surviving and thriving through the festive season
It’s known as the season to be jolly, but for many of us, Christmas is often the most stressful time of the year.
Forget the tinsel and eggnog, the rump end of December is notable globally as a time of stress, pressure and conflict for many. Or “Eat, drink and be worried,” as The Guardian put it.
A lack of time and money, credit card debt and the pressure of gift giving can often contribute to stress during the holiday season. Throw in family issues, loneliness, workload (the turkey isn’t going to cook itself!) and a higher than usual alcohol consumption and it’s easy to see how tempers can melt faster than a scorched almond left out in the December sun.
While the adverse physical impacts of stress are well known – from high blood pressure and diabetes to obesity – research has also shown an increase in heart attacks and heart-related deaths during the festive season, which may be due to stress, heavy alcohol consumption, a fatty diet or all three.
This year could be even more stressful, thanks to job losses, lock-downs, closed borders and the shadow of a global pandemic still hovering above us.
So what can we do to help make Christmas 2020 a good one? Experts suggest setting realistic expectations, including planning how to manage feelings of anxiety or depression, as well avoiding known triggers (if, for example, your family has a history of arguing over a certain topic, steer well clear of it).
If it’s finances causing you stress, experts recommend planning ways to reduce spending such as setting a budget and sticking to it, finding low cost ways to have fun (eg a BYO barbie instead of a traditional lunch) and suggesting your family only buy gifts for the kids.
And let’s not forget that old chestnut about staying healthy by eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep.
There’s plenty of time now to put plans in place to help you survive – and thrive – during the festive season.
An early Merry Christmas!
Our top THREE tips:
1. Be realistic
There can be a lot of pressure to meet others’ expectations at this time of year. If you’re finding this a challenge, consider how realistic the expectations are, and what won’t matter in three months’ time. To help you with this, you could use the bucket idea. On a piece of paper draw three buckets. Write down what you can realistically achieve (bucket 1), what could you maybe achieve or share with someone else (bucket 2), and what is unrealistic and not worth the stress (bucket 3). Place the things that are worrying you in each bucket and work out your plan from there. Hopefully, this activity will lighten the load.
2. Check-in on yourself
Stress can have a sneaky way of creeping up when life is busy. Take the opportunity, when you can, to check in with how you’re going. A useful measure can be the battery idea: Are you fully charged and ready to go (green), feeling at half-charge and could do with a bit of a recharge (orange), or is your battery depleted and you need to dip into your self-care toolkit (red). Depending on how you’re going, make a plan for how you can ‘get to green’.
3. Focus on experiences
Some of the things we remember the most are special moments – the memories, the laughs, and the chance to connect with others. If you can, make time to catch up with people who ‘fill your cup’ and make you feel good about life. They might be people who are family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, or from local community groups. We may be apart this year, but in many ways – we’ve never been closer as we share this strange year together. Creating shared experiences can bring us closer.