How to stay emotionally healthy over Christmas

Christmas is a time for getting together and celebrating with family and friends. However, it can also be a very difficult time. Lots of us feel under pressure during the festive period – to have the perfect Christmas, to buy the perfect gifts that our children and friends want, to please all our families. A lack of money, time or energy, credit card bills and the pressure of giving gifts might also contribute to stress during the holiday season.

If you begin to feel overwhelmed by problems, Christmas can turn from being a season of joy into a time of panic, loneliness, depression, anxiety and dread.

Anecdotally, it’s known, at least by anyone who has extended family, that more grudges are formed at Christmas than at any other time of year; old family rivalries, arguments, one-upmanship and even fights about your sister’s spoilt kids tend to rear their ugly heads. Split families and unresolved conflicts may also contribute to Christmas anxiety. Other sources of stress might be political (think Brexit) or cultural clashes caused by generational or even geographical differences, which result in tense atmospheres or furious rows over the dinner table.

Let’s face it, you’re already exhausted by your extra-heavy workload:

  • shopping for cards (particularly the special ones for mum and dad or sister etc), wrapping paper, crackers and presents (a few extra for surprise guests or someone you’d forgotten about altogether)
  • getting your tree down from the loft or buying a new one; making sure the lights work – before you put them on the tree, decorating it and tying tinsel everywhere
  • writing out cards in time for the last post and, if you’re like me, filling them with sparkling stars and glitter, which drives my family and friends nuts. Ha, they’ll miss me when I’m gone
  • perfectly wrapping presents with matching tags, ribbons and bows (unwrapping one without tearing it to throw in the aforementioned sprinkles that I’d forgotten)
  • planning the menu, shopping for the huge amounts of food (because the shops are closed – for one day) and loads of champagne – oh, and don’t forget Uncle Cedric only drinks Stout – do they still sell this stuff?
  • planning who’ll sit where – to avoid the old family feuds – I wouldn’t worry about it cos there’s always someone who’s not happy anyway!
  • table decorating – at Christmas is huge now – you see everyone posting their amazing table on Instagram and Facebook – what’s all that about?
  • being all things to all people

Phew! I’m already shattered. So, having done all the above, you’d think you’d be able to relax on Christmas Day, right?

Nope! You’ve still got Christmas breakfast to cook………………..

Right, rewind……. let’s start again. Okay, so I’m a bit late posting this as Christmas is almost upon us and most of you will have done all your cards, shopping and preparation. But, and it’s big one, you still have a few days to get some self-care in so that you’ll be as relaxed as everyone else on the day:
  • if you haven’t already done so, enlist some help: write down who’s doing what and make sure the kids are involved – delegate, delegate, delegate
  • when the going gets tough, remember Christmas is a time for family, for friendship and spending time together – so what if you’ve forgotten the stuffing (tho I know my hubby would be desperately disappointed) or batteries for the kids’ most wanted gifts (they’ll have to join in the annual game of Monopoly)
  • enjoy some simple things like go for a walk somewhere calm and soothing -gentle activity such as a 15-minute walk helps your body to regulate its insulin production, which can be disturbed by stress
  • try yoga, meditation or do some gentle stretches to loosen those tight muscles, take time out to have a massage or even just get hubby to give you a ten-minute foot massage/shoulder rub
  • have yourself a long, luxurious bubble bath – small acts of self-care go a long way in helping us feel more positive and energised
  • have yourself a nice hot chocolate (with or without the marshmallows) and snuggle up on the sofa/bed with a good book for a few hours
  • listen to your favourite music and, if you’re feeling up to it, dance like no one can see you, sing along like no one can hear you
  • catch up with a favourite friend and have a good old belly-laugh, nothing better to get you in the mood and it’s well known that fun and laughter is a great stress reliever
  • go to the cinema, the theatre or a comedy show – sit back and relax
  • eat mood-boosting foods; a carbohydrate-rich meal can help to boost serotonin levels
  • wind down gradually before bedtime and get plenty of sleep; set an alarm for bedtime and go to bed at the same time each night – to regulate your sleep pattern
  • sniff some lemons (I’m not kidding) – according to researchers at Ohio State University, lemon scents instantly boost your mood
  • and breathe – deeply – out then in, half a dozen times or so – taking just a few moments each day to practice some deep breathing exercises can decrease stress, relax your mind and body and can help you sleep better. Deep breathing is, among many other things, a relaxant, a natural painkiller, it improves digestion and it detoxifies the body.

Go on – treat yourself – try out a few of the above and let me know how you get on.

What other stress relievers could we try (without reaching for the second bottle of Prosecco)? Any tips, please?


Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

19 thoughts on “How to stay emotionally healthy over Christmas”

  1. I find that when I feel my anxiety building I will retreat to either the bathroom, outside, or to the place with the least amount of people so I can get a breather. Also smelling anything peppermint can be refreshing.

  2. Funnily enough, I had this today. Daughter watching something on tv, wife decided to tidy the kitchen with her iPad on full blast…I think we do just need to be able to go somewhere away from it all just to pause everything and enjoy the quiet. For me, it was just going to the bedroom.
    Aside from that, keep it simple. I was two cards, two presents, no real extra food, although my wife has gone a bit mad. Being diabetic means I have to watch what I eat, even on Christmas Day.

    1. Thank you for commenting Pete 🙂 As much as I love Christmas with all the family, I always look forward to Boxing Day when I do nothing! We eat leftovers and drink some more Prosecco while we watch junk on the t.v. Two cards and two presents lol – only a man would say that 😉

      1. actually, only one proper present, the second was just chocolate from Sainsbury’s at the weekend 🙂. The only accessible family are wife and child, and you know how strained it is with child. Wife specifically makes more on CD just for the leftovers on BD!

  3. Remind yourself (every hour if you need to) that it’s only two more sleep until you can cheerfully declare: “I don’t have to do this again for another whole year!”

  4. During this festive season of giving, let us take time to slow down and enjoy the simple things. May this wonderful time of the year touch your heart in a special way. Wishing you much happiness not just today, but throughout the New Year.

  5. This is a good entry about the holidays and about Christmas. A great idea would be to reprint this entry (with minimal editing for the occasion)…so that people can read this all year round. The anxiety that some have at Christmas can happen all year round – at birthdays etc, anniversaries. You have some good ideas there. Oh , yea and one of the best ways to have a fabulous holiday is to make sure that you have no contact with anyone that is a narcissistic bully. It’s strange but very simple, sometimes it’s not the holiday that brings on a panic attack but it could be just one single person, that does it, like a perp, or an NPD , or a bully. Smiles, a lot of people blame the holidays and it’s the ‘perp’ not the holiday. I am thrilled with holidays and Holy Days, since I figured that one out. So, key is figuring out (and it’s usually not that difficult to figure it out) which person is the ‘scrooge’, or the grinch of the holidays or Holy Days.

    1. Aaaww, thank you for this idea and I might well do that. I agree with you totally, it’s normally someone rather than the event itself and definitely, keep away from the narcissistic bully. I have one of those in our extended family but now having told her how I feel, I keep away from her – totally! Thank you again for your valid points.

  6. When my anxiety is building I tend to gravitate to my room and sit on the rug rocking back and forth until I can calm down. Thank you so much for this beautiful help. I will be referring back to it definitely.

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