It’s that time of the year again! Let’s face it… Christmas is stressful.
From shopping for the ‘perfect’ gift to cooking the feast for the entire extended family (plus that cousin you don’t really know), it’s surprising that people look forward to the holiday hustle and bustle.
Have you got your TINSEL in a TANGLE?
The festive season is meant to be a time for getting together with family and friends and enjoying good company and food. But often our stressed little inner Grinch emerges and it’s not the ‘relaxing holiday’ we planned at all! To help you survive Christmas (without compromising your health, wellbeing and sanity), we wanted to share our TOP 10 TIPS!
We don’t get enough sleep. Full stop. You know it’s true! Even though there are deadlines and ‘to-do-list’, our bodies can’t function well on poor quality rest. Prioritise the time to get to bed earlier. Even if it’s just 1-2 times per week for 8 hours sleep. It’s the number ONE tip to improve stress, coping mechanisms, energy, concentration and your ability to function as a human!
2) Exercise is the antidote
We are all guilty of skipping the exercise class, workout program or bailing on the walk with a friend in the weeks leading up to Christmas. We know that the festive stress and time constraints can keep us from maintaining our usual routines. Research shows that physical activity helps the brain to reorganise and respond better to stress levels. Exercise also produces endorphins (the happy chemicals!) to improve mood, sleep, and reduce pain and stress levels. So, get out and go for a walk in the sunshine, do some yoga, go to the gym, take the kids to the beach, go for a bike ride, or have a picnic in the park.
3) Be more CHILDLIKE
Do you remember waking up at 3am on Christmas morning just to check the tree and stocking? I’m just a big kid at heart and I’m still likely to be the first one awake on Christmas Day! Kids are so excited about Christmas as they believe in Christmas miracles. Kids don’t worry about where their next meal is coming from - they have faith. Kids don’t worry about Santa not arriving - they have hope. Kids don’t worry about getting dirty or fooling around making people laugh - they are unashamedly themselves. Kids don’t hold grudges - they have forgiveness and unconditional love. Be reminded of what it feels like to be a kid!
4) Avoid overindulging
We are surrounded by extravagant food and sugary / alcoholic beverages, but don’t let it consume you! Indulge a little and enjoy the festive season with family and friends but make sure it doesn’t take over your usual healthy eating and exercise routine. We know that when we are stressed, we often crave those sugary and fatty foods, but this can further exacerbate stress and cortisol levels. Try to plan for those moments of indulgence and be kind to your body and your mind. #treatyoself but eat mindfully.
5) LESS presents. MORE presence.
Financial burden, credit card debts and expectations of gift giving are often the biggest stress for people around Christmas. Perhaps you could swap the ‘love of shopping’ for some ‘showing of love’ this year. Handmade cards, acts of service, kind words to the ones you love, a painting or framed photo, quality time or family outings mean more to the memories and the heart… oh, and they’re FREE! Family is everything, wherever you are and whatever that means to you. So, enjoy this special time and just be present so you don’t miss those treasured moments!
6) You can say “NO”
“NO” – such a powerful word and we don’t say it often enough. Toddlers have it down pat! Take notice of what causes you stress, what (or perhaps who) triggers you and the effect it has on your body and mind. You can’t be everywhere, doing everything, every minute of the day, you need to take care of yourself so you can enjoy the time with the people who matter most. It’s just two letters but can sometimes be the hardest word to say. Set limits. You've got this!
Breathing is second nature, it’s what keeps us alive… but do we pay enough attention to how we breathe? Take time during the day to CHECK IN with yourself and notice where you are holding tension. It’s probably in your neck and shoulders right now! Allow yourself to take three belly breaths, relaxing the upper chest and neck and melting further in the bed or back of the chair with each breath. This helps regulate and calm the nervous system, oxygenate your brain/organs/muscles and reduce stress and tension. You may even wish to try this breathing technique to help when you feel stressed – count to 4 as you breathe IN, HOLD for 7 counts and then breathe OUT for 8 counts. Embrace the calm...
8) Schedule ME time
This can be something as simple as going for a walk, having a nap or watching an episode of your favourite tv show. Having some ‘me’ time helps refocus and relax so you can be your best self. Don’t feel guilty for taking a moment (amongst the chaos) to do something you love. Make it a priority. Even if it is just 5-10mins per day of self-care (e.g. reading, sipping a tea, gardening, painting, journaling). Your body will thank you!
9) Don’t sweat the SMALL STUFF
If the Christmas tree is wonky, the famous Christmas pudding is a disaster, or your flight is delayed… it WILL be okay! Be realistic about your expectations and let your hair down a little. The small stuff is always great but remember to make the most of the time and look at the big picture. Practice GRATITUDE and make note of all the things you are grateful for.
You are alive. You are loved. You are human. You are enough.
10) LAUGH & have FUN!!!
Laughter truly is the best medicine. Amidst your ‘to-do-lists’, give yourself permission to have FUN! Laughter lightens your mood, releases endorphins, stimulates the heart and lungs, releases muscle tension and boosts circulation. Find something that makes you LOL, roll on the floor giggling or causes side-splitting-can’t-breathe laughter and DO IT OFTEN! It may be watching your favourite movie, sending a funny meme to a friend, playing board games, sharing a joke at the dinner table or organising a fun activity for the family. Make someone else smile today and share the joy!
From the team at A to Z Physiotherapy, we wish you all a very happy Christmas.
We hope these tips help you to have a stress-free and festive time with family and friends.