In this modern day and age the world seems to move so fast, we’re constantly being bombarded with information… social media, news, adverts, deadlines and many other demands on our time.

No more so than at Christmas!

At this festive time of year we’re spinning more plates than ever before, balancing the needs of family, friends, pets, kids work and… finances with Festive food shopping, choosing the perfect Christmas Day seating plan, and figuring out how we’re going to fit in all those fabulous seasonal TV specials.

No wonder so many of us feel so stressed out!

So what can we do to avoid the damaging mental and physical effects of festive stress and have a calmer, happier, Christmas instead?

Step forward self-care.

Wondering why the run-up to Christmas can stress you out SO much?

Stress is a natural reaction and in some circumstances can actually be quite beneficial. Stress puts our body on instant high alert – rather handy if you ever need to jump out of the way of an errant vehicle heading your way (yes, kids on scooters and runaway sleds count), or run away from something or someone.

It isn’t particularly helpful though when you feel overwhelmed by a huge pre Christmas break workload, worried about how to spread the cost of gifts or threatened by a looming Christmas lunch argument between your mum and mad uncle Bob.

That kind of stress sucks. But there is good news. Self-care can help…

It’s all about how we react to stress

Often our first reaction to stress is emotional. You might feel agitated, nervous and even angry. After a while that frustration can turn to feeling anxious, run-down, and even depressed.

This in turn causes physical symptoms. They may start a little later but often go right along with how you’re feeling mentally. Common symptoms of stress include:

  • Feeling tense and taught
  • A sore neck and shoulder muscles
  • Painful headaches
  • Stomach pains, upset stomach and even diarrhoea.

And no-one wants to feel that way on Christmas Day, right?

Of course back in the Stone Age when stress was a reaction to a physical threat, all of this made sense. Tense muscles and agitation would help us run faster and fight harder if cornered by a scary sabre tooth tiger!

But today, many causes of stress are mental rather than physical, and our bodies simply haven’t caught up yet. So, if left unchecked and untreated, emotional problems often manifest into physical health issues.

Add to this the fact that many of us are under constant stress in the run up to Christmas and it’s no wonder that we’re suffering adverse health effects.

Preventing Christmas stress with self-care

So, what can you do to ease and even prevent stress from affecting your festive fun?

  • First, be proactive and cut as much stress as you can out of your life. That’s easier said than done, but even small, simple changes can help and will add up over time.
  • Look at the daily events in your life and identify the trigger points… If you’re stressed out in the morning because the kids aren’t ready to head out the door on time, spend an hour in the evening getting book bags, lunches, and school clothes ready. If you get stressed out about not finding the work files you need, reorganise so you have everything at your fingertips when you need it.
  • If you’re a busy therapist who is stressing out over how going to fit in social media marketing over the holidays, consider setting aside some time to schedule posts in advance or investing in social media planning software. You could save hours of in December and beyond!
  • Get clear on your priorities and then delegate or cancel anything that’s not important or essential.
  • Finally, take the time to indulge in a little self-care, a small but regular treat could be just what you need to de-stress in December. If you take care of yourself, you end up happier, healthier and in a much better frame of mind to serve those around you.

Make time for me time

You see by paying just a little bit of attention to your own self-care, the fog will lift, you’ll feel more connected to yourself and the world around you and things won’t seem quite as difficult as they did before.

What’s more, creating a positive daily ritual helps us make the time to refuel our bodies and, when done regularly over a period of time (at least 30 days) actually helps reprogram our minds to be more positive.

Start by picking a time, place and activity that will help you relax. Don’t be afraid to try different things until you find the ritual that feels right to you. It’s something unique to you.

If calmness is what you seek, consider a daily meditation practice. Meditation helps us remember what’s important and gives us a better perspective on lifes ups and downs. It is also very soothing for the part of our brain that doesn’t want to switch off and is endlessly trying to achieve or improve things.

Join a meditation class or download meditations to listen to in your own time, once you begin to feel the benefits you’ll be hooked!

Need something a little more active? You might try to find a physical outlet for the pent up energy caused by stress. It could be something high energy like kick boxing or Zumba or something more relaxing like yoga or even Qi-gong.

Here are a few self-care ideas that might help you de-stress. Remember, it’s important that your ritual is something you enjoy. Use these ideas as a starting point to get thinking.

  1. Free up some time by cancelling or rearranging an unnecessary plans or appointments.
  2. Take 30 minutes out to read a good book. Right now we’re reading xxx
  3. Run yourself a hot bath, pop in some Epsom salts and relaaaaaaaaax.
  4. Take a break. Yes really, even if you just fix yourself a nice cup of tea, and then give yourself a quiet 5 minutes to actually drink it!
  5. Join a local group where you relax, chat and get support. If you are a new mum we’d love to see you at our regular Motherhood Matters pop-up Café!
  6. Write a list of everything and everyone who has caused you stress in the last 24 hours, then bin it, burn it and release.
  7. Take a nap, seriously, it really helps.
  8. Give yourself permission to say no.
  9. Meet a friend for coffee and cake.
  10. Or even better, meet a friend for a few glasses of wine.
  11. Book a relaxing massage. A good massage can help relax tight and painful muscles, improve range of motion in the joints, enhance circulation and lower stress levels.
  12. Go for a short walk, take in the sounds, sights and smells of nature.
  13. Let go of other people’s expectations of you. What other people think of you is none of your business
  14. Treat yourself to your favourite magazine and head to bed an hour early to read it.
  15. Actually, just head to bed an hour early anyway.
  16. Pamper yourself with a DIY face mask.
  17. Snuggle for a few minutes with your favourite pet. Kitty cuddles are the best!
  18. Try a 5-minute guided meditation. We love this Relax and Smile meditation from Paul Barrett who runs a weekly men’s meditation session at Rowan House
  19. Get up a few minutes earlier to have quiet time to drink your coffee and contemplate your day.
  20. Take 10 minutes at the end of each day to write in a gratitude journal.
  21. Be creative, take time out to practice your favourite hobby, sewing, knitting, and writing have all be shown to help eliminate stress
  22. Listen to some soothing music.
  23. On a sunny day, go cloud watching – find a peaceful spot, lie back, relax and simply watch the sky go by.
  24. Switch off everything around you. The TV, your phone, everything. And just sit quietly and enjoy the peace.
  25. Recognise that self-care isn’t selfish. It essential to festive season survival!

At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what you do as long as it’s something you enjoy and it’s something you do for yourself. Work it into your daily schedule and most importantly, give yourself permission to indulge in these little rituals. They are fuel for your soul and will make you a better person the rest of the day.

So, what can you do for yourself today?