a blog by Ellen Davies

Christmas anxiety

Christmas anxiety

Here is my post from last year about holiday anxiety. I thought it was worth reposting! Happy holidays! 


This post is all about anxiety. I get holiday anxiety every year. It’s kind of a tradition with me. Ha, ha, get it? Holiday tradition?


But seriously. I am someone who struggles with anxiety. The holiday season, unfortunately, seems to amp it up. It’s irrational, and I know that, but it’s also real. I decided to write about it because yesterday Laura remarked, “Oh mom, you hate Christmas.”


That hurt. I don’t hate Christmas. But it does make me anxious, and I guess it comes across as hating the holidays. I wish it didn’t.


How to explain it? Let’s start by making a quick list of some of the things that make me anxious:

  • Crowds
  • Deadlines
  • High expectations
  • Fears of letting others down (not being or doing “enough”)
  • Clutter
  • Traffic
  • Long “to-do” lists 


That’s pretty much the entire holiday in a nutshell, amirite?


I never intended for anyone, especially my daughters, to know how much I struggled with the holidays, and now they treat me like I’m fragile. I’m not fragile, I’m just anxious.


Even now, as I write this, I have lingering doubts in the back of my mind about whether the gifts I purchased are good enough. Did I buy enough? Did I buy too much? Will they be happy? Will they be happy enough? And when will I get the wrapping done? Right after this, or later? Or maybe tonight? I’ve got to get my wrapping done!


Then a well-meaning person will interrupt and say something like, “Oh, you shouldn’t feel anxious about wrapping presents!”


And there it is—the uninvited guest everyone dreads: GUILT. Because I feel guilty for my anxiety. Christmas is supposed to be a happy time! Why are you so anxious? Just relax! Hey, did you get all your shopping done yet? Oh, come on now, just relax—it’s the most wonderful time of the year!


Usually the worst anxiety is non-specific. By that I mean, the general anxious feeling that comes from “getting it all done,” or “remembering everything.” So I make a huge list of things to do, presents to buy, obligations to fulfill. Then I get anxious about the list. I want to get it all done RIGHT NOW so that I can stop worrying about it. Having the list makes me anxious.


Tips for managing Christmas Anxiety

So. Now comes the part where I drop some knowledge—I give you my words of wisdom for overcoming anxiety. I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a few things on my list that help.


  • I learn new mantras: I have enough. I do enough. I am enough.


  • I meditate. Especially on the days when I think I don’t have time for it.


  • I keep up with my yoga practice.


  • I do my best to eat right, but I don’t freak out if I have a slice of buttery cinnamon-walnut coffee cake. And a chocolate-peppermint brownie.


  • I do my best to keep it all in perspective, remembering what I love about Christmas:
    • I love reading the children’s Christmas books, because they bring back good memories.
    •  I love opening the box of handmade ornaments and seeing the glittery stars and angels from the girls’ preschool years.
    • I love doing the Angel Tree, and picking two little girls who are about the same ages as Rebecca and Laura. (These days I just pick two of the youngest ones.)
    • I love our advent wreath and the candles.
    • I love music, and I listen to the Christmas music that makes me happy.
    • I love listening to the service of lessons and carols from Kings College, which starts at 10 a.m. on Christmas Eve. I love the thrill of knowing that it’s Christmas Eve there, and getting dark, while it’s still morning here.
    • I love the Christmas Eve service at church, especially the one for children, because the energy is electric. There is so much excitement in the air!
    • I love listening to Handel’s Messiah while baking Christmas cookies, and singing along to all the parts, even the tenor solos.
    • I love letting the girls open one gift on Christmas Eve, and guess what! It’s pajamas!
    • I love staying up late with Stuart on Christmas Eve and drinking Prosecco while we wait for the girls to fall asleep, so Santa can come.
    • I love the breakfast casserole Stuart makes on Christmas morning.
    • I love watching Elf and a Charlie Brown Christmas.
    • I love watching 24 hours of A Christmas Story, and laughing. I love how we can all recite almost all the dialogue.
    • I love getting together with family, usually on Christmas Day or the day after. We don’t do gifts—we just hang out. And eat. And pile into the car to go look at Christmas lights.
    • I love going to the Messiah Sing Along at the Kennedy Center in D.C. I don’t get to do this every year, so it’s special when I can go.
    • I love reminding the girls of the year they got ketchup in their Christmas stockings. Laura got purple ketchup and Rebecca got green ketchup. They thought it was the greatest thing ever. They were jumping up and down over ketchup. Ketchup.


So that reminds me to keep it all in perspective. It’s not about doing “enough.” It’s about doing something that makes someone you love smile.


Merry Christmas.

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