by Bridget Edwards, stress consultant, author, speaker and entrepreneur
December holidays and the festive season can be stressful for many people, and for a number of different reasons as I outlined in a previous blog here on Lionesses of Africa - How to Deal with Festive Season Holiday stress.
Regardless of your holiday stress, here are 10 simple tips to help you reduce festive ‘silly’ season stress, enabling you to have a wonderful, joyful and relaxing time as you richly deserve.
Whenever we are stressed our chest tightens, and we tend to shallow breathe as a result. This creates a sense of panic in the body, which can further exacerbate our stress levels. Although shallow breathing is a natural and normal stress response, we need to consciously remind ourselves to breathe correctly because shallow breathing can become a habit particularly when our stress response is frequently triggered. That said, whenever you feel stressed, simply take a few nice deep, slow breaths in and out through the nose (not the mouth). Repeat this about five times, or until you notice your body softening and relaxing. Slow, deep breathing provides more oxygen, which helps to calm both body and mind simultaneously. More importantly, when the mind calms, you’re immediately able to access your logical, rational and clear thinking faculties once again – and, then you’re most likely to say or do more appropriate things, and make supportive decisions too.
2. Time out
Don’t over commit during the holidays. Make an effort to give yourself plenty of time out to relax and rejuvenate. Spend at least an hour a day alone, without distractions doing things you enjoy – this is ideal nourishing soul food. Taking sufficient ‘me time’ helps to refresh, rejuvenate and restore your sense of wellbeing.
3. Do less, enjoy more
Interrupting our daily routine by doing small and uplifting things helps us to relax and calm, and make us feel good. Some example are: take an afternoon nap, go walking or hiking, sun tan, meditate, write a gratitude journal, listen to soothing music, get a massage, read a book, doodle, watch a ‘feel good’ movie, star gaze at night etc.
4. Plan ahead
Create a list of all the things you want to achieve during the holidays, including the people you want to visit, gifts to purchase or make, baking, cooking etc. Plan your menus, make your shopping list, and then set aside time to achieve this. This alleviates frustration, forgotten gifts and ingredients, and that ghastly last minute stressful rush to get things done on time.
Once you’ve made your lists, decide how much money you have to spend and create a budget for all the gifts, entertainment, including food and beverages. Then stick to your budget. Over spending, and staying out of debt helps prevent unnecessary financial stress, worry and anxiety.
6. Healthy habits
Most people tend to overindulge in unhealthy food and alcohol during the festive season, which only adds to stressful woes. To counter this, some light daily exercise will help maintain your health and wellbeing – walking, hiking, jogging, swimming, yoga or simple stretches are easy going on the body. If you currently have a routine of daily exercise and healthy eating, stick to this to help you cope with and reduce any holiday stress.
7. Learn to say ‘No’
Listen to your gut feel, and if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Saying ‘no’ is a powerful way of staying in control and setting firm boundaries. It isn’t necessary to participate in every activity or accept all invitations. Besides, people usually respect you more when you say a firm ‘no’. Being a people pleaser, and saying ‘yes’ can often leave one feeling overwhelmed and resentful. This adds unnecessary stress to your holiday.
8. Accepting differences
People have different views of life, and not everyone celebrates the festive season with the same religious intentions or outlook. Don’t judge, instead embrace these different opinions. Adopt an open mind, ask questions and listen for a change – you may actually learn something new. Listening is a beautiful gift you give to others, especially when you listen to understand, and not simply to reply. Be mindful and respectful of other people’s choices. Life may become way more interesting and far less stressful as a result.
9. Customs and routines
Feeling stuck, depressed or stressful? Following the same old boring routines or annual customs isn’t refreshing, invigorating or inspiring. It is said, ‘a change is as good as a holiday,’ so for once try something totally different or unusual. You may find you enjoy new ways of celebrating and getting things done. Lighten up and have some fun exploring different options. Being curious and adventurous is richly rewarding.
10. Hugs and laughter
Both trigger the release of happy chemicals called oxytocin, also known as the ‘bliss hormone’. It is said that 8-12 hugs a day make you feel healthy and great about yourself. Laughter is also one of the best medicines, uplifting one’s mood immediately. If you have nothing to laugh about, watch a comedy. YouTube is full of hilariously funny video clips. I save funny social media clips to watch whenever I need stress relief.
Since this is the traditional season of giving, start by pampering yourself with oodles of self care. Instead of indulging in expensive, unnecessary gifts find ways to make yourself and others feel good with simple acts of kindness – this immediately reduces your stress too. There isn’t enough compassion, kindness, respect and tolerance in the world. All we need to stop, look, listen and show others a little consideration, which shouldn’t cost money, only a little effort – as Ghandi said, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”
When we consider others, our own problems, including stress dissolve. If your stress is too much to handle, I’m always available for consultations over the holidays. Or, treat yourself to a copy of my Stress Gone! – all inquiries via my website.
Wishing you and yours a happy, stress free holiday and festive season!
Bridget Edwards is a South African entrepreneur, author and emotional change catalyst. She is passionate about helping people overcome their emotional obstacles and personal challenges. She does this through speaking engagements, training (workshops), and private consultations. Bridget has authored two self-help books, Anger gone! How to Easily Defeat Anger, and Stress Gone! How to Identify and Reduce Stress Easily. She continues to write self help programs to assist people in dealing with their personal obstacles. www.Bridget-Edwards.com
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