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How to Cope With Anxiety at Christmas: 5 Tips To Keep Joy

How can we keep joy with anxiety at Christmas time?

Do you struggle with anxiety?

Most of my life has been overshadowed by this unwanted disorder.  If I am very specific, the diagnosis is Generalized Anxiety Disorder with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  Most of the year I can cope, but at Christmas time, with the added stress and business of this time of the year, I nearly break. 

Today we will answer the question, “How do you survive Christmas with anxiety as a Christian?”

Questions About Anxiety at Christmas Time and Joy

If you have been with HopeJoyInChrist for a while you know that joy is the word God has pressed into my life all year.  As we enter this Christmas season He is not relenting.   As much as I want to run away (or sleep away) from all the stress and chaos of the season He is impressing on my heart the need to keep joy even when facing anxiety and in the thick of a relapse battle with PTSD.

It is a comfort and a burden to know that you are right here with me…  struggling to access His joy even though it is 12 inches below our mind!  Anxiety at Christmas is hard!  Let’s look at some common questions before we dig into solutions to the conflict within.

  • Why does Christmas give me anxiety?
    • Why do I get anxious at Christmas?
    • What triggers holiday anxiety?
  • How do I deal with my anxiety at Christmas?
  • Why is my anxiety worse on holiday? 
    • Why is anxiety worse in December?
  • Are boundaries godly?

Related Post: How to Have Joy in Every Trial and Please God

Why Does Christmas Give Me Anxiety?  

Why do I get anxious at Christmas?  For a lot of years, this floored me.  I love parts of Christmas.  Christmas music, the beauty, and creativity of the decorations, and Christmas food, all give me moments of happiness.  So why does Christmas give me anxiety?

Expectations.  I think that one word is at the heart of the conflict within.  I want Christmas to be magical and nostalgic. Some moments it is, but then reality sets in, and it’s gone.

What triggers holiday anxiety for you?

I miss people.  Some people have passed on into glory and though I am happy for them I miss their presence most at Christmas.  Others have chosen distance and even though I know it’s best that we stay apart I miss them – or rather the fantasy of a healthier version of them.

Expectations and grief, knowing that they are coming, bring me great anxiety and can trigger my PTSD.

Why is My Anxiety Worse on Holiday?

Another trigger for anxiety can be change.  Whether we are talking about the holiday season or going on vacation we are talking about changes.  

The house changes for Christmas.  I don’t know about you, but my living room has no room for a 6-foot tree.  To accommodate, furniture has to move and things have to be transplanted to other rooms.  The already cluttered house feels almost claustrophobic for weeks.

The schedule changes.  We are already busy, but from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve there are extra events to fit into the calendar. 

  • Family gatherings to see
  • Friends to visit
  • Kids pageants to rehearse for
  • Church events to prepare for.


Even the food changes.  Healthy foods are not popular for Christmas dinner and junk food is everywhere.  My digestive system does not thank me for any of that change!

Change makes my anxiety worse on holiday!

Why is Anxiety Worse in December?

Another factor I see that contributes to Christmas depression is darkness this time of year. I mean, one of the reasons we decorate with lights is because December is such a dark month.

When light is fleeting, our bodies react. Holiday anxiety symptoms in some instances (I see it in my youngest) could be a combination of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) because of the loss of sunlight.

How do you deal with that?

  • Get outside when the sun is out despite the cold weather.
  • Maybe plan a trip south to soak in some Vitamine D.
  • Add Vitamine supplements.
  • Talk to your doctor if you notice it repeatedly when there are no other triggers.

How Do I Deal with My Anxiety at Christmas? 

So this is why we are here.  How do we deal with anxiety at Christmas time?

Here’s the thing.  Mental illness is not like any other illness.  Other people can’t see the hurt.  They don’t know how to help us and often they deny anxiety is real.  So you have to take care of yourself!  

I tend to avoid all the talk about self-care and self-love that circulates so often.  Mostly because I think we can head the wrong way with it and become too self-focused.  I always want to love selflessly and give freely of my life to bless others.  But it would be selfish of me to give away so much leaving nothing left to care for myself and others.

Let me repeat that in case you were skimming. 

It is pointless to give away so much of yourself that you have nothing left to care for others!

Related Post: Why I Broke the Silence About Anxiety in My Life

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Is it Biblical to Set Boundaries? 

Boundaries may seem like a random direction in an article that should be filled with techniques to reduce anxiety… But, here’s the thing. Boundaries are a huge part of how I deal with Christmas anxiety and depression. Anxiety at Christmas, when it is caused by well-meaning but, selfish, or narcissistic habits of others, can be eliminated with boundaries.

  • You do not have to be around that toxic family member.  
  • You do not have to participate in the holiday stress of social gatherings that have proven to cause pain.

Christmas day can be just you and those you trust, who will not hurt you. Invite close friends if family conflict never seems to end. It’s okay to choose the social situations you step into.

This was the permission I needed years ago to get a handle on my mental health issues around Christmas day. I see those family members at other times and I love them and pray for them… but I no longer permit them to ruin the happiest time of the year for me.

