December can be a stressful time for many different reasons. The shops are crowded, the weather is often miserable and shortening days and lengthening nights make us feel as though we’re constantly running to keep up with the demands placed upon us.
This year the credit crunch will most certainly add to the stress of the festive season for many of us. The pressure to meet the expectations of your family and create a special and memorable Christmas on a reduced budget will be challenging to say the least.
Then of course there’s the drain on our bodies created by the party season. This can become an ‘endurance test’, where one office party or social gathering follows another in an endless cycle of late nights and subsequent hangovers.
Christmas can be a sad and difficult for those who are single, married, lonely, sick or bereaved, but also for those who are ostensibly happy. Even if we have a partner we can be lonely or unhappy, and these feelings can become magnified – putting pressure on already strained relationships.
With all these (often conflicting) pressures, it’s hardly surprising that worrying about Christmas can have an adverse effect on our health. Stress and anxiety are well known for their ability to depress our immune system, leaving us susceptible to colds and other minor ailments. Add to this the change in diet resulting from eating too many rich or fatty foods, too much alcohol and too little exercise, and it’s easy to see why Christmas is a time when you really need to make that extra effort to look after yourself!
Top 12 festive stress-busters
1. Plan the festive season well in advance – especially the shopping and cooking. The holiday should be fun – not a trial.
2. Set yourself a budget and stick to it. Remember it’s the thought that counts not the cost or size of the gift.
3. Make a list of gifts you really want to buy, and get the satisfaction of ticking them off as you go.
4. Wrap the presents as you buy them, rather than leaving them all until the last minute.
5. If you hate crowded shops and queuing, try shopping out of hours when stores are open late, or take advantage of the opportunities for shopping on the internet. Focus on the pleasure your gifts will bring, rather than the hassle of buying them.
6. Make some time for yourself over the holiday. Read a book you’ve been meaning to read, or buy a relaxation tape, switch off from the festive atmosphere and think about your personal wellbeing.
7. At least once a day, think about all the good things in your life, instead of the ‘not so good’. Hold that thought for the day and you may even catch yourself smiling!
8. Make time for other people. Visit an elderly relative or the person next door, track down a long-lost friend, or give up some time to help a charity or your local community. They will benefit – and so will you.
9. If you’re feeling lonely, make a phone call to a friend or even someone you don’t know (such as the Samaritans who are on call 24 hours a day). Value the time for reconnecting with your family and friends
10. With the pressures of the materialistic society, remember that the best things in life are free. The scent of frost , the smoke from a log fire … a walk in the park as the light fails …
11. Don’t magnify your problems by thinking that everyone else is having a better time than you are. The chances are they are not!
12. Spread a little happiness around. Just a few kind words to a loved one or those two magic words “Thank you” could just make all the difference to someone else and help their stress melt away.
Keep these tips close to hand so that you can show stress who’s boss!