Christmas can act like a magnifying glass on our life, an intense time that brings a unique set of pressures and expectations. We can feel the financial pressure to provide more than we can afford, social pressure to spend more time with friends and family than at any other time of the year. We often eat more, drink more and perhaps sleep less than usual.
The closing of the year can also turn our thoughts to reflection, when we notice which of our plans and hopes were or weren’t met, 365 days distilled down to a single judgement of who we are and what we’ve done.
Place that all together and it sounds overwhelming, right?
So how can we look after ourselves during this time? Here are some easy ideas that can help make your Christmas less stressful and more manageable.
Breathe. This sounds obvious! But at times of stress our breathing pattern changes and our body doesn’t get what it needs. This can lead to other bodily symptoms such as pains in our chest and headaches, which can be distressing and add to our sense of stress.
7/11 breathing sends messages to our autonomic nervous system to calm, that all is well. To do 7/11 breathing, breathe in for a count of seven and breathe out for a count of eleven (or however long feels comfortable- you could do 5/8 breathing). Do this for a few minutes and see how you are feeling, carry on if you want to.
Take 5. Even in our busiest times, we can afford 5 minutes to stop and have a quiet cuppa.
Be mindful. Like take 5, this is an easy way to have a break from what’s going on around you and take some time for yourself. Easy mindful exercises can be watching the lights on your Christmas tree, watching the Great British weather as it changes, or tensing and relaxing your body – starting at your toes and working your way up.
Get outside. Part of the reason we can experience low mood over winter is that we are exposed to less sunlight, which is essential for our bodies to produce chemicals that can help boost our mood. The lack of sunlight also inhibits our body’s internal clock. Getting outside for even just a short amount of time can help boost your mood.
Plan your happiness. Having a plan about what feels OK for you (in terms of entertaining or visiting, financial commitments etc) means that you are prepared when other people begin to talk about this. You are less likely to agree to something that isn’t OK for you and you are in a great position to negotiate.
If you can give yourself the gift of self-care this festive season, it will set you on a healthier and hopefully happier path for 2018.