We all want to experience a stress free Christmas. Holidays are meant to be fun and a time well spent with family. The holiday season is undoubtedly my very favorite time of year, where we get to spend time with loved ones, enjoy opening presents and eating grandmas delicious home baked pie. But we all know the feeling of dread when we wake up on a holiday morning, the kids are bouncing off the walls, lunch needs to get started, the in-laws are arriving in a few hours and there is the pressure to impress.
Types of stress
Before we jump in and talk about your holiday anxiety lets discuss the different types of stress we experience. The festive period will always bring about feelings of frustration, guilt and anxiety. These are normal. When we are surrounded by the constant barrage from the media telling us to make sure our holidays are perfect, it can feel overwhelming. Add this to relationship stress and you may have a small nervous breakdown.
Holidays highlight the need to be with family. The truth is sometimes we don’t have a family to spend time with or in some cases we DON’T want to spend time with our family.
Often we neglect to talk about the spiritual stress that creeps in during the holidays. Sometimes you experience a crisis of values. We each experience the meaning and purpose of the holidays differently, and yet we are often forced by family and ourselves to make this period a significant one – when all we feel is the opposite. How can we navigate this emotional turmoil in such a way that we enjoy and stay calm over the holidays?
What Are The Four Sources Of Stress?
- Environmental stress – Toxins, pollution, noise, traffic, weather, usually out of our control.
- Social stress – Interpersonal relationships. Work, finance, family and loved ones.
- Physical stress – Poor health and nutrition, lack of sleep, injury, aging, drugs and alcohol.
- Emotional stress – Unhealthy thoughts, emotions and feelings.
Identify the sources of stress
Take some time to sit down and think about why you are feeling stressed. If you are going to get through the holidays with your head held high do a little homework. Often the sources of stress can be a simple one to manage, and may not be directly linked to your emotions. Is your husband driving you mad? Are you very anxious about Christmas dinner? Do you feel like you are a ticking time bomb?
When was the last time you went for a health check up? Sometimes when are bodies are run down we tend to react to stress easier. Are there any conversations you can have with loved ones now, that will save the holiday later? Are you going through financial difficulties and are worried that you wont afford your holiday dinner? If this is the case, why not talk to someone about it. Share the financial load and instead of buying presents for everyone, arrange a secret Santa? Remember what the holidays are truly for?
Stop holiday stress with these anti-stress strategies
Now you probably think I am going to tell you to stop and slow down, but this is not necessarily the case. Holidays can be a lot of fun, in fact some of my best memories are around the holidays. When I look back, the memories that stand out, are the moments where I was fully immersed in the holiday experience. Being completely captivated in a moment is the foundation of mindfulness practice, mindfulness is not about reaching serenity, or reaching some zen state of mind.
So before you grab that mimosa…I just want to share some handy tips that have helped me enjoy the holidays more. Take a look here:
1. Don’t say yes to everything
I have been there – trying to juggle my hectic schedule, over loaded diary, the kids and family all at the same time – This is enough to make anyone feel like they are going crazy. Sometimes I feel like a headless chicken running from shop to shop, cooking, cleaning and decorating my home to make sure my family and I have a good holiday season.
Being mindful means knowing when to take a break
It does not have to be complicated, something as simple as having a cup of tea in your own company and enjoying a good meal with a loved one, can go a long way to stopping the stress.
2. Say NO to perfection
How often have you worked yourself up, trying to make sure everything was just “right” for the holidays. I spent hours planning the way things looked, tasted, and had to be a certain way; and if I have to be honest with myself, I never felt things were good enough no matter how hard I tried. Looking back, one of the best memories I have over the Christmas period is when things didn’t go the way I had planned.
One particular year nothing worked out, the food, the guests, the venue – it all blew up in my face. Once I had accepted defeat, I just sat back, laughed at the situation, and my family and I ended up having the most amazing time. This has taught me one valuable lesson. Perfection is not possible. So take a step back and smell the roses. Reflect on what really matters. You’ve tried your best, now enjoy the fruits of your labor.
3. Stick to your normal routine – as far as possible of course 🙂
During the holidays we all tend to over indulge and fall of the “health” wagon. How many times have you called yourself fat or gross, after eating a delicious meal during this period? This type of dialogue only leads to self-deprecation and self-loathing. One of the best strategies I have found, that keep me feeling good and allow me to enjoy all the holidays have to offer -guilt free, is by trying not to disrupt my normal routine. I encourage everyone to continue exercising, meditating, doing yoga/pilates, and to focus on eating mindfully.
4. Engage in gratitude
Family stress is a reality during the holiday season. We all have that one uncle, parent or sibling, that no matter how much we try, always brings out the worst in us. I say stand back and try not add fuel to the fire. Take the time to be grateful instead.
Research has shown that gratitude changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps the gray matter functioning, and makes us healthier and happier. Focus on being more compassionate toward others, and understand most people are stressed during this time of year. As a result you will feel more peaceful and less reactive, giving you time to enjoy the season with your loved ones.
5. Just breathe
The most important tool in meditation is breathing.
It is simple and the most effective strategy when you are feeling overwhelmed. Controlled breathing takes you out of the situation, and all the stress that comes along with it, and back into a moment where you can respond rather than react.
So when you find you’ve burnt the turkey, or your toddler has decided to eat the butter, or the cat has annihilated the Christmas Tree – Take a moment to just breathe. After all, these are the memories that stick with us forever.
6. Make a to-do list
If you are anything like me then you tend to think about 100 things at once. This is counterproductive. When you write down all the things that need to be done it puts things into perspective and makes your job a lot easier.
Writing a to-do list will help you to plan accordingly and helps you to remember what needs to be done and is a great way to organize what needs to be completed in time for Christmas. The rush of the holidays can often cause us to forget things, important things. I’ve also found a to-do list helps me to be a bit more realistic about my Christmas goals.
7. Stick to your budget
Over spending during the holidays is one of my biggest sources of stress. One of the first things on your to-do list should be making a Christmas budget.
Here are a few common expenses you might have
- Christmas tree
- Travel expenses
- Entertaining (food and drink)
- Gifts and presents
- Special holiday clothing
- Events and parties
Some useful budget cut tips to keep you saving over the holiday season
- Secret Santa
- Search for online coupons and deals throughout the year
- Instead of hosting a lavish Christmas party get people together for a potluck
- Check out pinterest for DIY decor and homemade gift ideas
- Make Christmas a time of giving, spending time with loved ones and not about presents or materialism.
Here is a cute little animation that sums up what my article is about
How Do I Relax On Christmas Eve?
I use to spend Christmas eve in a state of panic. I was constantly worrying whether or not the next day was going to go as planned. Did I have everything I needed to make this day special. The kids would usually drive me mad with their excitement and could never get to sleep. The night before Christmas was something I use to dread.
After trying out a few of the above strategies I’ve managed to get my stress and panic under control. Now my Christmas eve is spent relaxing with my family and pets. Below are a few tips and tricks to help everyone relax and enjoy the evening.
- Make sure you tire the kids out during the day.
- Don’t let the kids play any electronics before bed.
- Rather watch a Christmas movie or two with the whole family or read some good books.
- Have a nice warm drink but avoid caffeine.
- Have a bath it will help you relax.
- Try and get to bed early, make it feel like a normal night.
Hopefully this article will help you to have a relaxed and stress free Christmas. Let us know if you have any other tips and tricks for this time of year.