The season to be jolly can also be jolly stressful. Here’s how to reduce anxiety, stress and overwhelm at the most wonderful time of the year

By Nicole Chapman (Photos: Shutterstock)

Christmas for many can be a source of anxiety, stress and overwhelm. The build up can feel heavy, with expectation, endless to do lists – not to mention external pressures to make it the ‘best one yet’ after the Covid-cancelled Christmas of 2020 – family politics or sadness from missing loved ones. It’s no surprise that some feel the festive stress before Christmas has even begun. 

Set your boundaries

If this rings true, you are not alone. These feelings of festive stress are normal and valid. Be kind to yourself. We often feel a sense of duty to bear all the responsibility and place high expectations on ourselves – try not to overextend yourself, and set boundaries. Ask for help. This may sound simple but, more often than not, we are hoping people will offer help, and if they don’t, it can lead to feelings of frustration. Make a plan – a financial budget to stick to, a daily manageable to do list and, if possible, declutter before Christmas (get rid of unused toys, organise the cupboard that is causing you anxiety) and create a calming space. 

Manage your expectations

Take a step back, breathe and look at the bigger picture. In an ideal world, you may have made your own Christmas wreath, table decorations and Christmas cake, as well as created personalised photo cards for all family members – all wonderful ideas but, let’s be honest, no one will notice apart from you if you run out of time and don’t do them. Lower expectations and remember that the festive period should be enjoyed by everyone, including you. Build in some time for self-care that makes you a priority in the next few weeks – remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Give yourself permission to switch off over Christmas – this may be a digital detox to help you feel present or a day on the sofa watching movies with a duvet. Embrace the slowed down pace.

Control your Christmas

Do not feel obligated to say ‘yes’ to every invitation, social media trend (Christmas eve boxes, for example) or traditions. It’s your Christmas and you are in control. Focus on what is important – the people you are with, the small gestures and acts of kindness, and the memories made.

Get a helping hand

If you are feeling lonely or isolated, please reach out to the amazing charities and support groups available online, or attend community events. It’s important to understand what triggers your feelings of loneliness and try to find ways to manage them in advance. This may mean calling loved ones, planning activities to keep your mind busy, volunteering or getting involved in charity events.

Want further tips to make the most of this time of year? I have brought together industry professionals to provide support, advice and tips through a series of live Instagram chats in the lead up to Christmas. Highlights include ‘social season sobriety support’ with @soberdave, ‘stress management and self kindness’ with @suzyreading, ‘improve your relationship with food, and guilt at Christmas’ with @anna_etphdcoaching,  ‘anxiety support and coping mechanisms’ with @sarietaylorcoaching, plus live workouts with Suzanne Shaw and Chloe Bruce to get the endorphins flowing. Join @iamnicolechapman from Monday 13th, and head into Christmas armed with the tools to make it the best you can whilst supporting your mental health. 

For tips on coping with festive stress, read our 7 ways to beat festive stress