The lights are up, the trees are decorated and the smell of mulled wine is wafting around. The festive season is well and truly upon us. However, between buying, wrapping and sending gifts, the never-ending Christmas card list, the drinks parties, the special dinners, and the looming shadow of a turkey lunch coming ever closer, it’s no wonder that psychologists have demonstrated that festive holidays are one of the most stressful things we go experience on a regular basis!
Festive overwhelm is felt more by women than men (with 44% of women reporting extra stress, to 31% of men) and (depressingly) only 27% of women feel that they can allow themselves to relax during this period. It’s unsurprising, then, that we feel less than festively cheerful in the run up to the holidays.
But do you know what? That shouldn’t be the case. Christmas is a time to enjoy yourself, have fun and be with your loved ones. So I’ve put together a list to help you feel less anxious over the holiday period. Try them out, and remember it’s okay to relax – the world won’t end if your turkey isn’t as juicy as last year, or people have to make do with shop-bought mince pies!
1) Re-evaluate Your List
First of all, if you aren’t writing lists in your life, start doing this now! If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the things going on in your life, writing it down helps you put it all into perspective.
So, what do you need to do/buy/organise and what activities/parties/plans have you got going on this holiday season? Number the list in order of importance – be honest here, some of the things on your list are not vital. They’re just “would be nice tos”. Get rid of them. Feel the sense of relief from just cutting down a few items from your to-do list. *Ahhhhh*.
2) Learn To Say NO
We are all guilty of over-committing at Christmas. There are so many invitations flying at us – from drinks parties, to lunches, to mince pie gatherings – it can easy to find yourself spiralling out of control and into Christmas anxiety-mode. Just remember, it’s okay to not go to everything you’re invited to.
If you receive an invitation and are already feeling overwhelmed by your calendar, just thank them sincerely and say, “I’m so sorry, I already have plans that day”. Maybe you do have plans, maybe you don’t. They don’t need to know, and most people won’t pry and ask you what your plans are.
Don’t be tempted to fill up every evening and weekend with plans from here until New Year! Learn to say no, and your mind and body will thank you for it.
3) Remember What’s Important
What’s the real reason you’re celebrating Christmas/the holiday season? Write it down. It might be to spend time with your family; it might be catching up with friends; it might be taking a well-earned break from work. Whatever it is, don’t let your stress overtake that “why”.
Looking forward to spending time with your family – great! Are they going to mind if you haven’t had time to hand write their table places this year? No, because they probably feel the same way about what’s important during Christmas as you.
4) Being Overambitious?
Okay, I’m queen of this one! I’m noticing it particularly now we live abroad as well. We don’t come back to England that often, so when we do I want to see as many of my friends as possible. The problem is, there are too many people and not enough time. I’m learning slowly that I don’t have to try and do all the things but boy, it’s been a hard-learned lesson!
Are you trying to do too much? Or fit too many parties in? Are you feeling the pressure to bake 5 dozen mince pies? Stop! Will people really mind if you’ve bought your Christmas pudding? Will anyone notice if you haven’t hand-glittered their glasses? Think about it from their perspective. Would you notice? Would you mind? Probably not. Try to make life easy and simple for yourself, and leave more space for relaxing and actually enjoying that mince pie party!
5)Get Some Perspective
It’s easy to get caught up in your own life and business at this time of year, but it’s important to spare a thought for those less fortunate than us. Of course, your own feelings of anxiety are important, and what you are going through is tough but make sure you find a moment to practise gratitude for the things you have in your life.
If you want to make a bit of difference to someone’s life this Christmas, maybe you could spare £22.32 and give someone living on the streets a warm, safe place to stay this winter. You can donate to Crisis’ Christmas appeal here.
6) Cut The Christmas Card List
Ahh Christmas cards, love them or hate them they’re a massive part of Christmas traditions (at least in the UK) but they also seem to be the one that causes the most stress in my family. The never-ending list of people who need to receive them, the ones to be posted, the ones to be delivered by hand, the ones that need lengthy messages about what you’ve all been doing that year. No wonder it ends up being overwhelming!