Jesus Set Boundaries

There is much debate about boundaries in Christian circles, but I see it demonstrated best by Jesus Himself.

In Scripture, we see Jesus healing and preaching often.  Afterward, He often needs to get away by Himself to recharge with God – this is a beautiful model of self-care. 

Then in Luke, we see Jesus set a clear boundary.  He knows He could spend His entire life healing, which would be wonderful, but He actually has a calling to pursue to protect.

“When day came, Jesus left and went to a secluded place; and the crowds were searching for Him, and came to Him and tried to keep Him from going away from them. 
But He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.”  So He kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.” (Luke 4:42-44 NASB)

Jesus clearly saw the value in setting boundaries and doing what He knew was best.

Anxiety at Christmas is hard!  Let's look at some common questions before we dig into solutions to the conflict within. Share on X

What Boundaries Help with Anxiety at Christmas?

Okay, so Jesus set boundaries, which tells us it is good to set boundaries in our lives.  How do we begin?  it is a good idea to know your limitations and set clear stops a bit before the holiday period so you stay healthy.  

To give you an idea, here are some of the boundaries in my life (a boundaries to-do list of sorts):

5 Boundaries To Head Off Christmas Stress

  1. Not overscheduling the month.
  2. Schedule a family night each week without any activities.
  3. Saying “No” to events that are usually filled with drama.
  4. Keeping to a normal sleep routine.
    • Getting enough sleep is key to one of the best ways to keep my mental health problems from spiraling!
      • Listening to Scripture helps me deal with anxious thoughts when feelings of anxiety are the most challenging.
  5. Shopping all year so we don’t have to be out in all the chaos.
    • Financial strain sends me into a tailspin so we limit each person to one expensive gift and set a limit for how much money we will spend overall for family get-togethers.

These are just some of the boundaries that help me while dealing with anxiety at Christmas.  They keep me calm, help avoid the triggers of my PTSD, and let us still enjoy all the fun!

How to Manage Anxiety at Christmas in 5 Steps

Knowing what boundaries look like is only one piece of managing anxiety through the holidays.  These are the 5 steps I follow to fight depression and anxiety at Christmas head-on!  

  1. Set firm boundaries
  2. Don’t be alone
  3. Fis your eyes on Jesus
  4. Trust in the Lord more
  5. Sing

1. Set Firm Boundaries

I will say – emphatically – know and accept your limitations.  Then place firm boundaries around them to take care of yourself.  Firm boundaries are key to keeping joy with anxiety and PTSD all year long but especially at Christmas.

When anxiety is a part of your life there are limitations.  When you suffer from PTSD those limitations insert themselves without notice and affect those we live with. 

It is so challenging because we have high expectations of Christmas which are often unrealistic expectations.

To get the most out of these times of the year we just have to find the right way to embody the Christmas spirit for our own limitations.

If you need help setting boundaries comment below and we can chat through some ideas to get you started.

Related Post: How to Claim the Power of Peace of Mind with Anxiety

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2. Don’t Be Alone At Christmas

One of my boundaries is to avoid events where there are a lot of people who regularly bring drama.  That means we don’t go to some of the family Christmas parties.  It does NOT mean we avoid all people.  Even if you have social anxiety at Christmas, being alone will only make things worse!

Joy comes when we are refreshed with love from others!

“For I have had great joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.” (Philemon 1:7 NASB)

Isolation Is Not The Answer

As tempting as it may be to just hide until January and avoid people, it will steal your joy. 

Avoiding a social setting that always leads to stress is not the same as avoiding all large gatherings or social settings.

  • Find a trusted friend and go out for lunch. 
  • Invite a family you enjoy over for a dinner and game night. 
  • Go caroling with a group (whether you sing well or not)!

Don’t be alone.

“He who separates himself seeks his own desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom.” (Proverbs 18:1 NASB)

3. Fix Your Eyes on the Lord to Keep Joy 

I don’t know about you, but my anxiety intensifies when I focus on all the chaos.  If I take the time to look to God – pray it out, find a verse to calm down – the anxiety will calm.

“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3 NASB)

Even if it doesn’t go away, I can still keep joy. Yes even amid anxiety attacks and outbursts of PTSD that just won’t relent.

Related Post: How to Find Peace in the Midst of Chaos: Be Still in the Needs of Everyday Life & Powerful War Room Prayers for Spiritual Battle

Anxiety can be a controlling force in life.  You are not alone in this struggle.

I put together a 40-day reading & journaling plan with many of the verses I go to when anxiety overwhelms me. Read about it here ~> 40 Bible Verses to Overcome Anxiety: FREE Reading and Journaling Guide

4. Find Balance With Food In The Winter Months

For some reason, once the darker months slip into the year, we struggle to find balance with food.  We eat more and most of the food choices are junk foods.  That causes stress on our bodies which are already battling huge emotional swings.  

