How do celebrities, mental health advocates and No Panic patrons cope over the festive season?

JEREMY DYSON

Jeremy Dyson is an author, musician and screenwriter who, along with Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, is one of the League of Gentlemen. He also created and co-wrote the popular West End show Ghost Stories and its film adaptation. Jeremy is also one of No Panic’s Patrons.

Do you find the festive season stressful at all?

It can be full of unforeseen stresses and strains of course. I always try and look on the positive side and balance necessary duties with the conscious instruction to myself to have a break and a rest – which is just as important.

You work very long hours, do you take time off over the holidays?

Absolutely. In my industry (entertainment) it is the one time of year that everything shuts down (on the whole) – so I absolutely try and make the most of that. No emails. Phone off (or at least, on the other side of the room, not in my pocket).

If you feel anxiety creeping up, how do you avoid it taking over?

If I do ever get like that it’s usually like a warning light on the dashboard that I’ve been overdoing things. So I always try and pay attention, make sure I have some early nights, long baths, long walks in green areas, exercise (I do like swimming), meditation.  I’ll also try and eat extra well too, give myself an all-round boost and cut down on the caffeine. 

What practical things do you do to take care of your mental health?

An hour’s walk most days, before I start work.  Make sure I’m getting enough sleep.  Spend time with family.  Regular reading of inspirational books.  Giving to others.  Good exercise and diet.  Spend time having fun (music is my hobby – so playing with synthesizers in my case).  Laughing with friends as often as possible.

What would be the best piece of advice that you could give to people feeling stressed at this time of year?

Take a deep breath.  Give yourself some time to do something nourishing for yourself – whatever that might be.  Spend time with other people even if you don’t feel like it. Listen to them.  Find out how they are.

JIM HAWKINS

Jim Hawkins is a radio presenter, photographer and journalist.

Do you find the festive season stressful at all?

Yes, I really, really do

You work very long hours, do you take time off over the holidays?

I do, usually about ten days

 If you feel anxiety creeping up, how do you avoid it taking over?

Meditation using @MeditationOasis app, taking propranolol or sleeping … often all three

What practical things do you do to take care of your mental health?

I try to avoid events or circumstances which I know or believe are likely to be stressful or cause me anxiety, but that’s not always possible, hence answers to question 3

What would be the best piece of advice that you could give to people feeling stressed at this time of year?

‘You matter. Take care of yourself, look after yourself. Give yourself time alone, or away from the hubbub. Schedule time to do things you want to do … or to do nothing. You don’t have to do Christmas – or anything – the way anyone else does it. Opt out entirely if that works for you. Be kind to yourself’

KEVIN PAINTER

Kevin Painter is a professional darts player.

Do you find the festive season stressful at all?

Yes it can be stressful, mainly because of how busy shops and traffic are.

You work very long hours, do you take time off over the holidays?

I manage to have the 23rd to 1st Jan off to relax by not being out.

What practical things do you do to take care of your mental health?

I try to walk as often as I can.

What would be the best piece of advice that you could give to people feeling stressed at this time of year?

My advice is to mentally try to prepare for the fact that it’s going to be very busy everywhere and to take time out when you feel it’s getting too much and avoid where it’s too busy for you.

PAUL  SALKOVSKIS

Paul Salkovskis is Programme Director for the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the Oxford Institute for Clinical Psychology Training and Research and Director of the Oxford Cognitive Therapy Centre. Paul qualified as a clinical psychologist in 1979 at the Institute of Psychiatry and Maudsley Hospital and is one of No Panic’s patrons.

Do you find the festive season stressful at all?

Like most things, the festive season is a balance. It’s helpful to take time off, but there are pressures which make it unhelpful. Being required to have a good time can feel awful. There is the threat of getting it wrong, whether that’s Christmas dinner or the presents you have bought. There’s the fear of having forgotten something (or someone). So there is lots that you can worry about! Sometimes thinking about loved ones who are not there can be a source of sadness. So like anything which could go well there is anxiety about what could go wrong!

You work very long hours, do you take time off over the holidays?

Whoever you are and however much you are committed to helping others, you should take time off. That makes you able to commit more, not less, to helping others. I have heard it compared to the safety instructions on an airplane; you should put on your own oxygen mask before you try to help the person next to you! It’s not selfish to look after yourself, it’s important and necessary!

If you feel anxiety creeping up, how do you avoid it taking over?

It’s very hard to “avoid” anxiety taking over! That’s in part because the harder you try to stop being anxious, the more anxious and out of control you tend to feel. It’s like “fighting for peace”! Best way in the moment is to focus on what’s really important, whether that’s your loved ones or something else which is important to you. Distraction is often not helpful, but engagement with what is real and important is!

What practical things do you do to take care of your mental health?

