As the festive season approaches it’s easy to get caught up in the fun and excitement of Christmas. But for many people, buying gifts, going to parties, cooking Christmas lunch, financial pressures and family expectations, just makes this a time of anxiety and stress. It doesn’t have to be like this! There are steps you can take to help manage stress and anxiety during the festive period.

Plan and prioritise

  • Acknowledge and accept feeling anxious and overwhelmed. This doesn't mean you have to resign yourself to a difficult, stressful time. Instead, simply stop to acknowledge to yourself and how wound up you’re getting. Accept that you feel like this.
  • Once you’ve accepted and acknowledged your stress and anxiety, identify what, exactly, are the things that stress you out and make you feel anxious. Write them down.
  • Use a ‘beginners mind’ approach; ask yourself what you would do if you could start over? If you could choose in terms of money, time, resources or the people involved with Christmas this year. What options would you have? Be realistic!
  • Prioritise; work out what the most important things are that you need to buy and do. Buy presents for the kids? See your parents? Ok, then focus on those two important things and just add a couple more commitments – making Christmas lunch and seeing friends on Boxing day, for example. Let go of what’s not important. 
  • Buying gifts and attending social get togethers can be expensive. But you can reduce spending. For example, you could suggest to your family and friends that you only buy gifts for the kids, or organise a ‘Secret Santa’ among the adults. Set a budget and stick to it.
  • And if you can’t afford expensive Christmas meals out, party at home and ask everyone to bring some festive food and drink.

Slow down

  • Stop trying to get ahead of your self. You’ll be spinning from one thing to the next. Instead, plan the steps you need to take – buying presents, sending gifts abroad, ordering items online and buying your big Christmas food shop. Write down how and when you will do them. (Writing things down helps stop the anxious thoughts swirling round your head and onto paper instead) Tell yourself “I have a plan. I can manage this”.
  • Make some space. Don’t plan things close together, instead, leave plenty of time between the things you have planned or are committed to. Doing this will also make your time more flexible, and leaves space in case one thing takes longer than you planned.
  • If you think it only takes you 30 minutes to get somewhere or do something, perhaps give yourself 45 minutes so you can go at a leisurely pace and not get stressed if delays occur on the way.
  • Focus on one thing at a time. Whether it’s buying or wrapping presents, making lunch or entertaining guests, do one thing at a time. Give it your full attention.
  • Do it in slow motion. Seriously! Whatever it is you’re doing, take you time and make your movements and actions 25% slower. Slowing down takes practice, but it helps you focus on what you are doing and what is happening.
  • Delegate. Get help when you need it. If you need others to help; to buy and wrap presents, to give lifts, to prepare meals etc then ask! Don’t let yourself get anxious and overwhelmed because you didn’t ask for help.


  • Anxious thoughts create physical feelings. When you’re stressed and anxious, the physical changes – rapid heart beat, fast, shallow breathing, hot and cold flushes, feeling weak or nauseous and so on – just make you feel more stressed. You need to dial down those physical feelings. The way you breathe can help.
  • Get some breathing space. Simply take a few minutes to stop what you're doing and focus on breathing. A two to three minute breathing space will help calm you down, collect and clarify your thoughts. Breathing stops anxious thoughts charging into your head. It also helps bring down the physical feeling that come with stress and anxiety.