How to Avoid Overwhelm and Protect Wellbeing this Christmas


Christmas and the holiday season is a tough enough time of year already, let alone after the deluge of never-ending setbacks we’ve experienced throughout 2021. To ensure we all get some well-needed rest and relaxation during this year’s festivities, we asked clinical psychologist and author Dr Rebecca Ray (her latest book Setting Boundaries is a must-read!) to share five ways to help avoid Christmas overwhelm this season. 

2021. Another 12 months of a worldwide pandemic. Two hundred and sixty-two days of the longest lockdown globally. Two new variants. One rain bomb. Three months of a mice plague. One major climate driver in the form of La Niña. A few border openings and tentative lifts in restrictions. Ten minutes of a Taylor Swift song. And 17 guests for Christmas.

This is not a new (and poorly melodic) version of ‘12 Days of Christmas’. It’s just a tiny list of some big numbers that have likely sapped your energy this year. With the little reserves you have left, you might be reluctantly going through festive motions when you’d much rather be alone, nestled under a weighted blanket in the air con and binging the most recent drop of Tiger King escapades on Netflix, in between sinking into the pages of Brene Brown’s latest book.

It’s a lot and you can’t simply turn it off. I get it. And that’s why I want to offer you five tips to avoid overwhelm and protect psychological wellbeing this Christmas.

Boost Your Boundaries With A LIMIT

Boundaries are the circles of empowerment and self-preservation that will help you conserve what remains in your giving tanks after the year that was. Use the acronym LIMIT as a reminder:

L is for Leader

Approach the festive season from your conscious, authentic self. When you operate from your Inner Leader, you remember that boundaries are a gift in your relationships because they offer those around you an instruction manual on how to love and respect you.

I is for Identify the boundary

What is the boundary’s job? Is it to protect your time, energy, attention, money or love? Is it to keep you physically or emotionally safe? Is it to maintain your respect or dignity or rights? Is it to ensure you stay in alignment with your values? Getting clarity around what the boundary is and the reason behind it will help you communicate it clearly.

M is for Make the boundary known

Communicate the boundary assertively. A boundary only works if others are aware that it exists!

I is for Introduce consequences

Consider the consequences for the boundary being crossed. This may or may not be communicated, but trespassing the boundary will have consequences, even if those consequences are only in your mind.

T is for Take a stand

If the boundary is crossed, take a stand. Reassert the boundary, and, if necessary, apply the consequences. Boundaries are only as effective as you make them. If there are no consequences for the boundary being violated, it’s not really a boundary at all.

Boundaries are the circles of empowerment and self-preservation that will help you conserve what remains in your giving tanks after the year that was.

Go With What You Know (About Yourself)

We all have a social energy identity that leans towards extroversion or introversion. Use what you know about yourself and where you sit on this continuum (and how it changes for you depending on who you’re with) to manage your energy effectively. Extroverts thrive in social settings with high stimulation (which is most Christmas parties!). Introverts need time alone or in low stimulation settings to restore their resources if they’ve spent their energy socialising. Listen to, and respect, your needs.

Take a Peaceful Pause

For many of us, Christmas can be a synonym for busy. It doesn’t have to be though if you move forward with intention. Schedule some white space regularly throughout the season in your calendar for a peaceful pause. It could be an hour in the bath or five minutes in meditation. Perhaps it’s 20 minutes of your favourite podcast or half an hour to savour your morning cuppa. Whatever it is, it’s time where you’re only available for reconnecting with yourself.

Ground Yourself in Gratitude

Pandemic Flux Syndrome is not a clinical term, but it usefully describes the state that we all find ourselves at this stage of the pandemic: are we open or not? And if so, for how long? What does it mean to meet with long-missed loved ones, and how will we cope with the potential that the opportunity could be taken from us in an instant if things change with a new variant? And all of this on the background of vaccination debate. Gratitude is a powerful antidote to this anxiety. It helps you return to the present moment and to yourself as being, having and doing enough. Use gratitude as your anchor this season for all that is valuable in your life.

Use gratitude as your anchor this season for all that is valuable in your life.

Ditch the Drama

I want you to imagine that you’re protected by an invisible shield in every interaction you have during this time. This invisible shield acts as a guard against you being dragged into drama, pressure, expectations or judgement that doesn’t belong to you, and is being projected upon you. Imagine it ricocheting off of the shield and straight back into the hands of its owner. You didn’t ask for it and nor is it your responsibility to carry it, solve it or respond to it.

May you close 2021 from a place of empowerment and may you welcome 2022 from a place of possibility.