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Christmas can be lethal for producing stress and anxiety. For some strange reason, it doesn’t seem to affect me this way though, which is quite amazing considering I am generally someone who will find any excuse to get stressed!

So I have been thinking about why I don’t get anxious at this time.   

I have come to realise that I am not responsible for everyone’s happiness. I can provide a nice venue, and hopefully it will be a sunny hot day and we can sit in the sun, relax, eat and chat.

I have stopped inviting people I don’t like, (but always felt I should).

I don’t provide huge amounts of food – everyone brings something and it’s usually a wonderfully ecclectic mix of tastes and gastronomic experiences!

That’s it really, I was hoping for something a bit more insightful when I started writing this, but maybe that’s why it works, as often the most simple ideas are the ones that are the most successful. 

I wish everyone a (hopefully) anxiety free Christmas, and time for feeling some peacefulness and joy.  Although I’m not one for New Years resolutions (because I never keep them), I have realised that I like this holiday period to think about what is important to me, and how I can look forward to a new year.

Thank you to everyone who takes the time to write, read and comment on the We Worry Blog.  It feels so good to be part of a wider network of interesting and committed people, and I wish you all the best for the New Year. 

Have a look at the link to flickr and some rather lovely old New Zealand Christmas cards produced by our National Library.

 Meri Kirihimete

Guest blogger Summer writes:

I like to control things. I like to be able to plan things out and know what is going to happen. As my three children enter into the teenage years I am beginning to figure out that there is not a whole lot that I can control anymore. And that makes me anxious. My kids are really good kids and that should make me feel better but there are still so many things out there that could swoop in and destroy their lives. Believe me I have imagined some of the worst.

My husband told me that he deals with things as they come, where it seems I try to deal with things before they even happen. How do I get back to dealing in the moment? Me being the control freak perfectionist that I am, know that I must do these things to lower my stress and anxieties: regular exercise, good nutrition, stop the worrying and turn off the monkey mind in my head. Sounds easy, right?

Did I mention that it is really cold here and my summer walking route is under a layer of ice with more snow expected tonight. My diet is usually pretty good but with all the holiday festivities going on I am more conscious of the fact that everything around me to eat is not what I should be eating. Which either makes me not eat or eat too much of the chocolate fudge that the gals from work bring in. As for not worrying, did I mention that my daughter turns 16 in a month and every night wants to go for a drive (on the ice covered roads). So what can I do? I can still practice my yoga and dig out my old relaxation cd’s. I can write down my anxieties and think of more realistic outcomes. I can go help someone who really does have something to worry about. And I can try to enjoy what is happening today instead of worrying about the future. I can remember that I can only control what is in my power to control and the rest will happen whether I am worrying or not. Maybe then the monkey brain will get the message and leave.

It is easy when you are anxious to forget about those who are near and dear, who cope with the depression, the questioning, the doubts, the pain and the tears.  When I first started experiencing anxiety I was in a new relationship with the man who would become my husband.  I remember the baffled look as I pounced upon him sobbing because he was late home from a trip away, and his futile attempts at reassurance as my  fears of imminent health failure reached a crescendo.  He really had no idea about what was happening to me, why I couldn’t be reassured, and why I couldn’t just get on with things and be normal!   

 25 years on I thought it was a good time to ask him about the ways that he has coped with living with an anxious person, and perhaps what advice he would give to someone in a similar situation.

J: What was your first reaction when you realised that I had anxiety?

SJ: Probably to be worried! And then to think how could I help?

J: What happened for you when you realised that you couldn’t help?

SJ: Well it took many counselling sessions for me to realise that the best thing to do was actively listen, to not offer advice but to just be attentive and talk.  Just hang in.

J: What advice would you give to someone now?

SJ: the best way is just to “be”. It’s about being attentive, making time to be together and to share.

J: How do you look after yourself?

SJ: Having work and pleasure apart from you is important, at the same time as also making time and sharing things with you too.

J:How important is the time away?

SJ:Time apart is important in any relationship, I don’t think it is any more important when living with an anxious person

 J:  What have been some of the frustrations?

SJ: Mainly that I couldn’t wave a magic wand and make it all better.  Also when I get a bit down and tired myself, and don’t take the time to listen and share things with you, I can get a bit frustrated.  Sometimes I worry that I can’t make you laugh.

 J: Are there any gifts from living with an anxious person?

SJ: It has made me develop good ways of talking and listening.  I hadn’t realised that listening was so hard! It’s about really hearing what the person you are talking to is on about, without trying to solve everything.  I learnt to ask open questions, and to encourage conversation rather than to stifle it.

J: We have done couple counselling.  What do you think the affect of this has been?

SJ: I was struggling to cope with your anxiety at that time, and counselling helped me to cope and to look after myself, as well as become really aware of what would help you.

J: Could you have done this without counselling?

SJ: No I would have struggled much longer.

J: What advice would you give to an anxious person?

SJ: I would say to keep talking about it.  Sharing an anxiety or a vulnerability brings people together.

In the end there is no magic answer.  I think that for us it has been about listening, talking, challenging my thought patterns at times, getting help when we needed it, and trusting and respecting each other.  Doesn’t sound any different from any other relationship does it?

"Drag your thoughts away from your troubles... by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it." -- Mark Twain

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