Living with anxiety is not easy, let alone at Christmas.

The rushing around and relentless focus on family, friends, gifts and social events can amplify day-to-day challenges and heighten worries.

In the lead-up to Christmas, headspace Port Adelaide is running Stress Less, a group to help young people recognise stress responses in daily life and apply techniques to manage symptoms.

“A lot of the time, young people don’t know they are experiencing anxiety,’’ said Milica Miocinovic, Youth Support Worker – Lived Experience.

“It comes in lots of different shapes and sizes and the group is about identifying the different ways we project our anxiety and what makes us anxious.’’

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is the most common mental health challenge in Australia.

Common signs include feeling agitated and catastrophic thinking.

“There’s a big misconception that anxiety is just fear, but it can come out in other ways as well,’’ said Milica.

For example, a person experiencing social anxiety may withdraw in a group setting while another will talk too much.

“Avoidance is a big one too. When we are really anxious about something and we avoid it, we justify this in our minds because our anxiety is so convincing.

“It makes us believe whatever it wants us to believe and leads us to think there’s something really, really scary about certain things, like going to school or making a phone call.

“Stress Less is about zooming out and understanding how anxiety looks and feels in our bodies, and how we can move away from catastrophic type thinking to something more logical and rational.’’

Coping with the festive focus

Milica said Christmas could compound financial and family stressors, exacerbating anxiety.

“If you have fractured family relationships, you might not have anywhere to go at Christmas. That brings up a lot of stress and potentially past trauma, and it can be very triggering in that sense,’’ she said.

“The expectations of buying gifts can also be a big worry if the young person has financial stress.’’

How to draw on inner strength

“Finding one’s self worth is really important,’’ Milica said.

“If they don’t have any social connections, understanding that one’s own company sometimes is more than enough.”

Milica said it was possible to be alone without feeling lonely if individuals recognised their own self-worth.

“Doing that means understanding ourselves better and where our anxiety comes from so that we can just sit with it, rather than trying to fix everything,’’ she said.

Stress Less is open to young people aged 12 to 25 years and runs weekly on Thursdays from 3.30-4.30pm at headspace Port Adelaide, 78-80 Vincent St. For more information, phone 8215 6340.