Tis the Season! The season of gratitude and giving. As kids, it was a magical time for many people, who would finally get the presents they had been harassing their parents about all year. As adults, we are in the situation of being harassed by our kids, family and extended family, and the general public. It is easy to feel the stress of Christmas. It is a time of high hopes and even higher expectations and inevitable family gatherings. Generally, this holiday can be very stressful if you haven’t planned your activities out well.
Did you know that Christmas has been ranked as a top stressor, even ahead of divorce and having your home broken into? To help you cope with the stress better or avoid it altogether, I’ve prepared eight tips for you. Don’t let the holiday season get you down. Try these strategies for reducing our Christmas stress and you may find that this is the first Christmas you’re sure to enjoy!
Plan in Advance
Plan ahead of time – start preparing a list of things you need to do for Christmas early. This includes presents and food, shopping, decorations, seating plans or travel plans. Make the list as detailed as possible. To make communication easier, include people’s phone numbers or email addresses.
Prioritize the items on your list. How important are they and can they be done now? Do not overestimate how much you can get done on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Lots of dishes can be prepared ahead of time and frozen, thus limiting tasks in the immediate run-up to Christmas Day.
Assigning certain tasks to other family members will reduce the pressure on you. Don’t throw away your list. It might need updating, but it will still remind you of the sorts of things you need to think about.
Christmas is the number one season when you should make good use of time. Ensure you plan your days for shopping, visiting and going for events to avoid having to get something done in the last minute. This will save you from scrambling for gifts and forgetting to buy essential stuff.
Traditional brick and mortar shops have many advantages, but shopping just before Christmas can be especially stressful. At least here in Australia we’re saved the major disadvantage of cold and wet weather around Christmas, which is an additional stressor, but we aren’t spared the stress of fighting hundreds of other people trying to find the ‘perfect’ present. What is more, online shopping can be better for your budget. There are always great deals around Christmas. Shopping from the comfort of your own home will save money and time, and above all stress. However, do make sure you buy from reputable online sellers and check that they can deliver before Christmas Day. If not, that’s sort of defeating the purpose. Take advantage of cash back sites to save even more money on your purchases.
In fact, it’s even possible to buy your food online and have it delivered directly to your door. This will save you the trouble of preparing those perfect Christmas meals. Depending on your country, this can be more and less stressful. For example, in some European countries it is a tradition to eat an odd number of meatless dishes on Christmas Eve, and meat on that day is not allowed at all. This can be complicated to figure out if you are going for more than three dishes. There are only so many easy to make meatless dishes one can come up with. Therefore, it is very wise to choose an online supplier for this purpose. Don’t forget to book your delivery slot early though as the prime windows of delivery may well be already taken.
Shopping online can do wonders for your budget. On this note, this is the first step you need to take before you start any buying and spending this season. Decide on how much money you have available for shopping to avoid the additional stress of a post-Christmas bankruptcy. You don’t need to go all out. You can express appreciation in various cost effective ways such as donating to a charity in a friend’s name, making a homemade gift, or having a family gift exchange.
Know Your Limits
Christmas requires a lot of commitment. Friends, family and even your job can make demands on your time and nerves. If you have other plans, learn to be assertive and say ‘no’. Friends and family should understand if you can’t help them out or even be with them this Christmas. Too much commitment can be stressful because it leaves you behind as far as your personal plans are concerned.
As you run around trying to make Christmas perfect, take some time to relax without distractions so you can clear your mind and recharge your batteries. Relaxing activities that I’d recommend include getting a massage, reading a book and listening to music. You don’t have to listen to Christmas songs. And it doesn’t mean you hate Mariah Carey. Listen to whatever relaxes or energizes you, burn some scented candles, incense or aromatherapy oil. If it helps you, take a relaxing hot bath. You can find some excellent stress busting tips here.
If you must have more coffee than usual these days, try having decaf. Caffeine exacerbates stress, as it releases more of the stress hormone cortisol, which prepares you for ‘fight or flight’ situations. Maybe you can trick your brain into thinking it’s real coffee, maybe not. Try it.
During and after Christmas dinner, offer your family a herbal tea or other healthy cold drink instead. This will help keep the stress levels down and soothe people. They might even get sleepy and leave!
To prevent yourself from going over your limits, learn to breathe correctly. When we’re stressed out, our breathing becomes shallow. Breathe deeply to reverse this process. Breathe in deeply through your nose for 6 seconds, hold for around 2 seconds and then breathe out slowly for 6 seconds through the mouth as a pang of stress hits you. Repeat several times until you get the hang out it to instantly help reduce stressful feelings.
