It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year - but Christmas can end up feeling like one of the most stressful times instead.
Here are our top tips for staying calm this holiday season.
Prepare as early as you can
Preparing a list of everything you need to do and then try your best to space each task out - this will help you to find time to do the things that you enjoy. Not everything can be done early (such as buying fresh food), but getting smaller tasks like wrapping gifts or setting the table done ahead of time means that you should be able to find a few moments of ‘you time’, even on the busiest days.
And when you’re taking a break, make sure you focus on the moment. Making time for things you enjoy and consciously thinking about how much you enjoy them is a common technique suggested by therapists and counselors to help overcome negative thoughts in times of stress.
Don’t give up on your routine
Christmas events, erratic work hours and even late night shopping can mess up your usual routine - but don’t give up!
Make sure you stick to your sleep schedule. We all know that sleep is good for you, so keep this in mind when you’re planning your week. Too many late nights in a row will leave you feeling more stressed.
This graph shows exactly why sleep is important. It shows the difference in stress levels between adults who sleep for more than eight hours a night, and adults who get less than this:
Source: APA via Statistica
If you usually work out, don’t stop. When you exercise your brain increases production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin which send messages throughout your nervous system. When CNN spoke to J. Kip Matthews, Ph.D he said that these messages are things along the lines of: "You're running! This is awesome! Cheer up!" This will give you a boost on even the most stressful days.
Try not to increase your caffeine intake. Coffee is a quick way to feel energized, but for some people it can heighten any stress they are already feeling. If you know that you can feel on edge after caffeine then try not to drink more coffee than you usually do - especially later in the day. For more information on how coffee affects the body, read our post on it here.
Go phone free
We’ve blogged before about increased stress levels for phone checkers. In the 2017 report “Stress in America”, the American Psychological Association found that US adults who report that they constantly or often check their email, texts and social media accounts are significantly more stressed than those who don’t check them as frequently. Why not use any time you have off work to take a break from your digital life too?
Try a breathing break
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, find a quiet space and take some deep, slow breaths. When you breathe deeply, you’re mimicking the way you feel just before you fall asleep or when you first wake up - two of the moments when the body is most relaxed. Your brain responds to these physiological signals and your heart rate and blood pressure will begin to fall. It doesn’t matter that you’re not in bed, the feedback loop between your brain and body is an innate biological link and it will help you to calm down. We’ve shared some tips on this previously and you can find them here.
Ask for help
If you’re struggling to get everything done, ask for help. Clear instructions will lighten your load and get everything done more quickly. Plus, acts of kindness make people feel good so really you’re improving the day of your volunteers too!