Anxiety at Christmas? Is it normal… and what can I do about it?

The pressure to create the perfect Christmas can leave us feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. However, it doesn’t have to be this way, as we discover…


Although we often feel like we should be looking forward to the season of presents and parties, it’s fair to say that ‘The Season of Good Cheer’ can also come with a fair amount of stress.

Financial worries, hosting pressures, comparison culture, missing loved ones, managing the expectations of friends and family – it can be a lot to handle – with a quarter of us finding Christmas more mentally challenging than the rest of the year.

The good news is that there are lots of small, empowering and cost-effective steps that we can all take to help us feel more positive at this time of year. 

Make time for moments of micro self-care

When things get overwhelming over the Christmas period, jetting off for a spontaneous spa break or a week in Jamaica might not be realistic or feasible. 

Thankfully, you don’t need lots of time and money to make self-care happen, with many studies emphasising the power of small, consistent, daily self-care practices, rather than extravagant one-offs. This is particularly beneficial over the Christmas period when time is limited.

Tiny acts of TLC could include a calming stroll in nature, a mindful cuppa or a 10-minute guided meditation. 

Not sure how to get started? There are loads of quick meditations on the Happy Place app, plus a Christmas Survival Guide, which rounds up lots of simple practices for social anxiety, overwhelm, poor sleep and lots of other things you might need support with this Christmas.

Focus on what you can control

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, our minds tend to get extra cluttered as we juggle the seemingly impossible task of gift buying and festive admin. While multitasking might intuitively feel like your best solution, research suggests that the human brain isn’t wired to smoothly handle lots of tasks simultaneously.

One simple strategy is to create a detailed task list and focus on completing just two or three things each day. If it’s starting to feel overwhelming, that’s OK — reach out to friends and family to see if you can delegate some tasks. 

Importantly, when it comes to the big day itself, remember that a lot of Christmas stress factors, like family tensions, are completely beyond our control. Rather than taking on the stress yourself and feeling like you have to fix everything, it’s best to be mindful and save your energy for the stuff you can actually manage.

Just breathe

The breath powers literally everything we do, so it stands to reason that controlling and managing our breath through a process called ‘breathwork’ can impact our stress levels and unlock a long list of benefits, from reduced anxiety to better quality sleep.

Basic breathwork exercises trigger the nervous system to let go of stress and anxiety. Because of this, in moments of overwhelm, try stopping for a minute, then take 20-30 deep breaths that fill up your belly. By pausing, focusing and using this simple technique, you’ll notice an instant release of pent-up tension.

If you want to dig deeper, there are lots of short-and-simple guided breathwork practices on the Happy Place app. Try one today with a free trial.

Be grateful for the little things

Studies show that if we can deliberately cultivate gratitude – an appreciation of what we have right now, rather than what we desire – we can increase our feelings of happiness and fight off the brain’s natural tendency to scan for negatives,

To make ‘gratitude’ easy, simply take a moment each day to reflect on the positive aspects of your day. Whether it’s the warmth of a crackling fire, time with a book or the company of friends, by taking a moment to look at the smaller, positive things, it can shift your perspective and enhance the joy of the season.

Embrace imperfections

The Japanese have a fascinating term called Kintsugi; a delicate art form that repairs fractured pottery by filling the cracks with gold lacquer. It embraces the idea that flaws and imperfections are part of an object’s history, making it more beautiful and valuable.

Instead of striving for a flawless and ‘perfect’ Christmas, the ancient art of Kintsugi teaches us to accept the imperfections of life as part of its rich tapestry. Whether it’s burnt roasties, a wonky tree or unexpected hiccups, life is often messy, but that’s what makes it real and beautiful.

With this in mind, if this Christmas doesn’t feel perfect, that’s ok. The only thing we really need to prioritise is being kind to ourselves and knowing that our best, however that looks, is more than enough.

Check out the Happy Place app for a practices that are designed to help with overwhelm.

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