Do you spend December running around from one Christmas celebration to the next? Stressing about Christmas decorations and gifts? Or worrying about the inevitable eight extra pounds of fat on your body because of all the chocolate, wine and delicious food? Well, you're not alone. For many people, Christmas can be a very stressful time of year. Some people even rate Christmas as being more stressful than divorce or being burgled.
Luckily, we can help you. Use these ten tips for a stress-free Christmas and make the season even more enjoyable.
1. Plan ahead and don't be afraid to ask for help
Make a list of the things you need to do for Christmas – and make it today rather than tomorrow. Try to prioritise the jobs on your list. Maybe you can do some in advance. Maybe you can cancel some that aren't that important. Make your list as detailed as possible. This, will make it easier for you when you work through it.
Delegate responsibilities to other family members. This will not only reduce your workload, but a lot of guests prefer to take on small tasks instead of standing around while you try to do everything yourself.
2. Drop some of the ritual
Maybe you have a family ritual of going to the theatre to see a Christmas show or going to a Christmas concert. This might have been a very nice tradition before you had kids, but now it's a stressful event because your kids are complaining.
Of course it's nice to have some family traditions, but for the kids it's not so much about the event itself but more about spending time together. So try dropping high-stress rituals in favour of something more relaxing - like a stay-at-home day watching Christmas movies and eating cookies.
3. Online shopping is a lifesaver
High street shopping in December can be very stressful. And even though local shopping is a good thing, let's face it, running around with hundreds of other stressed people trying to find the perfect Christmas gift isn't funny.
So just avoid these stress triggers and buy your Christmas gifts and food items online. Not only will it save you time, and probably money, you can do it from the comfort of your own home and at whatever time of day suits you best.
4. Cut back on the caffeine
When your body is under stress, it produces the hormone cortisol, which prepares you for a kind of fight or flight. And caffeine does exactly the same thing. So if you're stressed and your body is already producing a bit too much cortisol, you definitely don't need any more.
So keep your daily coffee intake no more than two cups, or switch to decaffeinated coffee or herbal tea.
5. Go for a walk and relax
Studies have found that outdoor exercise is more enjoyable than doing the same activity indoors. A walk outside will lift your mood after just five minutes. Go for a family stroll after dinner, or try setting your alarm clock 20 minutes earlier in the morning and go for a brisk walk.
Take time to relax. Play some soothing music, light some scented candles or take a relaxing bath to unwind. Or what about trying aromatherapy? Essential oils are known to aid relaxation and stress relief. Try camomile, jasmine or lavender, for example.
It may sound very basic, but remember to breathe. When we're stressed, our heart beat increases and our breathing shallows – so try to reverse this. Make sure you spend a couple of minutes every day focusing on your breathing. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose, letting the air fill up your stomach. Hold for 15-20 seconds and then breathe out through your mouth slowly. Imagine you have a lit candle in front of you that you must n't blow out. Repeat five times.
7. Exercise releases endorphins
When they're busy, a lot of people tend to drop exercise because they feel they don’t have the time for it. But this is a very bad idea. Moderate exercise is a very good way to reduce stress. It burns off hormones like cortisol and adrenaline and stimulate the release of mood-enhancing endorphin. This makes you feel better and more relaxed.
Physical activity also makes you sleep better, and a good night’s sleep will improve your overall well-being and can reduce stress.
8. Learn to say no
Prioritise your chores and don’t add many things to your “to-do” list. Try being assertive. Say no when you have no more room on your list – even if the task looks like a nice one.
You only have X amount of time available, so if you add a new chore to your list you might have to delete another.
9. Avoid alcohol and cut back on sugar
As you might already know, alcohol is'nt a very good idea if you're stressed. One glass of wine at the Christmas party might be OK, but make sure you stay hydrated and drink a lot of water.
Too much sugar can cause your blood sugar levels to increase too much, leaving you feeling more anxious and less able to handle stress. It will also make you more likely to put on a few extra pounds. So reduce your overall sugar intake. Try eating just one cookie instead of five, or take one chocolate instead of a handful. You could also go for the no-added-sugar options, or shift switch to dark chocolate (minimum 70 per cent cocoa) instead of the milk version.
10. Lower your expectations and have fun
Forget the idea of the perfect Christmas. Just let go of it and remember that not everything has to be perfect. Learn to use your strengths and accept your weaknesses. And don’t set yourself unrealistic goals.
It's Christmas after all. So even though it's often easier said than done, try not to worry too much. Spend time with people who make you laugh, watch a comedy or do something fun. Take a deep breath and savour the moment - and forget about all those tasks still left on your to-do list.
Did you know?
- If you're worried about your stress levels or those of somebody you know, you should always seek professional help from a doctor or counsellor. Stress left untreated can be dangerous to your health and well-being
- Lavender oil can help to relieve headaches and promote good sleep?
- Our bodies are built for a 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. sleep pattern? The most regenerative sleep occurs between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m
- Blueberries help you to fight stress? The antioxidants and phytonutrients found in berries help to improve your body’s response to stress and fight stress-related free radicals