'Tis the season to be jolly... which, while exciting and full of special moments, can in itself be an awful lot of pressure! Throw in an endless to-do list, a strained bank balance and Great Aunt Dotty speaking her mind after one too many sherries, and suddenly festive cheer can end up as an extra tick on the to-do list.
In fact, statistics show that up to 69 percent of people are stressed by the feeling of having a “lack of time” during the festive period with presents to buy, food to cook and people to host. As Christmas is looking like it may be a little different this year, there's all the more reason to put some contingency plans in place for your wellbeing.
It's been a funny old year and if anything, we all need to harness the joy of Christmas time, whatever that looks like now. Although feelings of disappointment, anxiety and frustration may be familiar by now after national lockdowns and a steady stream of bad news, let's use the festive season as a time to focus on what makes us feel good. Whether this is a long bath, an hour to get stuck into that book or a good old (virtual) catch-up with a friend over a cuppa, our wellbeing depends on us leaning into those small acts of self care.
Not sure where to start? We've got you covered.
Make time for yourself
We know, what a luxury that sounds. In between children, work, a social life and the day-to-day running of the house, carving out some time to do something that makes you feel good can feel self-indulgent. But if we put aside those guilty inclinations we can reap the rewards, including lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) which means a stronger immune system and a healthier disposition.
Whether it's a five-minute cup of tea, a half hour walk or an hour's soak in the tub, you'll feel much more ready to take on anything afterwards.
Get enough sleep
Getting enough shut-eye is just one of the side effects of a stressful year and Christmas is no different. A recent study by Eve Sleep found that 27% of women lose sleep because of festive stress, leading to a weakened immune system and a compromised ability to handle day-to-day activities and challenges.
If you're struggling to switch off, try to put all electronic devices away an hour or two before bed, take a magnesium-filled bath with a good book and take ten-minutes to meditate before you drift off. We love the 7/11 breathing technique of breathing in for seven counts and out for 11.
There's a reason why exercise has been encouraged throughout Covid-19 by health professionals and government alike. By getting your heart rate up you release feel-good endorphins which boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy levels. And if that wasn't enough, just a daily walk, jog or yoga practice is enough to reduce your risk of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Make a plan
The festive season can be overwhelming. With gifts to buy, work to tie up and the house to clean, it can feel like there's a big count-down clock over your head as the year draws to a close. By making a daily plan and breaking that unachievable to-do list into small, bite-size tasks, suddenly it all seems much more manageable.
Let go of expectations
Everything from TV ads, Instagram perfection and even our favourite rom coms can portray the festive season in all its idealistic glory. While all of these images add to the atmosphere of Christmas, they also bury themselves in our subconscious, making anything less a disappointment.
But, we've got news for you – it's not real. Even the seemingly accurate social media platforms only show the highlights of someone life – they don't reveal the burnt turkey, family squabbles and disappointing gifts. So, give yourself a break, let go of perfection and enjoy what comes, rather than focusing on what doesn't meet your expectations.
Learn to say 'no'
“Sure, I can host this year”, “yes, of course I can do your shopping for you”, “I'd love to work overtime”. Sound familiar? The best gift you can give yourself this festive season is to learn when to say 'no'. Although it's nice to volunteer and embrace the Christmas spirit, biting off more than you can chew will leave you stressed, exhausted and ready to throw in the towel come Boxing Day.
Instead, let yourself off the hook by politely declining, delegating to others or suggesting alternative options to help that don't tie you into another obligation. Your wellbeing will thank you for it. Merry Christmas!
Article by Jessica Harris
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