The lead up to Christmas and the holiday season can be a very busy time for many. Social get-togethers are on offer for every club, hobby, workplace, and circle of friends that we are involved in. At the same time, most people are still working full-time hours during this pre-Christmas period, shopping for gifts for loved ones, and planning upcoming holidays away. If you want to feel great this ‘silly season’ you might need a few Christmas stress relief tips up your sleeve!
Many people will perceive the added jobs they need to do at this time of year as quite stressful and overwhelming. This can have repercussions for the health of the body. The implications of high levels of stress can be wide-reaching from headaches to skin conditions, increased blood pressure, problems sleeping, fatigue, and decreased feelings of mental wellbeing to name a few.
Christmas stress relief tips
Before we get started, let me check that you know about the different types of stress. Eustress is a type of stress that feels good and gets us motivated. However, the bad type of stress is known as ‘distress’. This is the one that causes you to feel anxious and does not feel positive.
If you know you have a habit of suffering from ‘distress’, these Christmas stress relief tips should help you to feel calmer and more balanced. Here are my top tips for keeping Christmas holiday stress in check during this busy time of the year.
Plan ahead to reduce Christmas anxiety
Planning can go a long way towards helping to reduce feelings of stress. It means you’re less likely to forget things, leave things until the last minute, or feel overwhelmed about a huge to-do list. Put pen to paper and write down the things you need to remember, and when you plan to do them. Some things that you might need to plan for include:
- Recipes and a grocery shopping list. Don’t leave it until the last minute when shops are busy. Make sure you stock up enough to get you through any holiday days, when shops may be closed
- Gifts for loved ones. A lot of Christmas shopping stress can occur when things are left until the last minute, so allocate sufficient time to get it done
- Social engagements. See the “say no” section below and decide which invitations you will say yes to, and which you will decline. Social get-togethers may not feel as fun if you cram too many of them into your schedule, without sufficient time for rest
Minimise alcohol consumption
It’s a social time of the year when alcohol consumption increases for many. Be aware that alcohol creates MORE stress inside the body by making internal organs and systems work harder and can result in a restless sleep. If you choose to drink alcohol, be very mindful of how much and how often. Also ensure you drink sufficient extra water to keep your body hydrated.
The Ministry of Health in New Zealand recommends NO MORE THAN two standard drinks a day for women and no more than three for men PLUS at least two alcohol-free days every week. Bear in mind these are upper limits, and not guidelines for optimal health.
If you’ve had a bit of a binge on alcohol or food, read these tips to help you get back on track.
Breathe into your belly to reduce stress
Next on my list of Christmas stress relief tips is effective breathing. Stressed people will generally breathe in and out of the top part of the chest which can add to the stress response of the body. ‘Belly breathing’ is an effective way to decrease the stress hormones circulating in the body. It will also stimulate the lymphatic system, which assists in toxin and fluid removal from the body.
To practice belly breathing, sit comfortably, place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest, and close your eyes. As you take a long, slow breath in, you should first feel the hand on your belly rise as your tummy fills with air. Towards the end of the in-breath you will feel the hand on our chest rise as air fills this space. Then slowly release the breath and feel both hands lower back in.
Start with 5-10 belly breaths every day and gradually it should become the natural way for you to breathe. Any time you feel your stress levels rising, take a few deep belly breaths. The tension in your body and your stress hormone levels should start to lower immediately. You can read more about belly breathing in this blog post.
Say ‘no’ to reduce stress at Christmas time
Consider the things that are important to maintaining optimal health. These include factors such as exercise, eating plenty of whole foods, good quality sleep, ‘me’ time, and spending time with loved ones. Is the number of activities and tasks on your ‘to-do’ list is negatively impacting on these areas? If so decide what you can say ‘no’ to and offer time to yourself, to care for your well-being instead.
Switch off from the media to decrease Xmas stress
Whether it’s Christmas, or any other time of the year, consciously switching off from the media, and from social media can be a useful strategy for reducing stress levels.
When you switch off your devices for set periods over the Christmas season, you’ll free up time to spend quality time with family and friends. You may even want to use your extra time for some relaxing and creative festive season activities. Ideas include:
- Taking time to make Christmas cards, or write meaningful messages in them, during the days leading up to Christmas
- Spend time making decorations for the Christmas tree
- Baking cookies on Christmas eve
- Playing cards or board games on Christmas day, and sitting around the dinner table for extended periods
Exercise as a method for coping with Christmas stress (psst, don’t overdo it!)
Regular physical activity is so important for mental wellbeing and stress reduction. However, it’s important to maintain the right balance for your body when you are feeling stressed. It’s important to understand the relationship between cortisol (a stress hormone) and exercise so that you can make the best decision about the type, frequency, duration, and intensity of exercise that will serve you well.
If you’re experiencing festive season stress you might feel like you are too busy to exercise. The great news is that there are plenty of exercise options you can choose from when you have limited time.
Overall, aim to incorporate relaxing and fun forms of fitness into your festive season to help avoid layering more stress onto your body. Examples include:
- Breath focused physical activity, such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Pilates, or yoga
- Gentle to moderate aerobic activity such as walking, cycling, swimming, or jogging. It’s a bonus if you can get into nature to reap the additional benefits of doing so
- Any type of exercise that you think is fun! Some examples could include dancing, and group fitness sessions
Find out more about tips to stay on track with your fitness over the festive season.
More stress relief tips and festive season tips
If you’re ready for some more simple, easy and specific stress relief tips, try out these easy calming techniques for reducing stress.
Karen Degen is an EFT practitioner who helps people to remove emotional blocks. She does this to help people be successful in their endeavors. These could be health-related endeavors or goals in other areas of life. Here she shares a short article about what to do when you are really stressed.
For other Christmas related tips, check out these awesome gift ideas for fitness lovers.
What are your top Christmas stress relief tips? How do you manage the stress of Christmas? I’d love to hear about your ideas so please leave a comment in the box below!