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Spilt Milk: Anxiety under the Christmas tree

Be kind to yourself over the festive season, says Caitlin Maggs.

Caitlin Maggs

Tue, 20 Dec 2016 11:21:39 GMT | Updated today

Christmas is a time for peace, joy, love and everything that's good and gravy. But as soon as those sleigh bells start ringing, why does the anxiety join in - year after year?


Joy becomes panic. Love becomes angst and resentment. Peace becomes that unresting fear in the morning - feeding thoughts you haven't done enough, prepared enough or manufactured the dream winter wonderland of how you think things should be. 


I don't know about you, but my mental health suffers the worst at Christmas time - despite more endless family visits and happy times, my anxiety picks up speed and I'm left shaking under the weight with a holiday headache. 


With just five days to go, I'm feeling it - snappy, irritable and snowed under with a hundred and one concerns. 


But why? 


Christmas cheer becomes a Christmas fear. People rush a little faster, act a little meaner, and pile on the pressure for a perfect white Christmas. But why is Christmas all mouth, and no action? All toys, no joy? All this anxiety under the Christmas tree? 


Visions in films, adverts and Facebook of how Christmas "should be" leads us to strive for unrealistic perfectionism. It really does. I think this can breed anxiety if we look at it in this way. And it's so hard not to!


Excitement also comes with a kind of mind nausea. 


In one day last week, I experienced and saw this in the outside world - faced angry drivers on the streets, impatient shoppers in the mall and panic in my own mind as I felt myself obsessing over the minutest details. 


After dropping my scarf in a crowded shop while juggling a handful of one too many bags - I am saddened to say that not one passing person offered a hand to help as a struggled. Instead I was met with tuts, my scarf was kicked to the side and I became just another person in the way.


This is not something new or shocking to you, I'm sure. I've even written about this further in a blog for the Mental Health Charity, Mind


It's sad this is so. But it can be changed by each of us. 


I think we need to break this set-vision of how Christmas should be into pieces. And manifest our own versions. 


This year, breathe. Concentrate on what really matters - on what you are grateful for. To have love and food on the table, friends and family around you. 


Let's concentrate our energies more on the hearts that the handbags. 


Show a stranger a smile, help someone carry their shopping up the stairs, give without expectation.


And forget perfect. Done is as good as! Trust me. 


You forgot gravy? That's ok. You still have your family by your side. They were out of stock of that one killer present? Let it go and know you are not a disappointment because of it - but a wonderful, kind and beautiful person for trying to make someone else happy. 


Reframe your Christmas and make it yours again. And just know that enjoying the moment, being present and soaking in the wonder of what's around you brings back the meaning - and the magic of Christmas. I believe the peace and pure essence of Christmas really showcases the brilliantly best in all of us.  


On New Year's Day, I am so excited to bring you The Spilt Milk Club. After realising how helpful writing this, and creative expression and outpourings have been for my own mental health - I have felt called to follow on my monthly DIVA column into a creative and collaborative mental health space to people to "spill" their thoughts, feelings, anxieties, art, cartoons, music, and more. 


If you have any of the kind you'd like to share out there in our friendly space - please email me on


See you LIVE on 1 January


I wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas.



Instagram: Caitlin.m.maggs


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