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Taking Christmas Back - Manage your Anxiety in the lead up to Christmas as a parent

Are you dreading Christmas? The sound of Christmas music makes you tense up, red baubles give you anxiety and the first of December feels like a threatening countdown is starting? You are not alone. Find out how you can support yourself throughout the lead up to Christmas and how to ultimately enjoy this time of year again, like you used to when you were little.

Child putting up Christmas Decoration Mum smiling in background
Family Christmas is often not as romantic as portrayed in media. Often parents feel stressed and anxious.

What you will find in this article:

  • Why is Christmas so stressful and anxiety inducing for us?

  • How can we manage the anxiety and come back to a grounded place?

  • 5 concrete actions to help you "take Christmas back"!

Why is Christmas so stressful and anxiety inducing?

The other day I was driving to work and listening to the radio. Every station was talking about Christmas approaching and it made me feel stress and anxiety because I knew what this would mean for me.

So many additional tasks:

  • organising teacher presents

  • decorating the house

  • baking Christmas cookies

  • creating advent calendars by the first of December

  • getting and decorating a tree

  • thinking about and buying presents for lots of people

  • attending social gatherings (and often preparing and bringing food)

  • planning for the end of year work/ child care arrangements

  • planning and organising for next year

It is also important to mention, that oftentimes Christmas can be a very triggering time for parents. It subconsciously can bring up feelings from our childhood like disappointment, resentment, sadness and loneliness.

In addition to this, because the emphasis is very much on family and togetherness, we might be grieving and missing people who have passed away. This increases the level of distress that we feel during this time.

So how can we start taking Christmas Back and manage our Anxiety in the lead up to Christmas as a parent?

How can we manage the anxiety and come back to a grounded place?

The very first step is to create awareness of our internal world, meaning thoughts and emotions that arise when we hear the Christmas music, see the decoration etc. and how this will influence our behaviour.

Lets look at the example I mentioned above (me listening to the radio and the speakers talking about Christmas) to get a better understanding of what I am talking about:

Situation/ trigger: radio talking about Christmas approaching.

Behaviour: me frantically changing the station to find one that was not talking about Christmas. (Trying to avoid the situation).

Emotions: pressure, tension, stress, overwhelm, frustration, fear, anxiety, anger.

Thoughts: "Oh no! There is so much I have to organise - and I have done nothing, yet. I am so unorganised."

Anxiety and Christmas as a parent
Regulating our own emotions is important. Not just for our own wellbeing but the wellbeing of our children.

Thoughts like this are very unhelpful, they appear in a split second and are hard to catch. In this case, they also contribute to anxiety because of the meaning behind it.

The thought "I am so unorganised." is a negative judgement of myself and myself as a mother, implying, that "I am not doing a good enough job."

Obviously this is not true and it is creating stress and anxiety internally on a subconscious level that I will not be able to

access in the split second there and then on my way to work. BUT noticing my behaviour and feelings can give me an indication to come back to the situation later and then reflect on what happened. Journaling can be a great way to support you with this, or alternatively talking with someone and examining what happened exactly.

When you then identify the underlying belief about yourself, you are able to manage this and turn it into a more helpful way of looking at it. For example:

"I am so unorganised!" will become "I am doing what I can. This is difficult and there are many things to do. I might need to ask for some help to get it all done. I don't have to do it all at once. And even if I don't get it all done - I am a great mum regardless."

Here is a quick summary:

  1. Notice your thoughts, feelings, behaviours

  2. Find out the meaning behind it (Journaling or speaking with someone)

  3. Replace the unhelpful thought with a more compassionate one

Please note: this is a helpful tool, using elements from CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). Applying this technique might help reduce symptoms of anxiety but does not replace individual counselling or therapy support.

5 concrete actions to help you take Christmas back

1. Involve the Whole Family: Engage your children and partner in planning and executing Christmas activities. Share responsibilities, delegate tasks, and encourage their participation in decorating, cooking, and gift-giving. For example: my husband bought items to fill the advent calendar and my kids were filling the little ouches themselves. All I did was delegate and it took so much off my plate!

2. Establish Boundaries: Set clear boundaries and communicate your needs to family members. Gently decline additional obligations that may overstretch your time and energy. Say 'no' to things that will drain you. If you notice that this is difficult, use the technique I described above or get in touch!

3. Prioritize Self-Care: Schedule time for yourself amidst the holiday hustle. Engage in activities that promote relaxation and rejuvenation, such as reading, taking a bath, or pursuing a hobby, spending time in nature, or simply resting - however this looks like for you.

4. Embrace Flexibility: Be prepared for unexpected changes and last-minute adjustments. Embrace spontaneity and focus on enjoying the moment rather than adhering to a rigid plan. Ask yourself why you need things to be in a particular way - if it is difficult for you to embrace flexibility and adjust to sudden changes, try to ask yourself what you need to do to support yourself.

5. Communicate Openly: Maintain open communication with your family about your feelings and expectations. Express your needs and concerns to avoid misunderstandings and resentment. I tell my husband all the things that need to be organised and he has become quite good at taking things off my plate because I let him know about it. Communicating your needs and sharing the mental load is not easy and it might take some time to get used to this, but it will make your life more enjoyable in the long run.

And finally: Seek Support! Don't hesitate to reach out for support if you feel overwhelmed or stressed. Talk to your partner, friends, or family members, or consider seeking professional help.

I am here to support parents through various stages of their lives and teach tools that help them to compassionately show up for themselves, so they get to enjoy parenthood. Sign up to my mailing list or follow my Instagram account to receive regular content about self-care, mental health and wellbeing in parenthood.

Thanks for reading,


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