Don’t Give in to Loneliness
Loneliness can be something we battle with year-round, but Christmas and New Year’s are the worst. Hectic activity brings on physical and emotional stress, year-end reflection can magnify sadness and sorrow, and financial limitations can cause stress. To cope with Christmas loneliness, seek out people who are positive, exercise regularly, eat healthy, stick to a budget, and talk about your feelings with a therapist or other health professional such as Clinical Psychologist. Volunteering at your local charity can be a good way to keep yourself busy.
The Christmas season can be a lonely and isolated time for people who have little or no family around. Whether you or someone you know are in this situation, one doesn’t need to feel lonely and left out. Be nice and invite someone you know will otherwise be spending the holidays alone for whatever reason. If you are this person, seek out community and social events in your area. Most local communities organize a number of events around Christmas that can make you feel better and part of something.
You choose the effect this holiday season is going to have on you. You can let it haul you into the depths of despair or lift your spirits despite whatever bad things have happened to you this year.
Christmas holiday expectations are high, but they can vary from year to year. Families can become bigger or smaller. Traditions and rituals changes. Be flexible and open to creating new ways to spend the holidays. If your children live far away or are unable to spend Christmas with you for any other reason, including because they have families of their own now, call them or share pictures online. Do away with costly and stressful rituals like going to a fancy restaurant around the holidays or taking your small kids to see a movie. If they’re going to throw fits every step of the way, there is no need to persist. While it is true that families thrive on tradition, it may be the case that your kids have outgrown it, and just spending time with them at home on Christmas would suffice. Christmas is a time to talk and listen to loved ones and do all the things you may not have time for when you are at work, so taking them to a movie or anywhere else could even prove to be a waste of quality time. Instead, organize a Christmas Eve chocolate and banana pancake cook up – it is almost free and universally appealing.
Seek a fresh perspective and make a change. Tackle tasks that usually drive you crazy during the holidays in a new, novel way. A fresh, innovative approach could make all the difference. For example, get your spouse and/or kids to help out if you dread having to send out holiday cards.
Set Differences Aside
Everyone has their quirks. A family member can upset you during this time of year, but try not to focus on it. Set aside any grievance until the time has come to discuss it. Everyone probably feels as stressed as you and everyone should try to be more tolerant and understanding. Shift your focus to something else and do not bring up past arguments, especially not at Christmas dinner.
Do Not Drink Excessively
Drink as much water, coconut water, or herbal teas as alcohol so your liver isn’t working overtime. This will help you stay hydrated, feel better and handle stressful situations more effectively. There’s another reason you shouldn’t “drink to elevation” – alcohol is very high in calories, and it can make you lose your inhibitions and overeat. If you’re a guy, you face an additional risk – liquor leads to a drop in testosterone in men, a hormone which helps burn fat. Drinking goes hand in hand with excessive eating. It relaxes us, putting us in a happy party mood and we consume things like cookies and potato chips, which we normally avoid, in high amounts. It is like they gravitate toward us, and the more we drink, the less we care. Then there’s the double hazard of piling up calories from the booze itself and from the foods we overindulge in. Fast forward to the morning after – we are hung over, bloated from all that oil/sugar/salt or all three, cursing ourselves, bemoaning our fates and wondering how the heck we are going to lose that weight and why we’ve taken our winter bodies so far when it isn’t even New Year’s yet.
Finally, for those of you who are planning on travelling for the holidays, this can be extremely, relentlessly stressful. If you must travel, travel smart. If you are travelling with children, put all their sleepwear and toothbrushes in one easy-to-reach bag. That way when you arrive wherever it is you’re headed, you won’t be fumbling through every suitcase before going to bed. If you’re traveling by car, check its belts, hoses, air pressure, fluid levels and windshield wipers. Check online or contact your auto club or traffic department regarding road closings or conditions. It is winter on the other side of the Equator, and road conditions can be very dangerous.
If you are travelling by plane, arrive at least an hour early for domestic flights and two to three hours ahead for international flights. Get someone to drive you to the airport to avoid parking issues. If you’re picking up someone from the airport, sign up online for a traveler care alert. Some Web sites will automatically contact you via phone or e-mail to give you updated flight information.
Christmas is a season of joy, fun and laughter. It is also a time to show extra care to family and friends and expect such in return. These tips will ensure the stress and anguish aren’t what you remember this Christmas for!
If you find yourself struggling with dealing with stress, contact us today on 07 5574 3888 or email [email protected] to discuss how Ashley our Gold Coast Psychologist can help you develop healthier food mindset and habits.Book Appointment Online