pieta House 24-hour helpline number on 1800 247 247. You’ll get through to a fully qualified member of their counselling team.