Mental Health

CHRISTMAS SHOULD BE JOYFUL – Managing anxiety and depression


Who does not love Christmas? The time of the year when we share and love and care for those around us. A time that is supposedly the most joyful time of the year. While this seems evident on the streets; with Christmas decorations hung up and beautifully decorated trees and houses lit up with so many beautiful lights looking like an amusement park. Christmas time is also a time when a lot of people struggle and are so stressed. Why is this so and how can we manage holiday anxiety and depression?

Christmas is a holiday that commemorates the birth of Jesus. So in other words, it is Jesus’s birthday. But this is the only birthday that we all know of where instead of buying presents for the actual celebrant, we obsess over what we will receive or what we will buy for someone else. We worry about finances, numerous appointments and that family member we have avoided all year but have to see again at Christmas dinner. It can get really overwhelming. So it is no surprise that the mental health of some people may suffer during this period.

I have come up with some ways you may find helpful to tackle the holiday stress. And maybe you can “find your Christmas spirit” and actually have a joyful holiday season with your loved ones.



Share the responsibility

According to research done by Greenberg, Quinlan Rosner Research for the American Psychological association (APA), Stress around the holidays is disproportionately felt by women. Women tend to shoulder most of the family responsibilities during the holidays. Activities like cooking, cleaning, shopping and so on. How about asking your spouse or a loved one to assist when it starts to get overwhelming.

This Christmas we will be hosting guests at our apartment for the first time. We decided to share responsibilities. While I will take care of the the main course and drinks, other family members will be coming with starters and desserts. How about doing the same. You may even invite them to come earlier in the day and make it at your place if that would make things easier.

Saving Money at Christmas

One of the main factors that influence our stress levels around Christmas is our finances. Yes it is actually possible to save around Christmas. The Artificial Christmas tree you got last year is not expired. And all the beautiful decor can be reused. So do not feel the need to go shopping again all because there is a Christmas market just around the corner. And no, you do not need ten new Christmas sweaters. You can use some old ones.

Buy what you can afford. Draw a budget and assess who you will be giving presents this year. For those who will not be getting presents, you can make some do it yourself (DIY) treats. Perhaps some cupcakes which everyone loves anyway or better still, do not worry about it. Give them a call and wish them happy holidays. It is enough to know you were thinking about them. For more ideas on how to save during the holidays, check out my post on “Saving during the holidays“.

Shopping anxiety

Worried about what to buy for a loved one? How about asking them? You can make it a tradition every year to make Christmas wish lists. In that way you do not have to worry about what to buy for every family member. It is bad enough to worry all season about what to buy but what is even worse is buying a present that the person will not use.

Also, at this time of the year there are lots and lots of people in the stores searching for what to buy. The stores can get really crowded. If this is something that worsens your anxiety, consider going to the stores early in the day or late in the evening when there are less people. Also with online shopping, you can purchase your items in the comfort of your home.

Another tip is to avoid last minute shopping. Doing this may increase your anxiety levels excessively. Consider shopping gradually through out the year or from months before.

Ignore social media’s idea of a perfect Christmas

Social media is a huge factor that may increase anxiety and depression especially in the younger ones. It causes us to see a distorted reality. You need to remind yourself that people show you what they want you to see. What looks perfect in pictures may just be a corner of their homes arranged for social media sharing. Other times it may not even be their own homes. So be grateful for what you have. You are blessed with the life you have for a reason. And no matter how bad it seems, someone somewhere has it a lot worse.

Learn to say No

This may be very difficult for many because we feel like we need to see everyone possible in so little time. Filling up your schedule may increase your anxiety levels; and trying to meet up with every appointment will make it even worse. So say “no” to some engagements. Pick the events you can attend. If you do not see these friends or family at Christmas, you will probably still see them some other time in the year. Think of yourself and your health.


Take care of yourself

Get enough sleep. Your anxiety levels increase when you are not well rested. After a sleep study carried out by Prof Adrian Owen, a British Neuroscientist based at the brain and mind institute in London, Ontario with some of his colleagues, he explained that “There is much less activity in the frontal and parietal lobes – areas we know are crucial for decision making, problem solving and memory. ” So not getting enough sleep will make minor issues seem a lot worse and will very likely increase anxiety levels.

Avoid the family member who brings up controversial topics. If you feel strongly about a particular topic, you can choose to walk away. You only have to tolerate that person for a few hours or perhaps a few days. Do not feel triggered to engage in any unnecessary bickering. It is Christmas after all.

Practice Mindfulness. Go on walks, meditate and be mindful of your thoughts. You may give yourself a treat and visit your favorite spa or you can just light up some candles at home, relax and watch a Christmas movie.

Drink a lot of water and limit your intake of caffeine and energy drinks. These drinks are known to heighten anxiety levels.

Remember the true meaning of Christmas

If you are religious, take part in religious activities. Remember the real purpose of the day and focus on that rather than all the craze and commercialism all around you.

Finally, seek medical help if you feel the need to. Despite trying different forms of relief, you may still feel very anxious, sleepless or in a constant state of depression. In this case, you should consult a healthcare professional for further assistance.


  • Courtney

    I have trouble with saying no at times. Filling your schedule too much especially with anxiety can make you mentally exhausted. It sucks!

    • Cheryl John

      When we say “no”, we feel like we are letting the person down. But saying yes and inconveniencing ourselves is also letting ourselves down. It’s really not easy though. I totally agree with you.
      Thank you Courtney.x

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