Tips for reducing stress over Christmas

Posted on December 03, 2018 by Carolyne Crowe

Christmas is fast approaching. For some, it represents all they enjoy – friends, family and frivolity – but for others it can be a very stressful time of year, often taking its toll on mental and physical health. It can be the perfect storm; short days, lack of daylight and the assumption that everyone else is having the 'perfect' Christmas (don't believe everything you see on social media!).

So, what are the challenges?

Perhaps money, loneliness, socialising, alcohol, out of control diet, exercise, sleep, social media or winter weather? And how can you take control?

Sleep

Prioritise sleep. If you're not well rested, everything seems harder and your emotions will be more easily frayed.

Exercise

You can't afford not to find time to exercise. Get outside for a walk or take the stairs – small steps result in big spikes in energy and help you get more done.

Time for yourself

Take control of your time and use those moments to press pause. There will always be jobs to do but stop and enjoy what you're doing rather than just going through the motions.

Write it down

Keeping everything in your head creates mental tension and unnecessary worry. So, make a list and focus on what needs doing, adding or ticking off actions each day. Does it all really need to be done? Is there anything that you would like to get done but it’s not a priority? Could you delegate?

Breathe

Effective breathing can help switch off the stress response. The 7/11 breathing technique can help prevent you becoming wound up during the busy period. Simply breathe in for 7 seconds and out for 11 seconds, repeating 5 times. This will help slow down your responses, thoughts and emotions, giving you a better chance of feeling in control.

Don’t overcommit

All too frequently we agree to something before we've really thought about whether it's something we actually want to do. Buy yourself time – you need to check your diary, your rota, with your partner – and ask yourself whether you really want to say yes.

Talk

Communication is always key, but particularly over the festive period. Manage expectations and be clear of your commitments both at work and with family and friends. By communicating effectively, you won't be caught in a situation where everyone is making you feel like you're disappointing them.

Exchanging gifts

Everyone has their own traditions of gift giving, but how would you like to do it? Which traditions do you value and which have become out of control? Then talk about your thoughts with those who need to know.

It's not all about presents, how about considering these acts of kindness as an alternative:

  • Give your time
  • Give a helping hand
  • Give others the joy of spending time with you
  • Give seasonal greetings to a stranger
  • Give everyone a smile.

What's important?

Identify what's really important to you about Christmas and how you can achieve it.

Reflect and remember

Christmas can be painful, with memories of estranged or lost family and friends or traumatic events being brought to the fore. Create an environment that works best for you – perhaps surround yourself with loved ones, head abroad or create space to be by yourself.

It's only one day

Plan things to do over several days so 'success' isn’t all about just one day…

Take a digital break

Stop yourself being drawn into social media comparisons by taking a digital break over Christmas – be present in the life in front of you rather than the one on screen.

If you need support and to talk to someone over Christmas, call Vetlife on 0303 0402551. If you are looking to take back control of your life and your time in 2019, drop me an email at ccrowe@vds-training.co.uk to find the best way forward for you.

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Carolyne Crowe

Written by Carolyne Crowe

BSc (Hons), BVetMed (Hons), MSc, Dip Coaching, Dip Wellbeing and Stress Management, Veterinary Surgeon and Performance Coach

Carolyne is a vet and an experienced health, wellbeing and performance coach and trainer, she works with individuals, teams and practices to engage, motivate and build resilient, high performing, effective workplaces. She is passionate about inspiring and helping others gain control and get the most out of their lives and careers. Carolyne has a Masters degree in Workplace Health and Wellbeing and is currently doing a PhD on wellbeing, resilience and performance of veterinary teams.