5 ways to beat Yuletide stress.

Does seeing Christmas decorations in November cause a familiar pang of anxiety? Can you feel your heart race a little faster and your stomach squeeze a little tighter? Christmas cheer? Pffft! If you are like many Australians you find Christmas to be a stressful and demanding time of the year. Finding the perfect gifts, seeing all that family, cooking all that food. So much for “holidays”. A certain amount of stress is inevitable, and to be frank some of that stress is helpful in motivating you to be prepared and take action. But how much of that stress is excess worry that is not helpful? Try something different this year by testing out some psychological strategies to reduce your Christmas stress.


Manage worry by getting out of your head and in to reality. When you worry (imagine a negative event in the future) your body and emotions respond to those thoughts as if the event is actually happening. How much time to you lose getting caught up in the “what ifs” that you could be using to prevent said what ifs from happening?


There is no way that we can get rid of those thoughts, but by using mindfulness skills you can reduce the impact of the thoughts on how you feel and what you do. Mindfulness is about choosing where your attention is, whether its on the here and now of what is actually happening or on the worry and what ifs. You have a choice.


Be mindful by noticing when you are caught up in those thoughts, acknowledge what the thought is about (“yep, that’s a thought about my dad” or “that’s a though about work”) and chose to refocus on what you are actually doing, whether its having a conversation with one of the kids, cooking dinner or working at your laptop.


Think strategically. Why are you going to the shops to buy gifts for nieces, nephews and those stocking stuffers for the kids? Why are you going specifically to Harvey Norman to get that precise gift for your partner? Unless you just love, love, love the crowds, use online shopping. Cheaper at the shops? How much do you value your mental health?


Ask for help. Accept help. I know that often its easier to just do it yourself than to explain what needs to be done, coach them through the process and for it to never be as good as when you do it. But if you always do it yourself, you will always be doing it yourself. Good leaders delegate and develop their team, take the same approach with your family. You are not superhuman and people aren’t designed to function as islands.


Exercise. The quickest and easiest way to relieve stress and strain. Exercise metabolises the hormones that are released when stressed. It gives us a break from what we are worries about. The increase in oxygen in the brain helps improve problem solving. And if you work hard enough, endorphins and other hormones are released that help you to feel good, confident and/or relaxed. Try being mindful while exercising (paying attention on purpose to what your body is doing, not what your mind is saying).


Know what your priorities are. You cant do it all with 100% effort. Decide what is actually most important to you and focus on that. Imagine that it is June 2016 and you are thinking back on how you spend Christmas this year. What do you want to be proud of doing? If spending time with family is the most important thing then do that mindfully and don’t let it bother you that your aunt thought the turkey was dry.


If you would like some help managing stress during the Christmas period please contact our friendly staff on (02) 9687 9776 or email us at reception@parramattapsychologyclinic.com.au

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