Don’t spend hours agonising over Christmas cards. Make a list of the ones you really want to send and then call or write an email to the rest. People won’t mind – in fact, they might be grateful because it means they don’t have to return the card favour!
7) Schedule “You” Time
Christmas involves lots of travel, family and time spent with other people. It’s easy, then, to forget about yourself over the holiday period. Don’t! You’ll feel more overwhelmed and stressed if you feel like you haven’t got a spare moment to yourself, so do try to schedule in some time alone. Plus you’ll feel less exhausted and you’ll enjoy yourself more!
Try taking an Epsom salt bath. Stress decrease magnesium levels in the body and magnesium deficiency is linked to stress-related illnesses and chronic fatigue (among various other ailments). And Sulfates play an important role in forming brain tissue. Epsom salt is rich in magnesium and sulfate – both of which are easily absorbed by the skin. Therefore, the combination of this mineral-rich bath salt plus the warm, relaxing nature of baths themselves, is the perfect way to de-stress and fight that festive overwhelm.
8) Maintain Daily Rituals
Over the festive period, it’s easy to slip into the panic mode and drop everything in order to tick off your to-do list. But if you like to have a cup of tea in bed on a Saturday morning, or always go swimming on a Thursday evening. Do it. Don’t try and add in yet another Christmas chore into that space. They can 100% wait the length of time it takes for you to do your normal activities. It’ll make you feel more balanced, will leave you feeling less frazzled, and won’t mean you’re totally overwhelmed by the time Christmas day arrives!
9) Stay Hydrated
Here’s a little known fact for you. Dehydration can exacerbate anxiety symptoms – in fact in some cases it has been seen as a cause of anxiety, but mostly it has a negative impact on your mental health. When your body is dehydrated, it stops working efficiently (and remember, your brain is 85% water!) Studies have demonstrated our ability to concentrate steadily declines when the body suffers a water deficiency of just 1 to 2%! So keep on the agua.
Also, you’re likely to be drinking excessive amounts (or at least higher than usual) of alcohol over this period. You’ll feel the hangover affects less if you keep your water levels topped up. Now, go grab a glass!
10) Get Outside
Staying active over the Christmas period is a great way to beat the festive overwhelm. We all know the benefits of exercise: it helps energise you, boosts your mood and gets the blood and oxygen pumping. Don’t let holiday planning get in the way of your normal exercise regime. But more than that, make sure you get some fresh air with your exercise. Get out of the house, breathe some fresh air.
We spend an awful lot of time inside eating and drinking over the Christmas period and that in itself can feel a bit overwhelming and oppressive. So get your wellies on, and get outside for some brisk winter walks. Plus, it’ll make you feel less stuffed, post-turkey!
) 11) Check Your Breathing
Try to be aware of your breathing (you should do this anyway, but it’s especially important at this time of year). When we’re stressed, our fight/flight response kicks in and our breathing alters. Are you breathing too quickly? Too shallowly? Or not breathing at all? Not good!
Follow this breathing exercise whenever you are feeling particularly anxious or overwhelmed. It doesn’t take long and the results are significant.
12) Make Time For Fun
Okay, this one is possibly the most important one of all – particularly for frazzled parents/hosts. Allow yourself time to enjoy the celebrations. Don’t just sprint from one activity or meal to the next without taking a moment to have fun. Smiling and laughing significantly reduce the production of stress hormones. So, having fun will make you feel less anxious!
People want you to enjoy yourself too. Relax on the sofa, get out the board games, play charades. Enjoy spending time with the people you love, and appreciate the moments you share with them. Make it a Christmas to remember, not a Christmas to recover from!
And that’s it! 12 self-care ideas for the 12 days of Christmas 😉
Stress and anxiety can run really high at this time of year, so it’s all about being prepared and having some techniques to tackle the festive overwhelm. And don’t forget, if you really are struggling in whatever way, speak to someone about what’s troubling you. It might be a cliched saying but a problem really is a problem halved.
Right, I’m off to do some online Christmas shopping (so that I can avoid the horror of shopping centres at this time of year!) Wish me luck… 🙂
PS. Need a few more ideas for making more of “you” time? Sign up below and get your FREE self-care cheat sheet!