Christmas is considered one of the six most stressful life events, along with moving house, changing jobs and divorce. With just over a week to go until the 'big' day, many of us are fully immersed in the craziness which can leave us feeling overwhelmed, overstretched, emotional and generally frazzled.
Here are some techniques that can help to calm the mind, bring about some balance and allow us time to step off of the metaphorical treadmill. These tips can also work well if Christmas is a difficult time of year anyway or this one in particular is a real challenge.
Here are my tips for reducing Christmas stress: and bringing more balance to your life::
Prioritise good quality sleep
We regenerate and renew whilst we sleep. It's fundamental to our wellness. Look at your bedtime routine. Do you stop using technology a couple of hours before bed to clear and calm your mind? Do you go to bed at a reasonable time to allow yourself 7-8 hours sleep? Is your bedroom a calm uncluttered environment? Do you limit caffeine and alcohol consumption so as not to disrupt your sleep?
Write everything down and don't over do it
Make a note of everything you need to do. Prioritise that list. Don't set yourself unrealistic goals like completing everything in one day. You'll end up losing focus and completing very little. Really think about whether something actually needs to be done. Will anyone notice or suffer if it doesn't get completed? Concentrate on one thing at a time and add a big tick to the list when you complete a task. It's so satisfying to see the ticks multiply.
Concentrate on your breathing
Slowly breathe in through your nose, holding for a couple of seconds and then breathe out through your mouth. Try to make the out breath longer than the in breath. There are lots of breathing techniques but this is a good start. It can help to reducing stress levels and anxiety. Any time you feel yourself getting overwhelmed stop what you are doing and concentrate on your breathing for at least a minute. Not only will you feel calmer but you'll feel more energised and focused.
Give yourself regular small doses of self care
Just ten minutes here and there can have a huge positive impact on your mental and physical health. Think about what makes you happy? i.e. Listening to a podcast or some of your favourite music? Having a bubble bath? Tidying a room - tidy house=tidy mind? Going for a quick walk? Doing a few yoga poses? Reading a favourite book? Applying a face mask or facial oil? As the saying goes "You can't pour from an empty cup" meaning that if you aren't looking after yourself, you're no use to anyone else.
Learn to say No
Set healthy boundaries. Say no to things you don't need or want to do. This will allow you more time and space to do the things you really want to do. There are ways of saying 'No' without actually saying 'No' - "That sounds fab, next time I'd love to join you" or "If only I could split myself in half" or "Thanks for asking me but I've got so much on at the moment". Remember - you can say no and still be a good person.
Routine, routine, routine
Try to retain some structure in your normal daily and weekly routine as this will help generate feelings of order - waking up at the same time (don't lay in for hours on your days off), trying to go to bed at the same time (or not too much later at the weekend or when you don't have work the next day), planning to do certain chores on certain days so things don't build up.
Being grateful focuses the mind and can contribute to contentedness. Before going to sleep (whilst laying in bed) think about your day and identify three things you were grateful for. It really is the small things that matter, for example, enjoying a quiet cup of tea in the corner of a coffee shop. Remember that this frazzled feeling won't last.
Seek out laughter
This emotion can lift our spirits and break an emotional pattern by switching our mind to a more positive channel. Think about funny things that have happened, watch a funny film, your favourite comedian, an amusing podcast, try to look for the positive in different situations.
Unplug to recharge
Grab a cup of your favourite drink and take a seat somewhere comfortable. Allow yourself two minutes to give your mind a break. Think about the present moment. Focus on what you can see first - the colour of your drink, the mug, any movement or patterns in the liquid. Then focus on what you can feel - is it the warmth, the texture of the cup, your body sitting in the chair. Focus on the taste - how does the drink taste, really think about this and enjoy it slowly. This is a really effective mindfulness technique which will give you a little space by pressing pause for just two minutes.
Talk to yourself
Say to yourself (in your head or out loud) what your intentions are for the day. "Today I choose to find small pockets of joy, even if it's a hard day" "When I become stressed, I will step away from the situation" "I am feeling stressed at the moment and I'm allowed to feel this way, I'm not alone in feeling this way" You could even write them down and post somewhere that you will see them as reminders. Repetition is so important in rewiring our brains so if you say something or see something many times the message can be reinforced.
Getting outside is a really quick way to improve your mood and alleviate or lessen feelings of stress. Aim to get outside every day no matter what the weather. Ten to twenty minutes is all that is needed to provide that hit of positivity and calm.
These are all ways to give yourself a massive dose of Christmas calm. Finding small positive ways to manage Christmas stress is key to avoiding that festive frazzle feeling.