Practical things for me are making sure I get sleep, enjoying what’s going on rather than worrying about what is going to happen, getting out on my bike if the weather allows it. (Interesting exercise is always good for you, and for me the bike is wonderful!  Its hard to do exercise which is boring in my view, which is why the gym is not for me).  Allow some junk time; for me that’s reading, historical fiction, science fiction and so on. Nothing which is too heavy going, something with a gripping story!

 What would be the best piece of advice that you could give to people feeling stressed at this time of year?

Be kind to everybody. That includes yourself.

JON MOSES

Jon Moses is a singer, actor and television presenter.

Do you find the festive season stressful at all?

I absolutely love the festive period and everything it stands for. I do put pressure on myself because I want to be the best version of myself for my family and everyone who is watching our show, to create those magical memories you will remember the rest of their lives. It can be hard to balance my personal life with my performing life over the Christmas period but I absolutely love, love, love what I do.

You work very long hours, do you take time off over the holidays?

We get a few days off over the festive period and those are filled with panic buying and catching up on washing BUT we do get Christmas Day and New Year’s Day off. When you spend a full season giving yourself to all the families that come to see you, when it comes to spending time with your own you definitely have a heightened appreciation of how much you love them xxx

 If you feel anxiety creeping up, how do you avoid it taking over?

This is a good question. I suffer with horrific Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic attacks and OCD. I have to plan every day. I make sure I can control my environment and triggers as much as I can and prepare myself for any obstacles. I have to eat and sleep well. I don’t drink alcohol over this period as it can really make my anxiety act up.

What practical things do you do to take care of your mental health?

A massive thing for me is sitting in silence in my dressing room and grounding myself. When you go from the high of coming of stage to the low of being off. I have to normalise my thoughts constantly and ALWAY try and use positive reinforcement. By default I can be quite hard on myself. I have found that if I tell the people around me I’m having a bad day that also supports me working through and anxious situation.

What would be the best piece of advice that you could give to people feeling stressed at this time of year?

Be authentic. And real. You cannot lie to yourself. You have to acknowledge if you are stressed and anxious. Don’t be carried away with the thought of trying to be perfect. Once you have acknowledged stress you can plan to address it and prepare practical solutions. Stress for me is a very quick and heightened reaction that I have to stop and take a moment with. If you react instinctively it can result in becoming quite worked up. Take care of yourself and also each other. Talk about what’s on your mind and don’t treat it as an enemy just rather a part of yourself.  (We all go through it, it just affects us in different ways).

RUTH COOPER-DICKSON

Ruth Cooper Dickson is a Positive Psychology Practitioner and the Founder of The Champs wellbeing consultancy. Ruth is also a patron of No Panic.

Do you find the festive season stressful at all?

I used to but I now have a better self-care routine. I try to focus on not trying to please everyone and setting unrealistic expectations.

You work very long hours, do you take time off over the holidays?

Yes the office is closed for a few weeks, plus it’s generally quiet this time of year, so there is a definite opportunity to recharge. The only trouble is I have amazing ideas when I’m just lounging around! Not sure if that’s good or bad ha ha ha

 If you feel anxiety creeping up, how do you avoid it taking over?

Go for a run or get outside for a walk. Do some meditation to reset by taking myself away from the craziness for 20-30 minutes. 

What practical things do you do to take care of your mental health?

I stopped drinking over a year ago which is a big help to my mental health. Yoga and moving my body. Having long soaks in the bath, it’s the ritual, and the peace & quiet!

What would be the best piece of advice that you could give to people feeling stressed at this time of year?

Breathe! Remember Christmas is only one day. Don’t put yourself in to situations which are toxic. My top tip is to diffuse arguments with ‘killing them with kindness’ it usually throws the person who is trying to start an argument with me. 

ROZ SHAFRAN

Roz has a Ph.D. in psychology . Her primary clinical and research interests are in anxiety disorders, eating disorders and perfectionism. She has published widely in these fields. She is the scientific co-chair of the British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, and is an associate editor of Behaviour Research and Therapy, the leading journal in the field. She is also a patron of No Panic.

Do you find the festive season stressful at all? 

​I am Jewish and don’t celebrate Christmas so it’s not stressful. It’s like school holidays – a relief. 

If you feel anxiety creeping up, how do you avoid it taking over? 

I am going through a very stressful period at the moment. I wake up each day and ask myself what is the one thing I can do to look after myself today (amid all the looking after of others).

What practical things do you do to take care of your mental health? 

I have a secret technique – I argue with other people in my head instead of aloud which reduces the fighting with the others, and I try to identify at least one positive at the end of the day when lying in bed. 

 What would be the best piece of advice that you could give to people
feeling stressed at this time of year? 

The same as other times of year – it’s temporary, it will pass and nothing lasts forever. 

