Festive Stress

Festive stress is real.  Yes, it’s holiday time with parties, eating and drinking with family and many get-togethers. What’s not to love? Well quite a lot. Unfortunately (for some) the holiday season can actually be the catalyst for stress and anxiety.  Studies show that up to 62 percent of people feel “very or somewhat” stressed during the holidays. Through unrealistic expectations, financial strain, loneliness and isolation, pressure of gift giving and messy family dynamics,  this time of year can be the cause of overwhelm! And, to compound this, stress can cause emotional eating or overeating if we are not aware or conscious enough. After all, stressed spelled backwards is desserts

One of the things that I am absolutely grateful for is how my parents embraced Christmas.

We never and I mean never felt any stress or rush.  Mum would make some salads and dad would make a duck. Because “The man is responsible for meat” ?‍♀️?‍♀️ Sure dad, what ever ???  But the focus was never on food or presents. It was always about FAMILY and being TOGETHER.

Now, where I live on the other side of the world and don’t have any family around me, I don’t really miss Christmas, but I do miss FAMILY TIME.  Therefore, I am going to meet my parents in Dubai this coming Sunday and we will spend a week together.  Now, I am not here to tell you how to celebrate Christmas, but I would like to share some ideas based on what I have learned from my parents and their teachings.  Because I believe there is something that they did correctly as we didn’t have arguments, stress, pressure or anxiety.

Here are 5 ways not to cave to the holiday stress…..because tis the season to be jolly after all!

1. Take the Pressure Off + SAY NO! 

Think before you commit to other people’s expectations.  Practice saying ‘no’ to unreasonable requests or taking on more than you can handle.  Say yes when you mean yes, and no when you mean no. Yes, it is ok to do this. We actually do not need to attend all work functions, parties or BBQs.  Prioritise the most important and be fully present at these.  

And you don’t need to give excuses or explanations. We can literally say “Thanks for the invite but I am unable to make it”.  Sometimes we can feel the need to rattle off a million reasons why we can’t attend. It’s really liberating to realise we actually do not need to do this!  Ultimately, healthy and honest boundaries will create a less stressful holiday period. 

2. Seek a Fresh Perspective to Avoid Festive Stress

If one task or Christmas tradition is the cause of stress, make a change! Shake things up and do it differently. A fresh approach might make things more exciting, as well as relieve some pressure.  Make suggestions to family about giving one gift for a secret santa, as opposed to having to buy 10-20 gifts. Or perhaps adults only buy for children.  What about handmade gifts this year? Or, instead of gifts everyone gives to a joint charity or a charity of their choice.  This will take some serious strain off everyone involved!

3. Budget and To -Do List

Christmas does not need to be a financial headache if you plan ahead.  Make a budget early and write up a list of everyone you need to buy for.  You can budget accordingly and ensure last minute blow-outs don’t occur. Remember to do this early so you are organised, and try and find bargains online with free delivery to avoid busy shopping centres. 

4. What will you focus on? 

Where focus goes, energy flows.  Let us ENJOY Christmas and create magical memories and experiences without the guilt.  How? Set an intention of how you want to feel during the holiday season. Avoid making your intention to “get that summer body then ‘let go’ once the holidays start”. Let us change the focus to having fun during the holidays and spending time with precious family and friends.  Don’t get me wrong, food and holidays are there to enjoy, but it is about enjoying people around us as well. The time we have now, we will never get back.  It is truly precious. You might also CHOOSE to focus on mindful eating and upping your exercise regime as you will have more time during this period. 

For the actual Christmas day where family comes together – again, focus can serve us. Things might not be perfect or as you imagined.  Christmas day might feel like it’s falling apart with conflict. Uncle Joe is being passive aggressive again. Aunty June is late (again) and did not bring anything to contribute.  Your mother-in-law is constantly criticising and bringing you down. Despite these potential triggers, focus your mind onto the positives. Focus on the joy. Your loving and helpful husband.  Your joyful sister or the laughing children. The fact family are together, or the weather is lovely – whatever it might be, as small as it might seem. Ultimately, we can CHOOSE what we focus on. Choose Joy. Choose Gratitude. Remember, it’s not about the money, presents or perfectionism …it’s about coming together.

6. Stress Release Techniques.

Try these stress release techniques during the holiday season if you feel festive stress creeping in…

  • Use relaxation techniques such as deep belly breathing or focussing on your breath to reduce stress or anxiety.
  • Talk out the tension with a friend (this seems simple but is seriously under-rated.  Sharing our feelings can take the world off our shoulders)
  • Even though it is the holiday season, remember basics like ensuring you are getting enough sleep, adequately hydrated, and getting regular exercise.  These factors will also bring consciousness to our bodies when we are confronted with delicious smorgasbords of extravagant foods and drinks. They will help us to avoid the emotional eating side of things.  Do not get me wrong though, we definitely want to enjoy the tasty food – but consciously! For more on this, see my blog on intuitive eating.
  • Mindfulness! Family gatherings are very much the ultimate mindfulness training ground. Check out this article by Zen Habits who discusses mindfulness habits when socialising with family.
  • Add a balancing yoga pose to your morning routine.  Padahastasana: hand under foot pose relaxes the neck and shoulders and calms the nervous system. This pose brings upper and lower body together, bringing balance to body and mind.  Hold this for 2- 5 minutes per day and you will feel the difference! Even if you are touching your knees or shins, it has the same relaxation effects.

Festive Stress or Festive Joy?

Tis the season to be jolly and merry.  But it’s not worth sacrificing our mental health or feeling guilty after! Take on just a few of these strategies and see how they work for you in reliving some potential festive stress. For more ideas to stay sane and to survive the season binge free, download the free PDF below.

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