Do you want to know how to deal with the extra stress of the Christmas holiday period? Are you like I used to be, stressed by all the extra pressures of Christmas? If you are or even if you recognise one or more of your family suffering and you’d like some simple tips and advice then this article is my present to you.
Christmas brings a lot of extra pressures;
- Financial: The cost seems to go up and up.
- Organising: What presents for who! Who to invite, where to be when, invitations to accept or reject. Ordering and buying food. Sending cards, decorations. Even what to watch on the telly and who sits where at the meal! You get the picture.
- Nutrition: Succumb to any of the extra temptations that litter offices, are on special in the supermarkets and abound at friends houses or parties etc.
- Exercise: Can be a challenge to fit this in.
- Relationships: You’re going to be spending time with family and who doesn’t have a family member that rubs them up the wrong way.
- Loneliness: For those with no family or isolated from them, the stress of loneliness over the Christmas period can be completely overwhelming.
- Modern Life: FOMO, 24/7 social media, non-stop marketing, etc.
What Can You Do
- Plan: Sounds simple and it is. It’s never too late, even if you are reading this post a few hours before the day. Plan as much as you can. Write it down. Do the shopping lists, the present lists, the TV schedule, the seating plan, the dates, etc. Doesn’t mean it’s fixed in stone but you no longer need to think about it, just follow the plan.
- Budget: If you can’t afford it, don’t do it. It’s only big corporate entities that will think ill of you and you aren’t beholden to them.
- Eat well and exercise: Avoid the sugar and do plenty of physical exercising. Keep hydrated and ensure you have plenty of Vitamins B and C as well as Zinc and Magnesium. Encourage your brain chemistry to be in good shape. It’s too difficult to avoid anxiety if you don’t have the right nutrition and health. If you’re not on a healthy food and exercise plan, then get on one and stick to it. Avoid caffeine and keep alcohol consumption down, let’s be reasonable most of us enjoy a drink at this time of year but don’t succumb to peer pressure and over do it. Again avoid the sugar, a good blood sugar level through the day is what you need, so don’t snack. For great advice on nutrition including for a healthy mind check out some other nutrition articles.
- Don’t say yes: You really don’t have to go to every party.
- Anti-Anxiety Tips: Follow the tips below to get control of your anxiety and prevent it from dominating you.
- Volunteer: Lonely, then volunteer. Join a local group that does work around the holiday period and offer your services. There is an immense amount of joy to be had from helping others and you don’t need any special skills beyond turning up. When you concentrate on helping others you simply stop thinking about your situation.
- Get help: You don’t need to do this on your own. Ask your family and friends to help. Engage with professionals. If you are in crisis then check out ruok.org.au in Australia, or find out your country’s helpline and call them. Read a book on anxiety, I thoroughly recommend Alistair Horscroft’s Beat Anxiety Now (I will Show You How Book 1), which explains anxiety in detail and gives very practical advice and processes to follow to conquer anxiety (you can always follow up with Alistair or one of his many excellent graduates hint I’m one of them).
- Have fun: Most of what happens is just good fun, so enjoy, but there will be things that could worry you. Do you remember the Christmas when Johnny fell off the sofa while showing off his new batman costume and landed on the coffee table which then got more legless than Gran? It’s funny now thinking back on it, isn’t it? When the unwanted thing happens this year don’t get upset think about how in the future you’ll look back and laugh and you’ll soon realise that you can laugh about it right now.
If you want a thorough explanation and detailed steps on how to overcome Anxiety then I highly recommend reading Alistair Horscroft’s Beat Anxiety Now (I will Show You How Book 1). The tips below have been borrowed from this book and I can attest that they are very effective.
Alistair recommends three steps to take back control;
- Acknowledge: Your brain is trying to help you but anxiety is just a false message. Acknowledge this and you’ve taken the required step one.
- Reset: Use one of many techniques detailed in the book to let the brain know that fear is no longer required as you are out of danger.
- Refocus: Teach you brain to connect with positive emotions and feelings. Alistair recommends keeping a diary of positive actions and events to remind you of your strengths.
That’s it, simple isn’t it. I’m not going to go through the details of any of the techniques as they are Alistair’s intellectual property but I will say there are techniques to release anxiety, to achieve instant calm, to become fearless as well as several others, each appropriate for different individuals and their specific way of doing anxiety.
Here’s one technique I have used very successfully with clients when dealing with a panic attack. This is also in Alistair’s book, which contains a lot more detail and explanation;
- Recognise that a panic attack is starting. Most people know only too well when this is happening.
- Identify the main sensation you are experiencing, e.g. tight chest.
- Talk to the feeling, say “Really is that all you’ve got. Come on give it to me. Everything, all of it”
- Repeat this goading out loud or in your head.
- Allow the feelings to build up and flood you.
- Continue to goad “Really is that it? Come on I want all the panic you’ve got”
- Notice the feelings and allow them to wash over and through you, don’t attempt to control them
- Notice they quickly dissipate.
- Notice how in control you now are!
Need Help Planning
We all have our favourite ways of recording and working with plans so use your favourite. When setting any goal ask yourself a set of questions like those below and then make sure your plan covers off the gaps. Note: the questions below relate to Christmas plans but I’m sure you can see how to adapt them for any goal.
Goal: Have a great Christmas Day;
- Environment: Where are we going to be? Is there enough space? Where will we have the meal, open presents, meet friends, etc? Do we have enough chairs, plates, glasses, etc? How much fridge/freezer space do we have? Etc.
- Behaviours: What do we need to do to have a great day? My answers are, which may be different to yours, cook good food, pour plenty of drinks, organise all the spaces, be a great host, etc.
- Capabilities: Do I have the skills I need to cook, host, make cocktails, organise spaces, etc? If not how do I get them? Google and YouTube are your friends.
- Values: If I’m going to have a great Christmas Day what has to be important to me? For me, again yours may be different, I have to put the happiness of my kids first. So when I’m worrying about whether to do A or B I simply need to remind myself to do whichever makes the kids happiest. If something else is important to you make sure you know what.
- Beliefs: “I can cook a Christmas meal”, “I believe my kids will have a great day because I can do it”. “Whether you think you can, or you think you can‘t—you‘re right” Henry Ford. Do you believe? If not you need to change your mindset. Changing your beliefs about yourself are easier than you think, Santa!
- Identity: Who do I need to be? I need to be the energetic party host. I’m going to watch some energetic party hosts and do that. Who do you need to be?
- Vision: Get spiritual. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not into religion, but I’m not against anyone that is and I am spiritual. What’s the greater good for having a great Christmas Day? Why do it? If you’re a Christain then I shouldn’t need to let you know, but if you’re not then what? For me, it’s about joy. It puts a smile on my family’s faces, including mine, and that’s a good enough why for me. Work it out and think about it, if nothing else it will motivate.
Get those planners out and get busy. Find the gaps and fill them. You’ve still got plenty of time. And if you’re still feeling anxious follow the tips and notice how that changes. Remember you can always get in contact.