Christmas Stress Relief
Christmas can be a very stressful time of year. For many the Christmas holiday period is a mass of complex social interactions with family or relatives, some of whom you may rather not see.
There could be expectations, or at least perceived expectations, to create a ‘wonderful Christmas’ with presents and perhaps the most important meal of the year.
Know When to Stop
Decide when you will stop your Christmas preparations and start to relax and enjoy the holiday. Work towards and try to stick to this goal, even if it is in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve. Remember that Christmas is your holiday too.
Christmas Day & Beyond
Keep Calm & Practice Breathing
Play some relaxing music, perhaps seasonal carols, and burn some scented candles, incense or aromatherapy oil. Take a relaxing hot bath to unwind. When we’re stressed our heart beat increases and our breathing shallows, it’s all part of the fight or flight reaction. Work on reversing this process and take time to breathe deeply.
Breathe in deeply through your nose, hold for 15 or 20 seconds and then breathe slowly out through your mouth, repeat for a few minutes to instantly help reduce stressful feelings.
If there is someone coming to dinner that you dislike, avoid sitting opposite them and instead seat them to one side and opposite somebody who they get on with better. Invite a few more reasonable people along as it will help dilute any stress caused by relatives. It’s a case of the more the merrier!
Go For Turkey
If you are planning on cooking a bird then turkey or pheasant are good choices. They both contain tryptophan which our bodies use to make serotonin, a powerful brain-calming chemical.
Have Decaffeinated Coffee
When your body is under stress it produces cortisol which prepares you for ‘fight or flight’ situations. Caffeine does too…AVOID IT! Offer everybody decaffeinated coffee and tea, or herbal tea alternatives, since this will help keep the stress levels down and has the added bonus that people may fall asleep after dinner!
Have a 'Great Escape' Plan!
It's a good idea to have some pre-planned excuses to escape from proceedings if they get too stressful.
Be imaginative and use things such as leaving the room to make a phone-call to a friend or perhaps checking on a neighbor. Just by having planned a couple of escape routes you’ll probably feel less stressed anyway but actually leaving the situation, even for 10 minutes, will help clear your mind and relax you.
Lack of sleep can make you feel irritable and more prone to feeling stressed.
Christmas often means late nights and early mornings, especially if children are involved, so your normal sleep routine may be reduced. In the northern hemisphere the days are short and with less natural light we produce more melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate our body clock and sleep-wake cycle. Unless we can sleep, more melatonin means we are more likely to feel tired, grumpy stressed
Eating lots of rich foods and drinking alcohol can also disturb your sleep, not to mention Santa coming down the chimney in the middle of the night!
Make Time for Exercise
Christmas is, for many, a time of excessive eating and drinking and exercise can be easily overlooked. Diets and gym memberships are particularly popular in January! Exercise is a great way to reduce stress as it burns off hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and helps produce mood-enhancing endorphins. Try going for a walk after dinner as the fresh air and exercise will lift your mood and make you feel better.
Avoid Excessive Alcohol
Most de-stressing articles will tell you to avoid alcohol altogether but, let’s be realistic, it is Christmas! However, do avoid excessive alcohol as it dehydrates your body and makes your liver work overtime to process it, alcohol can also hinder quality sleep.
Drink as much water or juice as alcohol as this will help you to stay hydrated, feel better and therefore cope better with stressful situations. You'll also feel better on Boxing Day.
Remember it’s your Christmas too so try to relax and have fun, laugh and be merry. If you do find others around you difficult then try to rise above the situation. If things don’t go to plan try not to worry too much, instead laugh about them and make them into fun memories that you can talk about during Christmases to come. "Remember that time Mum set fire to the sprouts!".