By Jennifer Woolwine

Anxiety Around the Holidays: Celebrate the Way You Want, Guilt Free

Health + Wellness

baghdad to barnyard

December 9, 2022

Do you find the holiday season draining and overwhelming? Nowadays, every email is saturated with ads and suggestions to buy unnecessary gifts or subliminally tell you that this year’s Christmas presents must be bigger and better than the previous years. You can scroll for hours on Instagram and Pinterest and see multimillion-dollar homes all decked out for Christmas, and then you look at your Charlie Brown Christmas tree in the corner and start questioning if you’re not doing enough. Maybe you struggle with anxiety and depression, especially around the holidays, and the last thing you want to do is put on a fake smile and attend a Christmas party.


Unfortunately, we live in a society that puts so much pressure on us around the holidays. Pressure to have your home decorated for Christmas before Thanksgiving, pressure to have a perfectly decorated Christmas tree ( or multiple trees), pressure to host Christmas dinner with family that doesn’t get along (and don’t forget to make your MIL’s favorite Old Fashioned Gingerbread) and pressure to buy amazing gifts for all your family and friends- the list goes on and on.

It seems everyone around you is having the most joyous holiday with their loved ones, and you’re just sitting over here wanting to wear cozy sweats, binge-watch reality tv, and snuggle with your cat on the couch. Well, friend, let me tell you- you are NOT alone! And you know what? That’s pretty much what I’ll be doing this Christmas. Cozy sweats, putting goofy holiday hats on my animals, taking photos and catching up on season 5 of Yellowstone and I don’t feel guilty about it at all!


I didn’t always make it through the holidays guilt-free. In fact, I used to dread this time of the year because, with my family, Christmas became a day revolving around luxurious gifts and whether the gifts were good enough for them. It was exhausting trying to please everyone, and I spent so much time making the holidays picture-perfect that it took a toll on my mental health.

So, I’m sharing tips that have helped me cope with anxiety and depression during the holidays so you can celebrate the way you want- GUILT FREE.


  • Recognize that you don’t need to force yourself to feel joyous. You may be experiencing sadness, anger, fear, or other negative emotions. It’s okay to acknowledge those feelings!

  • Avoid using alcohol or other substances to numb your feelings or manage your anxiety. Although it can be tempting to “take the edge off” at holiday events, alcohol and drugs can worsen anxiety and depression and may trigger panic attacks.

  • Surround yourself with people who understand or experience similar feelings about the holidays and create new traditions that make you happy and less stressed.

  • Create a budget and stick to it. Consider how much money you can comfortably spend and stick to the amount. If purchasing gifts for everyone is difficult, consider having a Secret Santa or making homemade gifts.

  • Take care of yourself. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat well, exercise regularly, and practice mindfulness.

  • Be satisfied with “good enough”. You are only one person, and you can only do so much.

  • Try to avoid triggers. Avoid crowds, loud noises, and places where you feel anxious.

  • If you feel overwhelmed by social obligations and what others ask of you, learn to be comfortable saying “no.”

  • Be realistic about how much you can handle this season. Kick perfection to the curb, enjoy the company surrounding you and focus on what really matters.

  • Seek support. Talk to friends and family members about your feelings. If you need more support than you can provide, seek professional help. Many options are available, such as therapy, medication, and self-help groups.

  • Remember that you’re not alone. Anxiety around Christmas is extremely common, with nearly 60% of people experiencing panic attacks over the holidays.


Christmas is a wonderful time of the season, but it’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of the holidays and wanting everything to be “perfect”. Just remember, perfect is impossible. So throw that word out the window. Try to take some time out of your busy schedule to do things that bring YOU joy, and don’t feel guilty doing it, even if it’s dressing up your fur babies in tacky Christmas sweaters. We wish you a stress-free and guilt-free Holiday season from our little homestead.

xo, Jen

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Jen Woolwine       Author

Jen is a combat veteran and wife who is passionate about animal rescue, homesteading, and mental health advocacy. Jen's amazing journey of transitioning from military service to homesteading can be followed on her blog and social media platforms @baghdadtobarnyard.

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