Banish Festive stress with some simple holistic mind and body tricks, follow my 5 top tips to change how you feel this Christmas, keeping you stress-free and happy over the holidays.
Christmas can be one of the most stressful times of the year. Even if the growing to do list of shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning and running around doesn’t get you down, family coming to stay, or feeling the pressure to host the perfect Christmas, just might.
While Christmas might be the season of good cheer, some people might find the fun and festivities difficult to bear. Being alone on Christmas Day can cause grief or anxiety, while some people might be facing the festivities after losing someone close or on the back of a serious breakup.
Although a little day to day stress can be good for you, too much can cause anxiety, sleeplessness, headaches or even stomach pains. Longer term this can affect our immune system, blood pressure or cause tension pain in various parts of the body, so no wonder we are always exhausted and ill after Christmas.
My simple tips can help you feel better about yourself, and therefore better about Christmas, no matter what your situation – irritating mother-in-law’s and burnt roast potatoes included! Why not give it a try?
1. Focus on the positive
If you are expecting Christmas to be a miserable affair, then it probably will be.
Your reality is based on what you think about most of the time, so if you are focusing on being single, lack of money to buy gifts, the amount of stuff you need to get done, or the irritating habits of your close family, that’s all your mind will see.
Instead, you need to focus on the good points, positive things in your life and solutions. At first, you may find this hard, but as you re-train the brain to look for the positives, it will start to become more natural, I promise.
Being positive doesn’t mean you have to pretend life is all rosy, it just means that you approach unpleasantness more positively and productively. You think the best is going to happen, not the worst.
Throughout my life, I have realised that positive things in life can come from adverse situations and we can learn something about ourselves in the process. It doesn't matter if you burnt the roast carrots, Christmas is all about family. If you forgot the stuffing, no one would notice. Missed someone off the Christmas card list, then send them a thoughtful text message instead.
2 Develop an attitude of gratitude
Gratitude is many things to many people. It’s appreciation, looking on the bright side, thanking someone in your life. It’s not taking things for granted, savouring the moment and being present. For me, it can be something as simple as appreciating good food, good health, and a big hug from friends and family. Whatever it is to you, Christmas is a great time to practice gratitude.
Saying thank you for something or someone that is very special to you, and saying it wholeheartedly, uplifts you and helps you feel more upbeat.
Gratitude is an antidote to negative emotion; it combats worry, stress, envy and so much more. Those who are more grateful are happier, more energetic, more hopeful and report more positive emotions. At this time of year, some of us need to embrace happiness more, be grateful for what we have and take a more positive outlook on the world. It is a lot more than just saying “thank you”.
Perhaps you can be grateful for having a family, for your children’s health or for the fact they have a home at Christmas? But just even being thankful for the small things can make a big difference.
3 Use those affirmations
Have you ever said to yourself before a night out, ‘tonight is going to be a good night’, and it turned out to be a great night? Well, that was an affirmation. An affirmation is a statement (positive or negative) that you either say out loud or mentally to yourself.
For example: • I am a confident and happy person • I live in a loving and supportive Universe • I like myself, I love my life, I am supported.
If you frequently say or think positive affirmations (with feeling and sincerity), they will become self-fulfilling prophecies, especially at Christmas time.
Writing your affirmations on post-it notes to stick around the house, or having them as your computer screensaver, will act as a regular reminder of how you’d like to be or what you would like to have.
4 Spread goodwill to all men
Smiling is good for you – it’s official! When we smile, we flood our body with happy chemicals.
Smile while you are reading the words on this page, do you find yourself feeling happier? If smiles have been rare in your life recently, you may need to force yourself to do this, however, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. You’ll find that your smiles will spread, like the ripples across a pond. Smile and the world will smile back at you.
So, no matter how much you would rather Great Uncle Joe would drink himself to sleep rather than sit in the corner criticising everyone and everything, just keep smiling. You will feel better, and you never know, maybe some of the good vibes will rub off on Great Uncle Joe too.
Try smiling at strangers as well. It may be the last thing you want to do but not only will you feel better by doing so, but it will also make the other person smile too.
Or try this: If you’re feeling alone this Christmas, go volunteer at a homeless shelter or food line. Check with local churches, the city or volunteer organisations for information about when and where to show up. It just may change how you “celebrate” Christmas forever.
5. Breathe deeply
We all need to breathe to stay alive, so it’s pretty essential, and learning to breathe correctly can make us feel amazing!
At Christmas time, breathing is our easily accessible tool for instantly feeling less stressed and anxious no matter where you are or what’s going on – in the crowded shops, caught between family members debates or in those moments after the over-excited children have rushed past you and knocked the beautiful white chocolate raspberry cheesecake on the floor.
Give this a go – think of something that has been bothering you. Nothing too stressful, just something that has upset you a little. While thinking of this situation, breathe five shallow breaths. Quickly, in and out. Once you’ve done this, notice how you feel. Do you feel more troubled about the situation?
Now, slow down and take five deep, abdominal breaths. Breathe in for a count of five, hold the breath for a split second and breathe out for a count of five. Breathe in relaxation and clarity about this situation and breathe out any concerns or worries. Repeat these five times.
Do you feel as if you can now deal with the situation and overcome any concerns more easily? Breathing properly (deep, abdominal, steady breathing) does so much to help our state of mind.
A steady breath equals a steady, calm mind this Christmas and well into the New Year.