Christmas Stress Survival Guide

December 22, 2016

Christmas can be stressful. Having a few stress management strategies on hand can help you sail through with ease, so you can make the most of this precious time



Christmas is a wonderful time of year - we get to spend time with loved ones, enjoy good food and wine and generally revel in merriment. However it can also be stressful - data produced by Bupa UK shows that 74% of adults rate Christmas as the most stressful time of the year. The last minute shopping dash, unrealistic expectations to get everything right, family conflict, stress over the Christmas dinner, buying the right gift, tying up work activities for the year… It can become overwhelming


We're our own worst enemies


Despite the challenges we face, 29% of us admit to doing nothing to counteract our stress levels. The tensions build up and leave us exhausted and irritable, however this doesn’t set us up well to relax into the festive spirit.


Stress-proof yourself


It is important to remember that peace comes from within us, despite being surrounded by what can sometimes feel like a chaotic environment.


Having a few stress management strategies to hand can help you navigate the Christmas season with (relative!) ease. By being able to identify your stress patterns and emotional tendencies, you can observe and distance yourself from them. By not identifying with the emotions – the feeling of being overwhelmed, frustration, anxiety – you can save yourself an enormous amount of energy.


Here are Urban Guru’s Top Tips to help you stay calm and zen-like over the holidays:


1)   Take regular “time-outs”


Go and sit somewhere quiet, in a comfortable position and observe your body. All you need is 5 minutes every couple of hours – set a reminder on your phone and be diligent. Pay attention to your breath – is it shallow and rapid? Observe what is going on. Identify tension in the muscles – are your shoulders up around your ears? Are you hunched over, preventing air getting into your lungs? It’s amazing what builds up in our body that we don’t even notice because we’re too busy.


2)   Breathe deeply


Inhale for a count of 4 and out for 8. Try retaining the breath after the inhalation for 10-15 seconds. Not only does the slow rhythmic breathing calm the nervous system, but the breath retention brings a heightened awareness of what is going on in the body, making it easier to identify physical tension and let it go.


3)   Observe your environment...


...the sights, the smells, the sensations. How light is it? Are you warm or cold? This is a good exercise to bring the mind into the present moment and disconnect from potentially destructive thoughts. It also highlights anything in the environment which you need to change to make it more pleasant.


4)   Make time for simple, Christmassy-type things...


...such as listening to Christmas songs, kissing your other half under the mistletoe, playing with your kids and their new presents or watching the lights twinkle on the tree. Savour these moments and reserve space for them. Don’t cloud the time with thoughts of what you need to get done or what you’ve forgotten – those things will still be there in 10 minutes time.


5)   Keep a diary


Getting our thoughts and feelings down on paper helps us reflect on them and often helps us realise how unhelpful they are. Even if you don’t keep a regular diary, just write down a couple of sentences in a notebook when they come into your mind and re-read them towards the end of the day to give you perspective


6)   Go for walk outside


Some gentle exercise will get the blood flowing and put to use all that good food you’re eating! Being out in nature also relieves stress, boosts mood and allows you to take stock and reset your mind


Overall, remember to relax and enjoy! Christmas comes around so fast and with multiple commitments and things to do, it goes by in a whirlwind and is over before we know it. There are very few opportunities to have everyone you love together in the same place, even though it can feel stressful at times. Make this year the year you get to savour and relish every moment


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