The festive period is not the most wonderful time of the year for everyone.

Christmas can be a very anxiety-inducing period for people. The increase in social events, meals out, money spent and the general expectation of what Christmas ‘should’ look like can become extremely overwhelming. 

A recent survey by Harvard Medical School shows that almost two-thirds (62%) of people experience increased stress levels during the holidays. The additional financial pressures of Christmas, alongside the rising costs and increase in energy bills, are also likely to compound stress levels.

And for people who already deal with anxiety, it can become unbearable – with 64% of those who already have mental illnesses stating that Christmas time makes their conditions worse, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness.

‘The festive period is often filled with expectation,’ Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, tells Metro.co.uk.

‘There can be a lot of pressure to have the “perfect” Christmas, which can spur on anxious feelings, particularly if someone is already vulnerable to experiencing anxiety day-to-day.’

Christmas can also be an incredibly isolating period for people who do not have family or friends to spend the holidays with, or who are navigating the loss of a loved one.

This was the case for 39-year-old Emma Roberts, who lost her mum when she was just 11 years old – due to complications after giving birth to Emma’s younger sister.

‘After my mum died, Christmas became very anxiety-provoking for me. I would absolutely dread it and feel extreme panic on Christmas Day,’ the PA, infant sleep consultant and counsellor tells Metro.co.uk.

‘It was incredibly lonely, depressing and scary. I would feel so much dread and just wanted to be on my own because being without my mum was devastating.

‘Christmas is such a happy time for some, yet a time of deep anxiety, depression and loneliness for others.’

Over the years, she undertook therapy to grieve the loss of her mum, and now Emma has her own family to share new Christmas traditions with.

‘I’ve also listened to my anxiety and know how to calm it down. My own family helps that feeling of loss and grief, and I spend time with people I love,’ she explains.

‘I often see friends over the Christmas period, and this definitely helps.

‘There is still a sense of loss, but it’s easier to manage now. I no longer hide from the anxiety – I can accept it and live alongside it rather than running away.’

Emma’s tips for coping with loss anxiety during Christmas:

  • Spend time with people who support you, who can make you laugh and who lift your spirits.
  • Understand why you are anxious and seek professional help.
  • Write down your feelings to lighten the load.
  • Go for a walk or do light exercise to help you feel less anxious and more relaxed.
  • Ask for help, you are not a burden, and the right people will be happy to help you.

Trying to coordinate Christmas as a blended family can throw in extra hurdles.

When 32-year-old Miryka Yeates shared Christmas with her partner, Martin, for the first time in 2016, she was ‘full of anxiety.’

‘He has four children with his ex, and I have two children from past relationships,’ the blended family guidance coach, from Warwickshire, tells Metro.co.uk.

‘I had so many worries and stresses about making it the perfect Christmas for everyone – like “would I be able to match up everyone’s schedules?”, “what if the other parents caused problems?” and “how could we make it fair for each child?”‘

And despite getting through the holidays in 2016, when Christmas 2017 came around, Miryka began to feel ‘nervous and restless’ again.

She adds: ‘I was so overwhelmed by everything, constantly worrying about everyone else’s Christmas and forgetting my own enjoyment in it all. I felt so isolated.’

Seven years later, the stress hasn’t gone.

Miryka continues: ‘We are a blended family, so schedules and fairness are always going to be there, but we talk more about how we feel. We have a routine now, and I look after myself more, which definitely helps if the overwhelm does set in.’

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