30 November 2018
Love it or loathe it, there is no avoiding Christmas. As some of us count down with excitement to the big day, others are filled with feelings of dread. The extra commitments, expectations and expense all cause Christmas stress.
For weeks, we are bombarded with images of perfect families having perfect Christmases. While this is often far from the reality for most of us, we still feel under pressure to create the perfect Christmas. We try to buy the best presents, create the most inviting meals and make it a day to remember; all the while imagining the perfect Instagram picture.
People dealing with bereavement, divorce or job losses at Christmas can feel more isolated and alone by the pressure to be happy at this time of year. For those who have suffered a loss over Christmas, the celebrations can act as a painful reminder.
A survey commissioned by the National Accident Helpline in December 2015 found 27% of us feel more stressed during the festive period, rising to 32% amongst women.
For more on coping with stress, have a look at Fight or Flight – how your body respond’s to stress.
There are ways to make Christmas less stressful. When I work with clients struggling with Christmas stress, we look at practical ways to avoid being overwhelmed.
Here are some strategies for taking the stress out of Christmas.
Mindful breathing can help if you are feeling overloaded with Christmas stress. Put aside ten minutes a day to focus on your breathing. Find somewhere comfortable to sit and concentrate on breathing in and breathing out. Try and think only about the present moment. Notice what is happening in each instant. If your mind wanders to the past or future, just allow your thoughts to come and go without getting caught up in them. Keep bringing your attention back to your breathing.
Trying to achieve the unachievable can leave you feeling guilty, frustrated and disheartened. Allowing your Christmas to be less than perfect, can immediately make it more enjoyable. Think about what you value about Christmas and focus on that. Use your values as the basis for your Christmas rather than other people’s idea of how it should be.
Avoid doing the same as you do every year. You could change what you eat on Christmas day, spend the day with friends or go on holiday. This will help you to distance from unhappy memories and give you a chance to establish new traditions.
A little bit of planning can help to avoid a stressful last-minute rush. Give yourself a time budget for shopping, decorations and other preparations. Make sure you stick to it so you have time for other activities. Have a financial budget too, so you’re not facing money worries in January.
Remember if it all gets too much, you can give yourself a break. Prepare some excuses so you can escape for a while if the need arises. You could phone a friend, a walk or escape to the bathroom for five minutes of deep breathing. Knowing you can escape from the situation, can immediately make it feel easier. Being able to leave, even if it is for five or ten minutes, can help you to let go, clear your mind and feel more relaxed.
Enjoy yourself. It is your Christmas too so try and enjoy it.
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