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From Overwhelmed to Empowered: How to Overcome Christmas Anxiety

Updated: Apr 19

The holiday season is meant to be a time of joy, celebration, and togetherness. But for many of us, it can quickly become a source of overwhelming stress and anxiety, but how do we overcome Christmas Anxiety? The pressure to create the perfect holiday experience rockets, we are thinking of navigating complex family dynamics, and managing our own emotions, which can leave us feeling like we're drowning in a sea of tinsel and wrapping paper; all the while pretending that it's the "best time of year".

The holiday season tends to be one of suppression as well as joy so we'll be looking at what causes these unusual and unwelcome feelings as well as practical advice on managing stress and anxiety during this period. For many of us, the holidays can bring a mix of joy, excitement, nostalgia, and even sadness. By acknowledging and allowing ourselves to experience these emotions, we can better understand our own needs and respond to them in a healthy and productive way.

Recognizing and Acknowledging Your Emotions

The holiday season can evoke powerful emotions, both positive and negative, and it's crucial to give yourself permission to feel and process these emotions without judgment.

  • One way to recognize and acknowledge your emotions is by taking time for self-reflection. Pause and check in with yourself regularly, asking how you're feeling and what emotions are present.

  • Journaling can be a powerful tool for this, providing a safe space to explore and express your emotions without judgment or inhibition.

  • Give yourself permission to feel your emotions, take time for yourself and gain greater clarity and insight into what you need to prioritize your well-being.

It's also important to remember that it's okay to set boundaries around your emotions and the conversations you engage in during this time. While the holidays tend to create opportunities for deep discussions and emotional exchanges, it's important to consider your own emotional well-being and set boundaries with friends and family. If a particular topic or conversation is triggering or overwhelming for you, don't be afraid to politely excuse yourself or redirect the conversation to a more positive and lighthearted subject. Setting boundaries with others allows you to protect your emotional energy and prioritize your own mental health during the holiday season.

Remember, you have the power to navigate your feelings in a healthy and empowering way, setting the foundation for a happier and more fulfilling holiday season.

Thinking of journaling?

Discovery Journal for How to Overcome Christmas Anxiety

Not sure what it is about your mother-in-law that makes your anxiety rocket?

Discovery Journal helps find triggers and causes of anxiety; understand their meaning and manage their presence in the future.

If you are thinking of trying journaling prior to the Christmas season or wondering whether journalling could help you during the season, Discovery Journal can help you.

Managing Expectations

At Christmas, it’s important to help manage expectations. Kids may expect the latest tech presents that they saw on television, adults may be expecting the family gathering of their dreams, and while it can’t hurt to plan something special, it’s still important to remember that we can’t control everything. Creating realistic expectations helps ensure that everyone is able to enjoy the holidays with less stress.

How can you manage expectations at Christmas so that you don’t get overwhelmed?

One tip is to set expectations in advance. Let your family know that you’d like to keep things simpler this year and that you have a plan. This could involve:

Setting a budget for gifts or suggesting handmade gifts - Gifts can mean more than one thing, if financial pressures are an aspect of your Christmas stress, suggesting a "theme" for Christmas such as:

  • "Pre-Loved" Christmas - Only second-hand, vintage or preloved items as gifts

  • Secret Santa - Only getting one gift for one Person

  • Handmade Gifts Only

  • Kids Christmas - Only buy children's toys or gimmicks

Setting a collective theme can reduce stress by eliminating the pressure of not knowing what to buy for someone. It's also a novelty and adds more excitement to the season.

Forgoing traditional gatherings

Christmas doesn't look the same for everyone, no one person's idea of Christmas is the same as another's and often we can be judgemental of each other and impress our own opinions on what the season should look like.

If you feel as though the image of a "traditional" Christmas has negative connotations for you, forgoing those plans can be self-soothing and beneficial for your own mental wellness whether that be for one year or every year. There is no "one way" to do something.

Focusing on activities that bring you the most joy

How to Overcome Christmas Anxiety

Giving everyone a heads-up in advance will help set expectations and create clarity.

Suggest an alternative plan for Christmas that everyone can contribute to and enjoy together, some might be:

  • Sober Christmas

  • Spa Day

  • Movie Marathon

  • Pajama Day

  • Mid-day walk

  • One Gift Per Hour

Avoiding Negative Comparisons to Others

It is important to remember during the holiday season that comparison to others is unhelpful and can cause unhappiness.

Focusing on our own successes and strengths, as well as those around us, can help to bring about meaningful connection and appreciation for where we are at in life. Celebrations are much more meaningful when spent with family and friends who express genuine joy in our successes and the special occasions that we share.

With an increase in social media use, it's very easy to compare everything, our choice of tree, the quality of gifts and even our gift-wrapping skills. We need to be mindful during this period that what we see on social media is only the moments that others want us to see, rather than the reality. Everyone's experience of this season is different, but not any better or worse than someone else's experience.

