How to Successfully Navigate Anxiety During the Holiday Season Frenzy

Overview of "How to Successfully Navigate Anxiety During the Holiday Season Frenzy":

Tools for navigating anxiety during the holiday season

1. Embrace Mindful Awareness and Breathing Exercises

2. Establish Healthy Boundaries - Practice saying no

3. Improve Resilience with EFT Tapping

4. Challenge Negative Thoughts with Cognitive Restructuring

5. Focus on Positivity and Gratitude

Are your holiday stress levels through the roof? Is family already getting under your skin?

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or something else entirely, this time of year is often idealised as a time of joy and togetherness. Ironically it tends to stir up quite a different experience for many of us, in particular an intense surge of anxiety.

Amid crowded gift shopping and chaotic family gatherings, it's not unusual to struggle with the weight of expectations and the re-emergence of challenging family dynamics.

Feeling anxious during these times is not just common; it's a natural response to what is often a truly complex emotional landscape. I know I’ve been there, or rather, am there as I write this article.

The key that I’ve found, is in recognising this anxiety and equipping ourselves with tools to navigate the storm until we reach calm waters again.

Here are five of the best tools that I’ve tried myself and found to be the most impactful.

5 Tools for navigating anxiety during the holiday season

Tip 1 - Embrace Mindful Awareness and Breathing Exercises

Start by tuning into your body's stress signals. Maybe it's a quickened heartbeat, a tightness in your chest, or a whirlwind of thoughts. 

When you notice these signs, try the 4-7-8 breathing method: inhale for four counts, hold for seven, and exhale for eight. If that feels too hard, you can also breathe in for 5, hold briefly, and breathe out for 8.

This technique, rooted in ancient yogic practices, helps signal our bodies that we’re safe, thereby bringing immediate calm. 

Intentional breathing and bringing awareness to your surroundings will also anchor you back to the present moment.

Tip 2 - Establish Healthy Boundaries - Practice Saying No

It's completely okay to say no to certain family events or to step aside for a while when you need to. This isn't avoidance; it's a necessary form of self-care. 

“It's completely okay to say no”

Sometimes, just a few moments of solitude can be incredibly rejuvenating. It’s certainly something my nervous system needs and my body will find ways to yell at me if I haven’t been giving it this much-needed downtime.

Boundaries with family

I also recommend practising putting boundaries in place with family members. It’s no easy feat, I know! 

Setting boundaries with family members, especially during the hustle of the holiday season, is a courageous act of self-care. 

You’re likely to find it pretty dang hard, like the rest of us mere mortals, but it is essential for maintaining your emotional well-being. 

Here are a few specific examples of how you can practice this:

1. Time Management: Let your family know in advance how long you'll be staying for a gathering. For instance, you might say, "I'm looking forward to dinner and will need to leave by 8 PM to rest for an early morning."

2. Personal Space: If you need some quiet time, communicate this need gently but firmly. You could express, "I'm going to take a short walk for a bit of fresh air. I'll be back to join everyone shortly."

Dogs are a great excuse here. Even kids can provide an easy excuse to go do something else for a bit. Recharge your battery before rejoining the festivities.

3. Conversation Topics: If certain subjects trigger you, make you stressed or uncomfortable, it's okay to steer the conversation elsewhere. 

You might interject with, "I think we see things differently on this topic. That’s ok. Let's find something we all enjoy discussing."

I always recommend the “Thank you, but no thank you” approach to rejection. You can acknowledge your differences without dismissing their desires or perspectives. 

See if you notice a change in their response when you communicate this way.

4. Offering Help: Be clear on how much you can contribute without overextending yourself. You might need to work this out for yourself first and be compassionate with yourself about your realistic capacity.

You could say, "I can help set the table, but I'll need to sit out on clean-up tonight."

Or something along the lines of, “I’d love to help prepare dinner, but I won’t be able to bring dessert as well this time”.

You want to be as clear and specific as you can, remembering that boundaries are on us to enforce. You need to be willing to take action to maintain or enforce your boundaries.

