10 Tips for a Less Stressed Festive Season
by Carol Brown
Christmas is coming! Cue the cries of “Oh, I’m so stressed! “How will I get through it?” “I’m rushed off my feet!” “There’s not enough time to do all the things I still ‘need’ to do!”
Although I don't doubt that the stress people can feel is very real, I do think that they create much of it for themselves. Let’s face it, it’s not as if it’s a surprise that Christmas is happening, is it? It’s very predictable. It happens on the same day every year! Much of the time, the stresses we feel are all part of the fun and building the excitement – a little bit of mass hysteria - but what can you do when it tips over into a feeling of distress or feeling you’re not coping?
- Firstly, review your expectations of Christmas and be realistic. Don’t be fooled into making comparisons between your life and the adverts on TV, filled with delightful gatherings, piles of magnificently wrapped presents, sumptuous splendour and perfect roasts. Remember, it’s fake - staged, dressed up and acted out for a few minutes – it’s not real life. Feelings of stress and depression can be created by not being able to meet, often excessive and unrealistic, expectations.
- Avoid excessive costs. If you’re not sure that you can withstand the extra spending then don’t be tempted to spend more than you can afford. Shop wisely, explore alternatives, if you're looking for something a bit different check out independent retailers in your local area, they often have something more unusual and interesting. It doesn't have to cost the earth to be memorable. Increasing your financial pressures will only intensify stress and depression. There are other ways to feel the ‘spirit of Christmas’, without excessive spending.
- Plan and organise what you have to do. Prepare to-do lists with the things that you want to make sure are done. For example, make a list of gifts not only with the things you want to buy, but also from what shops and where they are. This way you can group them by area and save time during the shopping process. Start with the most important and finish with the stocking-fillers.
- Although Christmas festivities are generally associated with treating ourselves and indulging in more eating, drinking and spending than we would ordinarily allow ourselves, over-indulgence can negatively affect our body and our mood. Where you can, ensure you maintain good nutrition, physical activity and sleep as this helps in dealing with increased stress.
- Practice saying say NO to people and tasks that add to your pressure. This may seem like the most difficult thing of all, but saying yes to something you don't actually have time for can end up with you feeling resentful and even more stressed. Before you find yourself bogged down with too many activities and obligations, decide what activities have a positive influence on you. Choosing to participate in only the activities that are important to you means you are more likely to have a chance to enjoy them.
- Limit travel if you can. Long journeys and a seemingly endless round of visits can be exhausting and, especially for children, really boring which makes it difficult for them to maintain their ‘best behaviour’. You could maybe arrange for a group gathering rather than individual visits or perhaps postpone some visits until after Christmas. This could have the added benefit of lifting some of the after-Christmas anti-climax and extend the celebrations.
- It’s impossible to please everyone. Many people try and end up having a miserable time themselves. If you’re stressed and not enjoying yourself, the people around you will notice. This can be like ripples and make them feel tense and irritable resulting in the whole situation becoming even more stressful! It’s important that you enjoy Christmas too, so give some thought about how you’d like to spend it and make sure you make time for that.
- If you’ve recently experienced a loss, such as separation or death of a loved one, acknowledge your right and need to feel sorrow. You may feel that you need to put your feelings on hold for the sake of the season but suppressing your emotions doesn’t help. Now, this doesn’t mean locking yourself away or wailing in the corner, it’s about striking a balance. By all means, be alone when you need to be but it’s actually extremely helpful to be part of the festivities. The grieving process is a rollercoaster of emotion; deep sorrow, numbness, reminiscing and laughter. You may think that finding you’re enjoying yourself or having a laugh is something to feel guilty about but all of these, and more, are a normal part of the process and getting back on track.
- Avoid putting all of your energy and expectations into Christmas Day and/or Hogmanay. Instead, make a point of enjoying every day of your holidays. If you feel the need for change, take the opportunity to do something that you’ve been putting off or haven’t done before. Surprise yourself! This way you’re much more likely to feel the benefits of your holiday – and actually feel like you’ve had one!
- The year coming to a close is a traditional period to re-evaluate life; however, it’s not healthy to only focus on setbacks, unfulfilled dreams and disappointments. It’s also a time to recognise positive things you’ve done and what you’ve achieved in the past year. It’s a time to review, plan and set goals for the New Year. A bit of optimism and positive thinking is extremely beneficial. Look forward to a New Year and making it happen! ENJOY!
It’s always a good idea to bear in mind that the Christmas season will have come and gone before you know it. The next day will dawn, life will go on and you’ll wonder what all of the stress and worry was about. Relax and enjoy it; even the bits that don’t go to plan; after all, they are often the parts that make us laugh and are the most memorable. And there’s always next year :~)