Navigating emotional challenges at Christmas

 In Active Listening Therapies, Emotional Challenges, Mental Health at Christmas, New Year, Positive Mental Health, Self Care

The thought of navigating everything festive can burden an already heavy Santa-sack of anxiety. This time of year brings a unique set of challenges that has the potential to trigger a wide range of emotions. Loneliness, financial worries, perfectionism and or the pressure to socialise can make Christmas a veritable nightmare.

Societal expectations of togetherness can heighten any introverts fear. On the flip side, for those who may not have a close, or social support network, a willingness to be around someone only feels amplified when no one is available. Finances can also put a strain on emotion and indeed relationships. One partner may wish to indulge, while the other is more worried about paying the winter fuel bill. The thought of explaining to a child that Santa can’t bring everything on the list this year, itself, is a tough proposition that will stretch any parents’ morality. Pride can take over, especially when the neighbours seem to be throwing most of Lapland into their Christmas plans. Not being able to keep up with social media suggestion contributes to feelings of inadequacy and failure; however, the reality is a desire to meet expectations of a perfect Christmas is overwhelming and unrealistic. The question is who is setting the expectations? Are you striving to meet other people’s desires, or you are putting unnecessary pressure on yourself, by trying to meet expectation that – at face value – could set the bar high, or it could also be a pressure that could prove to be a breaking point.

Time for family and friends can be a cliché; and managing the social events calendar is a big consideration at Christmas. A willingness to say yes to every invite may feel the right thing to do, but if you are so exhausted trying to fulfil a chaotic schedule, you are in danger of not doing anything. Aiming to be a social butterfly may just lead to overwhelming feelings, or a route to self-defeating behaviour. Is it better to pick a few commitments – and stick too them – rather than over-booking yourself, knowing that you won’t achieve your anticipated festival schedule.

Food can be both a welcome celebration and a festive point to avoid. This is exacerbated by finances, social media, advertising, and diet. It can feel that every TV advert is promoting the must-have culinary items for this year’s festive feasts. While the budget supermarkets are selling a wide range of more luxury items, the price of the Christmas shop can still be eye watering. With many, no doubt, planning to exhibit their festive food on social media, the demands of keeping up can be a worry and this amplifies stress and anxieties. Everyone wants Christmas to be perfect, but when demands outgrow resources including time, money, and internal energy, it’s time for a rethink. Being clear – and honest – with family, friends, and colleagues about what is within your own capacity clarifies expectation. Food can also be a tricky area to navigate, particularly if body-image and diets are a major point of consideration. It can be hard to avoid incessant advertising, and difficult when other people are overly encouraging you to indulge. On the flip side, having people close, shaming you on what and when you eat, or the clothes you are wearing can turn social pleasantries in to social nightmares. The same applies to alcohol. You know your limit; allowing others to sway your intentions is coercive.

Reflecting on events of the year can easily drag you down a rabbit hole, possibly leading you to believe that the last twelve months have been rubbish. Significant life changes such as a relationship breakdown, a change in employment status, a traumatic experience, or the loss of a loved one are events that can leave a huge emotional footprint; but these events don’t define a whole year. Try not to forget the evidence of how you dealt with change in the past and what you can still achieve in the here and now.

What ever life throws your way this Christmas, or what ever you have experienced this year, the new year offers a time of reflection. This is the first step to self-healing… the second could be talking, in confidence, to a counsellor who will give you time and space to consider, adjust and rebuild your emotional needs. At Active Listening Therapies in Newark, you can find the authentic you with the help of both male and female counsellors who provide unconditional positive regard. You won’t be judged, shamed, or coerced. You will be supported, encouraged, and empowered to shred the skin of 2023, with a view to developing a robust emotional plan for 2024.

Recognising and accepting the difficulties you may face at this time of year is the first step to navigating them. The next step is to set realistic boundaries that work for you – with the understanding that they may not suit others. Cutting yourself some slack, enjoying yourself and knowing that Louise and Duncan from Active Listening Therapies are available to discuss a positive pathway ahead, should help take the pressure of the festive season.

If you would like to chat directly to Louise or Duncan, find out how counselling could work for you, or to book yourself in for a free consultation, you can email directly with the following addresses:, or

Active Listening Therapies will be closed from Friday 22nd of December and will reopen on Tuesday 02nd of January. You can still reach us on email but responses will be delayed. If you would like crisis support during this time we suggest the following organisations:



Recommended Posts
Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search