PROFESSOR KEVIN GOURNAY

Kevin Gournay is an Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Psychiatry (Kings College; University of London) He is a Registered and Chartered Psychologist, Chartered Scientist and a Registered Nurse. He practiced CBT for 41 years. Kevin is the President and founding Patron of No Panic and is a frequent contributor to TV, Radio and newspapers.

Do you find the festive season stressful at all?

Yes before – making sure I write alley Christmas cards and shopping for presents

You work very long hours, do you take time off over the holidays?

I tend to work really (extra) hard in the week or so before Christmas so that I can enjoy time with my family.

If you feel anxiety creeping up, how do you avoid it taking over?

I go out for a run – daylight and fresh air always help

What practical things do you do to take care of your mental health?

Run! Reading non-work books, magazines, make sure I keep in touch with friends

What would be the best piece of advice that you could give to people feeling stressed at this time of year?

Exercise!!! If you can’t meditate – there are now numerous apps available – 10 minutes meditation a couple of times a day will make all the difference It might be a cliché, – just remember that Christmas Day is one day only. Also try to think about the homeless, the hungry and people who are suffering physically and mentally who might be much more stressed than you!

If you suffer from anxiety in any one of its forms recovery is greatly assisted by the advice and support of No Panic 

PAUL MCGREGOR

Paul McGregor is a mental health speaker, advocate and author.

Do you find the festive season stressful at all?

I wouldn’t say stressed but even though I try to force against it, I often feel low around this time of year. I think it’s always a reminder of those we’ve lost.

You work very long hours, do you take time off over the holidays?

I do. I love my work and as it’s meaningful to me it helps my mental health massively. So switching off completely sometimes has the opposite effect. But I’ll completely disconnect Xmas day, and we’re going away as a family for two days which again is time for me to switch off.

 If you feel anxiety creeping up, how do you avoid it taking over?

Breathing. And reminding myself it’s okay

What practical things do you do to take care of your mental health?

Exercise helps, even if it’s just a short walk. Journaling, especially at this time of year helps put things into perspective.

What would be the best piece of advice that you could give to people feeling stressed at this time of year?

Don’t judge yourself or anything that you’re feeling. We’re quick to judge ourselves for feeling a certain way over a period that’s meant to be joyful. But that judgement only makes things worse. Don’t judge yourself and remember the happy faces and families you’ll see on social media at this time are highlights. Don’t compare yourself to them ?

LUCY NICHOL

Lucy Nichol is a writer, PR consultant, blogger and mental health campaigner.

Do you find the festive season stressful at all?

For me, it’s not the stress of Christmas that makes me anxious. It’s the expectations of feeling magical and festive like I did as a child. And of course I will never feel like that again as I now know that Santa Claus is a pseudonym for every parent’s shopping spree. But I still try really hard to conjure up magical nostalgia and in trying to make it all so perfect you can sometimes forget to enjoy the actual moments, only noticing when they’ve gone. So mindfulness is something I would like to try to practice more at Christmas.

You work very long hours, do you take time off over the holidays?

I’ve been really lucky this year as I’ve been able to take a good two week break from work. However, if I’m honest, although I won’t be in the office I will probably still be writing. But i enjoy that time and I know that over the Christmas break I can do things at my own pace

If you feel anxiety creeping up, how do you avoid it taking over?

 I felt a fair bit of anxiety creeping up this month – which my husband reassured me was perfectly normal given the time of year and the added stress of the awful election. So for me, I always reach out to someone I know I can talk to and who I can trust to be honest with me. My husband, Chris, is brilliant at helping me see perspective. Whether it’s a rational anxiety or a panic attack he always knows how to help. Additionally, I have to say I, personally, take medication for my anxiety and have done for about four years. It’s not for everyone but for me, antidepressants have been a game changer.

What practical things do you do to take care of your mental health?

 I’m often terrible at self-care, but when I put the effort in I find talking to people helps, doing some form of physical exercise, cutting back on caffeine and enjoying the fresh air all help.

What would be the best piece of advice that you could give to people feeling stressed at this time of year?

 I think the best piece of advice I could give to others – and which I should take note of more myself – is about enjoying the present. If we wish for a perfect Christmas, we will never achieve it and always feel let down. Just finding the magic in the moments as they happen and not trying to be all things to everyone is really important.

KEVIN JON

Kevin Jon is a singer and a No Panic patron.

Do you find the festive season stressful at all?

Yes it’s stressful, money wise and work wise.

You work very long hours, do you take time off over the holidays?

I don’t get time off over the holidays but I tend to have a few weeks off in January.

 If you feel anxiety creeping up, how do you avoid it taking over?

If I feel it coming on I try to do all the things I can to not let it take over me like before.

What practical things do you do to take care of your mental health?

I make sure I sleep and rest well when I can, and avoid doing things that could affect my mental health.

What would be the best piece of advice that you could give to people feeling stressed at this time of year?

Talk and keep yourself busy, don’t be lonely

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