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Christmas Anxiety – 5 Ways to Manage When You Are a Mess

It’s not an easy season for many. Our usual techniques for staying calm can be rendered suddenly useless.

So what are some quick tactics to get you back to balanced if you suffer Christmas anxiety?

1. Say the one word you’ve avoided saying. 

Many of us pretend we’ll say no…… then we don’t. But this little word is one of the fastest and most powerful weapons against stress and anxiety.

One little no can open up tons of time and energy to take care of yourself, while one more yes can mean you push yourself so hard you end up seeing in the New Year in bed with the flu. When are you going to step up and say no

Not sure this is you? Write a list of all the things you have to do this week. How many things are things someone asked you to do versus you decided to do for yourself? And what one thing could you now call up someone about and say no to? How will you feel after? 

Convinced saying will be the end of the world? It’s likely you are a pleaser, projecting your fear of rejection onto simple social transactions. If that is you, read our article on setting boundaries and consider a round of counselling in the New Year – learning to say no is a life-changer and worth the investment.

2. Pass the Christmas cracker on. 

Delegating is the secret of big entrepreneurs, and it can be your magic weapon against Christmas anxiety.

The next time you think of something you have to do ask yourself the following questions:

  • am I really the only person who can do this (be honest)?
  • given my hourly rate, is this worth my time doing myself?
  • who else could do this?
  • what would that mean I could do instead?
  • how would I feel to have this off my list?

3. Word it out.

Sometimes anxiety and stress need an instant outlet. And sometimes we need to unload immediately, and without alienating those we love with the force of it.

A blank page or journal is non judgemental, it’s instantly available, and can be ripped up afterwards.

Let yourself say anything you want, uncensored, don’t worry about whether you handwriting is legible. Remember, you are not keeping it, you are shredding it. Some find it helpful to imagine they are literally ripping up and throwing out their stress and anxiety as they tear the pages.

Sound too simple? Try it before you decide. It’s the cost of a few pieces of paper.

4. Clear up the confusion about anxiety. 

Many of say we are anxious, when really we are stressed. And the difference matters when it comes to tactics that work (and can be why your other attempts to stem the tide have had little to no effect). 

The main difference here is that stress is rational with an actual trigger, whereas anxiety is illogic, free floating, and with no exact cause. 

[Read our piece on “Stress vs. Anxiety” for the full lowdown.]

If you realise it’s just really masses of stress you are under, you can get clear on the trigger and plot better ways through (and read our series on “Managing Christmas Stress“.)

If it’s anxiety you are dealing with, the naming itself can be powerful. Many sufferers find it helpful to callout anxiety during panic attacks. “You are anxiety, just anxiety, and like all anxiety, you will pass”. And if you really do suffer anxiety, use anxiety tools like in the next point (stress tactics might just leave you more anxious!).

3. Really is anxiety? Yawn and take deep breaths (it’s scientific). 

Anxiety has a very large physical component. When it hits, we go into the fight, flight, or freeze mode, which sees the sympathetic nervous system roar into action.

And what slows that reaction down? The counteracting parasympathetic nervous system, and in particular the powerful vagus nerve.

So how to stimulate the vagus nerve and slow down your anxiety?

Deep breathing is the most studied and proven tactic, but it has to be done correctly to work. It has to be from your diaphragm, and needs to be done for a good 10 minutes.  Your in and out breaths should equally be about five seconds, and it is thought to help to hold your breath for a second at the top of each breath before exhaling.

It has been suggested by research that you can supercharge deep breathing by simultaneously practising focused positive thinking. This involves choosing happy thoughts, such as thinking of a partner, child, family member, or family pet. 

Other tactics thought to help stimulate the vagus nerve include:

5. Reach out. 

Remember, anxiety is illogic. But when we are mired in it, we tend not to remember this, and instead go down a spiral of increasingly surreal things to panic about.

Arranging for a ‘support buddy’ over the holidays is helpful. For anxiety sufferers, the very idea that someone out there knows and gets it can alleviate anxiety levels. And if it’s stress, a good friend can help you brainstorm your way through it.

Don’t overlook professional support. Nowadays counselling and therapy is only a Skype call away, and if you really feel you are unable to cope it’s a worthwhile way to spend an hour once a week.

Harley Therapy connects you to anxiety counsellors and Skype counsellors and you can book today.  

Still have a question about Christmas anxiety? Post in our public comment box below. 

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    Dr. Sheri Jacobson


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