Prioritizing Self-Care and Me-Time

How to Overcome Christmas Anxiety

While it's natural to want to be there for others during the holiday season, it's important to remember that you can't pour from an empty cup. Prioritizing self-care and me-time is essential for maintaining your well-being and preventing burnout, after all you don't want to spend the main day exhausted and waiting for it all to be over. This might mean setting aside designated periods throughout the days or weeks leading up to Christmas to engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation.


  • A warm bath

  • Reading a good book

  • Going for a walk in nature

  • Take a few moments to meditate

These moments of self-care and me-time allow you to recharge, rejuvenate, and show up more fully for others. By taking care of yourself, you'll be better equipped to handle the stress and demands that may come your way during the holiday season.

We have focused on some budget-friendly ways of self-care in a previous blog, maybe some of these techniques can resonate with you:

Additionally, setting boundaries around your time and energy can help prevent feelings of being overwhelmed. It's okay to say no to certain invitations or requests if they don't align with your well-being or priorities. Remember, you don't have to attend every party, participate in every activity, or take on every task. By setting boundaries, you create space for yourself and allow the opportunity to focus on what truly matters to you.

Prioritizing self-care and me-time not only benefits your own well-being but also sets a positive example for others. By demonstrating the importance of balance and self-care, you inspire those around you to do the same. So, as you navigate the holiday season, remember to take care of yourself and honour your own needs, listen to your body and your mind.

Practicing Mindfulness for Stress Reduction

Mindfulness involves intentionally bringing your attention to the present moment, without judgment. By cultivating a sense of awareness and focusing on the here and now, you can create a greater sense of ease and peace amidst the holiday chaos.

One way to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine is through simple breathing exercises. Taking a few moments each day to focus on your breath can help you centre yourself and calm your mind. Find a quiet space where you can sit comfortably, close your eyes, and take a deep breath in, feeling your abdomen expand. Slowly exhale, noticing the sensation of your breath leaving your body. Repeat this deep breathing exercise several times, allowing any tension or stress to melt away with each breath.

Assisted Breathing

Breathing to Overcome Christmas Anxiety

There are aids available such as breathing straws which double up as stylish jewellery which can assist in regulating your breath. Some find it beneficial to breathe through a straw, encouraging a longer breath out and slowing your heart rate.

Square Breathing

Breathing to Overcome Christmas Anxiety

Square breathing is especially beneficial to children but can be used by anyone as it has a practical application. Using your finger to map out the four corners of the square helps slow your breathing to the pace of your finger. Engaging movement distracts your brain and connects with another part of your body.

Another mindfulness technique to explore during the holiday season is gratitude. As you go about your day, take a few moments to reflect on the things you are grateful for. It could be as simple as appreciating the warmth of a cosy blanket, the laughter of loved ones, or the beauty of a winter sunrise. By intentionally focusing on the positive aspects of your life, you can shift your mindset and cultivate a greater sense of joy and contentment.

Gratitude Aids

Gratitude Journaling to Overcome Christmas Anxiety

Gratitude journaling is the most popular form of journaling as it doesn't require too much time to complete. Usually highly prompted these journals focus on diminishing negative and critical thoughts and try and encourage a positive outlook.

Prompted cards to Overcome Christmas Anxiety

Another great aid for gratitude practices is prompted cards. These cards can be simple affirmations or more practical like the example above. The practical cards may be a bit overwhelming with everything going on during the Christmas period, however, a practical application can be very beneficial to engage both mind and body.

Discovery Journal Emotiwheel to Overcome Christmas Anxiety

Discovery Journal has it's own little aid to inspire positive thoughts. The Emotiwheel is a collection of affirmations and inspiring quotes all collected together in categories based on your needs and feeling in the moment.

Have a look:

Bringing mindfulness to your interactions with others can also be a game-changer during the holidays. Instead of getting caught up in conflicts or becoming overwhelmed by the demands of others, practice active listening and genuine presence. When engaging in conversations, truly listen to what the other person is saying, without interruption or judgment. By giving your full attention, you not only demonstrate respect for the other person but also create a more meaningful and meaningful connection.

Incorporating mindfulness into your holiday activities can help you savour the present moment and find joy in the simple pleasures. Whether it's enjoying a holiday meal, decorating the house, or participating in a festive activity, try to fully immerse yourself in the experience. Pay attention to the sights, sounds, and smells around you. Engage all your senses and let go of any worries or distractions. By doing so, you can fully embrace the holiday spirit and create lasting memories.

In conclusion, mastering holiday stress is within your grasp. By recognizing and acknowledging your emotions, setting healthy boundaries, prioritizing self-care, and practising mindfulness, you can transform overwhelm into empowerment. Remember, your well-being should always be a priority, so set boundaries that support your own happiness.

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