December 8


5 steps to reduce anxiety and overwhelm this Christmas

By Zoe Clements

December 8, 2020

Tis the season to be…

Sadly, due to Covid-19, our Christmas and New Year celebrations may be very different this year. Not only are restrictions governing our choices but many of us are heading into the holiday season feeling overwhelmed and anxious. For some, anxiety levels may be high due to safety concerns whilst others may feel overwhelmed as result of the mentally, emotionally and physically draining year. Countless others will be worrying about the financial burden and many will be devastated by not seeing their loved ones. I think it's fair to say, while we are all very much in a different boat, we could all benefit from reducing our anxiety and looking after our needs this Christmas. 

The good news is, whatever your situation, there are actions you can take now to help yourself.

My top tip for reducing anxiety and overwhelm during the Christmas shenanigans is to be proactive, work out what you need now and plan ahead.

That may sound simple but it's far from easy as us humans have many needs to juggle and we can often struggle when it comes to expressing them.

In order to help you I going explain the 5 key steps that will help you reduce anxiety and overwhelm so you can have a healthier and happier Christmas.

The NEEDS Method: How to reduce anxiety and overwhelm

  1. Think about what you really Need over the Christmas period. Your safety; physical health; emotional health; mental health; bank balances health(!); etc. 
  2. Evaluate and prioritise your needs and decide how, & with whom, you want to spend your Christmas
  3. Express your needs to loved ones (& not so loved ones) in advance
  4. Defy the urge to feel guilty for not conforming to the traditions or doing what everyone else expects
  5. Stick to your guns! Don't change your No to a Yes by the well-meaning (and less well-meaning) people around you

If these steps sound familiar then it's because they are the same steps as 'The NEEDS Method', the 5 steps to saying no which we explored in my blog: Learn how to say No (and how to avoid the common pitfalls that lead you to say Yes!


It turns out The NEEDS Method not only helps you to say No, it also helps you create the Christmas that you need.

So without further ado, let's work out what you need over this festive season.

Let's begin with...

STEP 1) N is for NEEDS

What do you NEED this Christmas? If you find this difficult then here are some questions to get those brains cells stirring...

Step 2) E is for EVALUATE

Once you have thought about your needs it's time to evaluate, prioritise and make some decisions. This isn't as easy as it sounds so let's run through some common scenarios:

Health v Connection

If you are currently feeling anxious and/or overwhelmed then who you spend Christmas with, and how you spend the time, will have a massive impact on your health and happiness. Picking who we spend Christmas with is very complex so it's helpful to identify: 

  • Where do you feel safe?
  • Who supports you?
  • Who fills you with energy rather than draining it?

If you need a quiet, calm, restful Christmas then how can you make that happen? Do you need to say NO to someone. If you can't, can you limit your time with them to balance your needs? Or can you make sure you get regular breaks by taking yourself off for a walk or a sneaky Netflix binge? Prioritise your mental, emotional and physical health and set yourself up in advance for the Christmas YOU need. 

Financial v Connection

If you want to be around loved ones, but are anxious about finances then can you make the decision not to buy presents? By explaining the situation you can reduce your anxiety and get the connection you desire too.

Safety v Connection

Of course this year many people will feel anxious about their safety. Again, think about what YOU need to feel safe. By prioritising your needs you can reduce anxiety and overwhelm and have the break your need.

Remember:  Don't put your needs to the back of the queue. Your needs matter too.

Step 3) E is for EXPRESS

When we are clear on what we need this season then we have to express ourselves. Here are some handy tips:

  • Clear is kind - say what you need 
  • No is a full sentence
  • Provide an explanation only if you feel comfortable. Often people are more sympathetic when they understand why you have made a decision
  • Acknowledge people may be disappointed
  • Consider offering an alternative which you can manage. Vouchers for dog walking duties or providing alternative dates to meet can go a long way

Example: Expressing needs to your other half about where to spend Christmas:

Example: Saying no to your brother when you can't afford the present he wants to get Mum:

Step 4) D is for DEFY

If the 3 wise men were here today they would tell you to...

Three tips from a wise(ish) woman (me):

  1. Tis the season to be jolly....tis not the season to feel guilty or ashamed. If you explain why you can't do something then those who matter won't mind and those who mind don't matter
  2. Looking after yourself is not selfish, your safety matters, your mental health matters
  3. Don't get yourself into debt or affect your health for the sake of pleasing others

STEP 5) S is for STICK

Last but my no means least, stick to what your need. If it's a No, it's a No. People will try LOADS of tactics (some passive and some downright aggressive) to get you to change your mind. Don't fall for it. The cost of changing your mind is that you are teaching them how to treat you and they will just do the same next year. Have faith in yourself and your decision, defy the urge to feel guilty and stick with what you need.


Set yourself up for the Christmas you need by following:

And finally...

It's been a rough year for all of us, however if you are proactive and plan ahead for what you need then you will undoubtedly reduce anxiety and overwhelm putting you on the road to a healthier and happier 2021. 

If you want to learn more about reducing anxiety then sign up here to learn about my book: BUT I SHOULD BE FINE: How to gain relief from anxiety, overwhelm and pesky self doubt.

Zoe Clements

About the author

Zoe Clements is an experienced BACP Accredited Counsellor and Author specialising in overthinking, anxiety, people pleasing and pesky self doubt.

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