The festive season is nearly upon us, however there is no need to feel worried or allow our anxiety to spike.
Christmas. Say the word out loud in a group and watch people’s faces. Some will light up, others will look horrified. Even those who adore the period will usually admit it can be emotionally stressful. We often feel that Christmas needs to be ‘perfect’, and that we must get on with everyone.
According to the Stress Management Society, one in 20 people considers Christmas more stressful than a burglary, and over half of Britons will have had an alcoholic drink before lunch on Christmas Day – to trying to cope with the stress and pressure we apply to ourselves. Now that is something to think about …
Now, as we all know when we talk about stress, we don’t just mean the emotional stuff. “Our stress response can be triggered not just by the classic stressors, such as being under pressure, late or upset about something, it’s also worrying about stuff or being bored or frustrated. The whole seasonal period can be a complex hormonal vicious cycle that we create, by analysing too much, charging around too much and thinking too much, probably about things that won’t happen anyway!”
Things don’t need to be like this though, as there are some really easy and simple ways to reduce our stress and anxiety levels. It sounds obvious, but keeping things in perspective can have a huge impact on how you feel. Ask yourself: does it really matter if the lunch is late and the bed unmade?
Here are some of our top tips for a calm, relaxing and stress-free Christmas period.
Tip 1 – just take a deep breath and to start breathing deeply. The body associates being stressed with that kind of upper chest, short, sharp breathing. When you force yourself to use your diaphragm and breathe deeply, really making your lungs work, you’re overriding your stress response. The two don’t correlate: deep belly breaths and stress cannot function.
Tip 2 – Smile, and more importantly, pass your smile on. Smiling and laughing will also actively increase your serotonin levels (which is our ‘happy’ chemical) and calm down the production of stress hormones.
Tip 3 – Relax, and enjoy the festive season. Take some time for yourself in all the hustle and bustle. You could try a little mindfulness exercise, or treat yourself to an afternoon with friends, either for a mini-treatment or simply just a hot chocolate and marshmallows! YOU are important, so take a little time to really value yourself.
Tip 4 – Sleep, and get some early nights. We sleep every single day (I hope!) but we don’t always understand the absolute importance of rest and sleep. Adults need anywhere between 7 and 10 hours sleep per night, to allow our brains to process our thoughts, so we wake up refreshed, calm and ready for our busy day ahead. When we curtail this, we start to see the effects very quickly, just ask any new parent!
Tip 5 – Overindulgence. Christmas is the time to enjoy ourselves, and we sometimes allow ourselves to overindulge with food and alcohol. Too much alcohol really does impact on our happy chemical, serotonin. I’m not saying don’t enjoy yourself, but be aware of the effects of alcohol, and pace yourself.
Tip 6 – Budget your spending. Easy to say, not very easy to do! Make a budget, and stick to it. Be in control of your finances, rather than beginning the new year unsure of how much you’ve spent, and on what.
Tip 7 – Question your thoughts. When we’re anxious, our brain begins to conjure up all kinds of irrational and outlandish ideas, many of which are unrealistic and will never happen anyway. Is it really going to be such a disaster if Christmas lunch is 20 minutes late, and will anybody actually notice?
Tip 8 – Enjoy yourself. Christmas is a time to visit relatives, see friends, relax and reflect on the past year. Perfection is almost never needed, so try not to apply too much pressure and have a fabulous stress-free festive season!
There you have it. A recipe, not just for a tension-free Christmas but also a less stressful end of year.