  • Too much sugar
  • Mince pies
  • Meet and sweets
  • Few fruits and veggies

All of these choices face us daily.  Factor in Christmas festivities with friends and family all bringing their special dishes and we have trouble.  

How can we find balance?  

  1. Make the dinner table a place of healthy options when you are not at an event.
  2. Make a list of your must-haves and think about it when presented a tempting choice.
  3. Get out in the fresh air for a walk when the days are nice.
  4. Remember that Christmas events are about quality time with friends and family NOT the food.
  5. Get plenty of sleep.  
    • Make it an early night the day before a late party or plan a nap to load up on rest.

5. Trust in The Lord More

More than just keeping my eyes fixed on God, I need to trust Him.  Trusting God when anxiety takes hold is tough, so I pray more. 

Last year, my prayer, over and over again, was that God would take the anxiety away and heal me of the PTSD.  He hasn’t – yet -but I still trust Him. 

When I surrender and trust Him over and over again He fills me with Joy!

 “The Lord is my strength and shield.
    I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
    I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” (Psalm 28:7 NASB)

One way I keep my trust in the Lord is through meditating on His Word.  See these 6 Best Devotionals for Anxiety Reading them daily and journaling through them!  I created a Kit to Help you get started with that.  Check it out below!

30 Days of Joy Bible Journaling Tool Kit

What’s included in the Bible Journaling Took Kit?

  • A 30-Day Reading plan
  • Journaling prompts
  • 3 Pages of Doodling templates
  • 1 sheet of margin strips
  • 1 sheet of Bible Verse Cards
  • Detailed instructions about how to Get started Bible Journaling

30 Days of JoyBible Journaling Tool Kit FB #BibleJournaling #IllustratedFaith #BibleJournalingForBeginners #BibleJournalingIdeas

6. Sing to Keep Joy with Anxiety at Christmas Time

Okay, Okay, I know everyone is not a lover of music.  But Y’all, God loves music.  I will battle that out with anyone.  He made all of His creation to sing and worship Him.

He repeatedly tells us to sing praise to Him and make a joyful noise to Him.

I believe God loves it when we sing, even if it sounds awful!

Song- an expression of worship – pleases God according to Psalm 47:1.  It is just one form of worship, but it has a way of pulling us out of our mental state and helping us take a step forward.

I’d love to know your favorite worship song right now.  Of course, we are in the midst of Christmas Music.  You can check out my Christmas Worship Playlist on YouTube here. 

Related Post: How to Praise God in Anxiety and Find Peace

7. Make Your Own Traditions

If you do not love social interactions but long for a joyous time, why not make your own traditions?  

When our children were born, this was our choice.  My husband struggles with too many different social events.  Period.  So we made a list of things we both love about the holidays and started our own traditions. 

These are just a few we picked:

  • ​Take our time
    • Decorate the Christmas tree over a week rather than all in one day.
  • Choose our stress
  • Safeguard Christmas Day
    • See extended family on Christmas Eve and enjoy our small crew on Christmas Day.
  • Craft gifts
    • To make quality time together our priority rather than adding financial stress.
  • Stick to our priorities (3 Ways Fight the Busy Life and Set Biblical Priorities)
    • Do an advent devotional together.
    • Keep a date night.
    • Have a yearly Christmas movie marathon altogether.

Related Post: 10 Easy Homemade Gifts Every One Will Love

Will You Use The 7 Steps to Keep Joy with Anxiety at Christmas?

Anxiety at Christmas is a real challenge, yes even for Christians.  Many times, well-meaning believers counsel me that my anxiety is a result of a lack of faith or is a sign of sin in my life.  I’ve spent so much time with the Lord over this and I just can’t believe those things are true.  Acting in that anxiety maybe, but just having it – no.  

There is hope, you can manage your anxiety.  These are 5 steps I use to keep joy at Christmas and I pray they help you on this journey.  

  1. Set firm boundaries
  2. Don’t be alone
  3. Fis your eyes on Jesus
  4. Trust in the Lord more
  5. Sing

Which will you try this holiday season?

in HIM,

If this helped, you will love these posts:

Bible Verse Coloring Pages about Marriage to accompany the Finding Hope and Joy in My Marriage 9-Week Bible Study
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Tiffany Montgomery

Tiffany of Hope Joy in Christ inspires Christian Women to grow in faith, live out Biblical Marriage Principles and raise Godly Children.  Join the Wives Only Facebook Group here or keep up with her through Pinterest.

8 thoughts to “How to Cope With Anxiety at Christmas: 5 Tips To Keep Joy”

  1. Oh my gosh! Yes! “Setting boundaries!” So many people feel like if they set boundaries they’re being unfair or cruel to other people. In reality, you’re going to be your best self and give your best self to other people if you set those boundaries!

  2. Setting firm boundaries at this time of year can be a huge relief to over-scheduling!

  3. These are such great tips! Thank you so much for sharing! Anxiety is the worst, and the holidays can make it so much worse.

  4. The power of worship can change my attitude to a gladitude! Boundaries are wonderful things that keep us healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually.

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