“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” says the media but for some of us the holidays can bring our stress levels to higher points than the rest of the year combined. There can be many reasons for this Christmas stress, from financial pressures, family friction, work deadlines, school holidays or the looming January tax submission. All of this combined with a little less sleep, and for some of us a little more alcohol and sugar intake, can often lead to emotions being triggered, especially our stress response!
So although we may not be able to take away some of the inevitable stressors that come with the holidays, there are some tried and tested tips to help lower our stress levels. Here are 5 things that can help calm your mind and body and send you into Christmas with a rested and positive mindset.
5 Ways To Tackle Christmas Stress This Holiday Season
1. BREATHE - There is a good reason why this is number one on the list. Deep breathing is one of the fastest ways we can access our parasympathetic nervous system, which is the calming, restful state, opposite to how our body operates when it is stressed and in in fight or flight mode. Deep breathing lowers our heart rate and changes our brain waves allowing us to access the part of the brain that can process our stressors. One breath I love is to inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four and then exhale for a count of four. Repeat this around 8 times and you should feel a difference in your stress and ability to cope.
2. SLEEP - When we’re stressed the increased cortisol in our body affects our sleep. This can result in restless nights, waking up with our mind racing and not feeling refreshed when you hear that alarm bell sound. Establishing a good night-time routine is a brilliant way to set you up for a better nights sleep. Consider turning off your phone, laptop and TV half an hour before bed, take some time over your night-time skin routine, pour yourself a cup of bedtime tea and put on some calming music. Prepare your mind for its time to step down from centre stage and regroup while the stars are out.
3. GRATITUDE - It’s easy during stressful times to become very focused on the negatives. Our mind loves repetitive patterns so it’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of stress and anxiety. The Christmas season can be a reminder of financial pressures, loved ones who are no longer with us or days gone by. Reflecting on what we’re grateful for in the present can be a lovely way to bring us back into the moment. A few daily lines in a journal or just saying 3 things aloud before you start your day can start reminding us of the things we have to be grateful for. Whether that’s friends and family who love us, a place to rest our head, the changing seasons, the food we eat, our pets, children, central heating and fresh water, it’s all-personal and up to you what you focus on!
4. NOURISH - When we’re stressed our body, because it’s in flight or flight mode, can limit the absorption of nutrients. Long-term stress lowers our immune system and creates inflammation in the body. We all know the holidays are time for a certain level of indulgence but it really is important to keep your consumption of fruit and vegetables up! Give your body that little extra help.
5. MOVE - We spend so much of our day in our headspace. Our mind just chattering away, sometimes spewing out negativity left right and centre, which simply creates more stress. Getting outside is a wonderful way to start lowering stress levels, taking deep breaths, walking and changing our location is one way we can alter our stressed state. Moving the body is important as when we’re stressed our body holds a lot of tension and we’re often not even aware we’re doing it. We can clench our jaw; tense our shoulders, hunch our posture, and this can all lead to more serious problems further down the line. Activities such as yoga are a wonderful way to release tension in the body.
My final parting word? Give yourself some slack, most of the time we are the ones who are hardest on ourselves. Take those deep breaths, practice gratitude, go outside, sleep and fill yourself with delicious nourishing food. Tis’ the season after all they say…
Simone Hadfield is a Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach specialising in Stress Management. Check out her Online Programmes and Coaching Packages over at www.simonehadfield.com
Do you have any tips to tackle Christmas stress? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @thoughtclothing
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