Get festive but not frantic

CHRISTMAS STRESS
Suffering festive season overload? Clinical psychologist and author Linda Blair takes a look at how to manage pre-Christmas stress.

It’s the build-up to Christmas, and the pressure is on to “enjoy your holiday”. In truth, however, many of us are wondering if we can get through the festivities with a smile still on our faces.

Here are some tips – small things that won’t take much time, but will make a positive difference to your energy levels as the festivities begin.

Establish your stress barometers

Think about the last time you felt really stressed. What were your symptoms? Each of us reacts differently – some feel breathless, others become nauseous, or suddenly feel hot and sweaty.

Learn to recognise your “first line symptoms” so you can avoid the exhaustion of anxiety and/or panic attacks.

Respond to stress overload straight away

If you take action as soon as you sense stress overload, it will take less than five minutes to feel in control again.

Almost all unpleasant reactions to stress are triggered by over-breathing, and once you’ve practised, you can rebalance your inner state while still appearing to carry on as normal.

Breathe in slowly through your nose, hold your breath until you need to exhale, then exhale slowly and evenly through your mouth. Do 20 of these mindful breaths. You’ll feel more clear-minded, calmer and better able to carry on.

Learn to say “no” like you mean it

During this season, almost everyone is asked to do more than is realistically possible. You can meet your obligations cheerfully and efficiently, but only if you don’t overload yourself.

At least once a week, review your diary. Look at what you’ve scheduled during the coming week, and if any day appears too hectic, make a list of the obligations that day and rank them in order of importance.

Then send an e-mail or leave a phone message – using remote communication will help you feel bolder – and politely excuse yourself from the least important item(s).

Don’t offer excuses – most people will be too busy to read them anyway, and if they do, they may feel obligated to talk you out of your refusal.

Eat mindfully

It’s not the wonderful treats on offer at this time of year that cause us to overindulge; the real problem is that we so often eat without paying attention, without really thinking about and enjoying what we’re eating.

Resolve to eat only when you can focus fully on the experience. Notice scents, colours, textures and flavours. Eat more slowly than usual – that allows you to recognise when you’ve eaten enough, and it means you’re less likely to go into New Year feeling a dreary obligation to diet.

Make bedtime “me time”

We remember best what we think about at bedtime, so create and reinforce a positive mood by writing down the three best moments of your day just before you get ready for bed. Then turn off your screens, dim the lights, and – even if it means getting into bed later – take time for a relaxing and enjoyable bedtime routine.

 

  • Linda Blair is a clinical psychologist and author of Siblings: How to Handle Rivalry and Create Lifelong Loving Bonds.

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