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3 Tips to Stop Feeling Frazzled This Christmas

I've heard a lot of people say in the past week that they're feeling like they did in March 2020, back when this whole pandemic began. In this post of 3 Tips to Stop Feeling Frazzled This Christmas, I’ll outline the psychology behind our collective mood, along with 3 evidence-based techniques you can try to stop feeling so frazzled.

For the past two years, most of us have been operating from a place of chronic stress. Uncertainty, frequently changing rules and restrictions, having to think 3 times before doing anything “normal”, reduced contact with loved ones, trying to keep ourselves and each other safe, new variants, government shenanigans…all of those have had our threat detection system (a.k.a. fight or flight) going off regularly.

We're not designed to have our alarm systems going off for extended periods of time. Usually, our brain detects a perceived threat, the alarm goes off – “danger, danger, danger!” - we deal with the danger the best way possible, the danger passes, our alarm system switches off, we calm down and return to life as normal. Only, the danger has been ever present, so the calming down and returning to normal hasn't been possible for about the past 21 months or so. It's also Christmas, which is often stressful at the best of times! Many of us are tired, burnt out and feeling like we’re running on empty [a shoutout to my neurodivergent folks whose brains have turned to swiss cheese during the course of the pandemic].

Now, while this isn’t a good feeling, it IS a normal psychological response to everything that’s been going on. And, while a lot of what’s going on is outside of our control, there are things we can do to mitigate the stress we’re under. Here are 3 evidence-based tips to help you do just that.

1. Feeling Frazzled? Notice Your Thinking

Christmas is a time of year where we want everything to be JUST RIGHT. This may be more true this year given the things a lot of us missed out on last Christmas. If you find yourself constantly thinking that the worst possible scenario will befall you, that you’re only noticing the bad things that are going on (hello News), or are thinking that unless everything can be perfect this year that there’s no point in trying, then you may be engaging in ways of thinking known as catastrophising, mentally filtering or black and white thinking. Our alarm system primes us to notice the negative as a way of keeping us safe, but over long periods, this means we can lose sight of the good that’s going on leaving us with a skewed view of our world.

What can you do about this? Check in with yourself – what good things are happening, even amongst the bad? What’s a happy medium you can strike if things aren’t going to plan? As unpleasant as the Worst Possible Scenario is, is there a more likely outcome?

Note: The above isn’t meant to imply that everything is “just in our heads” and there aren’t some very real issues going on. If you or your loved ones are clinically vulnerable, you’ve been bereaved or are dealing with the after effects of having Covid, then you may have very real events to contend with but can still benefit from checking in with yourself as you will be under increased stress.

2. Be Mindful

I know, mindfulness has become a bit of a buzz word that crops up everywhere the last few years, but that is for a good reason – it works. If you’re like me and find meditation hard (bonjour ADHD), doing simple exercises that put your focus of attention into your senses may be the way to go. Mindfulness reduces activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that’s responsible for activating our “fight or flight” system – just what we need when we’re feeling frazzled!

My favourite mindful activity is walking. While walking, slow down your pace and tune into any of your senses. I’m a bit of an architect geek, so I love doing this in urban or suburban spaces and looking at the detail on buildings that I wouldn’t notice if I were rushing to get somewhere. If you like walking in nature, you could look at detail in bark on trees, details in flowers etc. What can you hear? Birds, traffic, anything you’ve never noticed before? Tuning into touch is another personal favourite. If you are on foot, put your focus in the sensation in the soles of your feet as they touch the ground – pay attention to the feeling of heel, toe, heel, toe. If you’re using a self-propelled wheelchair, focus on the sensation of your hands making contact with your wheels as you propel.

The key with any mindful activity is to pay attention to the current moment without judgement and be prepared for thoughts to come and go. As they come, acknowledge they’re there, then let them go.

3. Practice Gratitude

I know – another buzzword, but stick with me on this! [If the thought of gratitude makes you feel really ick, head to my Instagram page and have a look at the video I posted titled, “Let’s talk GRATITUDE lists”].

Research has shown that expressing gratitude is associated with increased sense of well-being. This is still true in experiments that have used randomized samples and control groups, so it isn’t just a case of “people who are pre-disposed to being grateful tend also to feel better in themselves”. Focusing on what we’re grateful for helps shift our thinking if we’ve only been noticing the not-so-good stuff. It can also help shift what was feeling like a complete pig-of-a-day into one that wasn’t quite as bad as we thought. Another handy tool when we’re feeling frazzled.

To give this a try note down at least 5 things that you’re grateful for. You can do this either at the start of your day, or at the end. I prefer doing gratitude lists at the end of the day as they help me sleep. Writing down your list can be helpful to look back on when you’re going through a rough patch, but you can note down things mentally too. The trick here is to focus on what you are grateful for, not for what you think you “should” be grateful for – there are no right or wrong answers. Another thing is to be specific. For instance, instead of writing, “I am grateful for my partner”, note down specifically why you’re grateful for them. Is there a particular quality that you’re grateful for or have they done something that’s helped you recently?

Do your list every day for at least a week and see if there’s a difference in your overall mood.


In summary, as unpleasant as it feels, it’s not unsurprising if you are feeling frazzled and burned out this holiday season. While we can’t control the larger aspects of our second Christmas in a pandemic, there are things we can do to mitigate the effect it’s having on us. If you’ve found 3 Tips to Stop Feeling Frazzled This Christmas helpful, pass them on to a friend who may be feeling frazzled too. To read more about me and my coaching, visit my website. Merry Christmas!

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