How to stay emotionally healthy over Christmas

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Christmas is a time for getting together and celebrating with family and friends. However, it can also be a very difficult time. Lots of us feel under pressure during the festive period – to have the perfect Christmas, to buy the perfect gifts that our children and friends want, to please all our families. A lack of money, time or energy, credit card bills and the pressure of giving gifts might also contribute to stress during the holiday season.

If you begin to feel overwhelmed by problems, Christmas can turn from being a season of joy into a time of panic, loneliness, depression, anxiety and dread.

Anecdotally, it’s known, at least by anyone who has extended family, that more grudges are formed at Christmas than at any other time of year; old family rivalries, arguments, one-upmanship and even fights about your sister’s spoilt kids tend to rear their ugly heads. Split families and unresolved conflicts may also contribute to Christmas anxiety. Other sources of stress might be political (think Brexit) or cultural clashes caused by generational or even geographical differences, which result in tense atmospheres or furious rows over the dinner table.

Let’s face it, you’re already exhausted by your extra-heavy workload:

  • shopping for cards (particularly the special ones for mum and dad or sister etc), wrapping paper, crackers and presents (a few extra for surprise guests or someone you’d forgotten about altogether)
  • getting your tree down from the loft or buying a new one; making sure the lights work – before you put them on the tree, decorating it and tying tinsel everywhere
  • writing out cards in time for the last post and, if you’re like me, filling them with sparkling stars and glitter, which drives my family and friends nuts. Ha, they’ll miss me when I’m gone
  • perfectly wrapping presents with matching tags, ribbons and bows (unwrapping one without tearing it to throw in the aforementioned sprinkles that I’d forgotten)
  • planning the menu, shopping for the huge amounts of food (because the shops are closed – for one day) and loads of champagne – oh, and don’t forget Uncle Cedric only drinks Stout – do they still sell this stuff?
  • planning who’ll sit where – to avoid the old family feuds – I wouldn’t worry about it cos there’s always someone who’s not happy anyway!
  • table decorating – at Christmas is huge now – you see everyone posting their amazing table on Instagram and Facebook – what’s all that about?
  • being all things to all people

Phew! I’m already shattered. So, having done all the above, you’d think you’d be able to relax on Christmas Day, right?

Nope! You’ve still got Christmas breakfast to cook………………..

Right, rewind……. let’s start again. Okay, so I’m a bit late posting this as Christmas is almost upon us and most of you will have done all your cards, shopping and preparation. But, and it’s big one, you still have a few days to get some self-care in so that you’ll be as relaxed as everyone else on the day:

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  • if you haven’t already done so, enlist some help: write down who’s doing what and make sure the kids are involved – delegate, delegate, delegate
  • when the going gets tough, remember Christmas is a time for family, for friendship and spending time together – so what if you’ve forgotten the stuffing (tho I know my hubby would be desperately disappointed) or batteries for the kids’ most wanted gifts (they’ll have to join in the annual game of Monopoly)
  • enjoy some simple things like go for a walk somewhere calm and soothing -gentle activity such as a 15-minute walk helps your body to regulate its insulin production, which can be disturbed by stress
  • try yoga, meditation or do some gentle stretches to loosen those tight muscles, take time out to have a massage or even just get hubby to give you a ten-minute foot massage/shoulder rub
  • have yourself a long, luxurious bubble bath – small acts of self-care go a long way in helping us feel more positive and energised
  • have yourself a nice hot chocolate (with or without the marshmallows) and snuggle up on the sofa/bed with a good book for a few hours
  • listen to your favourite music and, if you’re feeling up to it, dance like no one can see you, sing along like no one can hear you
  • catch up with a favourite friend and have a good old belly-laugh, nothing better to get you in the mood and it’s well known that fun and laughter is a great stress reliever
  • go to the cinema, the theatre or a comedy show – sit back and relax
  • eat mood-boosting foods; a carbohydrate-rich meal can help to boost serotonin levels
  • wind down gradually before bedtime and get plenty of sleep; set an alarm for bedtime and go to bed at the same time each night – to regulate your sleep pattern
  • sniff some lemons (I’m not kidding) – according to researchers at Ohio State University, lemon scents instantly boost your mood
  • and breathe – deeply – out then in, half a dozen times or so – taking just a few moments each day to practice some deep breathing exercises can decrease stress, relax your mind and body and can help you sleep better. Deep breathing is, among many other things, a relaxant, a natural painkiller, it improves digestion and it detoxifies the body.

Go on – treat yourself – try out a few of the above and let me know how you get on.

What other stress relievers could we try (without reaching for the second bottle of Prosecco)? Any tips, please?

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