5. Physical Affection: It's alright to set limits on physical contact. If you're uncomfortable with hugs, you might say, "I'm not much of a hugger, but I'm glad to see you!"

In Western cultures especially, there can be almost an expectation on kids (adults too sometimes) to hug family members such as grandparents and aunts. 

Can you introduce consent to these gatherings and allow yourself and any children to say “no thank you”?

By articulating your limits lovingly yet assertively, you create a space where your needs are respected. 

When you honour your boundaries you’re allowing for healthier interactions that honour both your mental well-being and the festive spirit.

A horizontal image showing a woman at a festive holiday dinner table, stepping away to a quiet corner to practice EFT tapping.
Created by DALL-E

Tip 3 - Improve Your Resilience with EFT Tapping

The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), commonly referred to as “Tapping”, is an evidence-based technique, which involves tapping on specific meridian points on the body.

EFT Tapping helps in addressing anxiety directly, quickly reducing your stress levels. As you tap, you might affirm, "Even though I feel anxious around my family, I deeply and completely love and accept myself." 

This practice, blending Chinese acupressure and modern psychology, allows you to honour your feelings without being overwhelmed.

You can read more about EFT Tapping on my website. 

But in short, Tapping brings you into your body, reduces your cortisol levels and can quickly reduce the emotional intensity of what you’re experiencing.

I love coming back to my Tapping practice time and again. It doesn’t always have to be in response to something, it can also be for my general well-being - improving my resilience so I can better deal with anything that might come up.

And we all know that family and the holiday season have a way of stirring things up!

Tip 4 - Challenge Negative Thoughts with Cognitive Restructuring

This cognitive-behavioural therapy technique involves identifying and challenging negative thought patterns. 

For example, instead of thinking, "I have to make everyone happy," remind yourself, "I am only responsible for my happiness." 

Originating from cognitive therapy, this cognitive-restructuring approach helps in reshaping unhelpful thinking patterns. You can read more about it on Therapist Aid.

I find this particularly helpful when it comes to the behaviours of family members. When I see their actions and words through a compassionate loving lens, it becomes much easier to deal with them.

I will both look for less black-and-white reasoning and try to understand what might be going on for them. Knowing they’re influenced by their demons (read childhood trauma), doesn’t excuse their actions but it does help us hold more compassion for them. 

Do it for you. Compassion is the best shield, protecting you from any stressful negative energies.

Tip 5 - Focus on Positivity and Gratitude

This one is somewhat similar to the cognitive restructuring technique. This time, shift your focus to the elements of family gatherings that you cherish, be it the shared laughter, the traditions, or the opportunity to reconnect with a loved one.

Remember, it's normal to feel anxious or stressed by family gatherings; reaching out for support is a strength. 

It’s so easy to get caught up in the expectations and pressures of family. There’s also that deep-rooted need for validation - wanting a parent or caregiver to validate that we’re “good enough” and that we’re “worthy of love”.

You are not alone in feeling these things! Remember that you are inherently “good enough” and worthy. 

Find ways of reminding yourself of this throughout the holiday season. It could be a hype file, a meditation or a journal entry… whatever works for you.

I’ve got a free tapping meditation you can check out as well, perfect for times like this: Ease Your Mind: 10 min EFT Tapping to Combat Stress and Anxiety

This holiday season, I encourage/ challenge you (for those of you who like challenges) to give yourself the gift of kindness and understanding. 

It's the first step toward a more peaceful and enjoyable time with family during the holiday season.


Want more tips for a peaceful holiday? Check out my article from last year: Holiday Stress-Busting: 8 Relationship Tips for a Peaceful Christmas 

I’d also love to offer you personalised guidance and support to help you get through this season, if not unscathed, then at least with your sanity intact.

Head over to Zoe West Coaching to see how I can help you. Hope to hear from you!

Lots of love and calm to you all!


Did you enjoy this blog post?

I will be forever grateful if you share this post on your socials or simply buy me a coffee - I'll take an oat cappuccino please :)

Much love, Zoe

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I love hearing from you!
You can get in touch with me through my social media channels:

Or send me a good old email at [email protected]