If you find the festivities a difficult time of the year, there are steps to make it easier says DR VASILIOS SILIVISTRIS.
Christmas is fast approaching and with it an increase in our stress levels. For most of us, Christmas can be one of the most stressful times of the year; it is a time when many people start to stress out about things such as buying gifts, social and family gatherings, Christmas work parties, etcetera.
In addition, it is also a time when many people worry about financial constraints and have a limited budget, wondering how to keep the family happy and prevent family members from quarrelling.
What is Stress?
Do you sometimes suffer from ‘panic attacks?’ Do you feel continuously anxious? In addition, do you also feel physically exhausted?
Stress is, simply put, the adverse reaction to an excess of pressure.
It is a very personal thing, as the amount that we can reasonably cope with varies from person to person. It is the prolonged exposure to this state of pressure that results in stress warnings and symptoms, for example, having physical, emotional, mental or cognitive difficulties, as well as behavioural issues.
Furthermore, stress can manifest itself from mild irritation and general unease through to the inability to cope or function in the usual way. The pressure becomes stress when the demands far exceed our ability to respond effectively.
What Causes Stress?
Does this sound familiar?
- You find it hard to concentrate or suffer from poor memory.
- Lack of confidence and self-esteem which prevents you from making decisions.
- Headaches or an upset stomach.
- Irregular eating and sleeping patterns.
- Loss of libido.
- Back, shoulder and neck pain.
The Stress response is the mechanism that stems from our primitive past where, as hunters, sabre tooth tigers constantly threatened us.
Of course, the human brain’s initial response is to survive.
However, in modern times, we have other conditions that are stressful, such as meeting deadlines, financial worries, employment insecurities, and of course this time of the year.
Break the ‘Cycle of Stress’
Have you ever tried to relax only to find that your mind quickly wanders back to worries about money, relationships or world events? Perhaps it seems that the more you try to relax, the tenser you get. Well, you are not alone; this is the common ‘Cycle of Stress.’
To interrupt this cycle, take back some control; start with something small and realistic:
- Exercise regularly
- Minimise caffeine intake such as drinking coffee, some teas, and coca-cola.
- Prioritise demands in your life.
- Being resourceful, doing things you enjoy doing like going to the cinema, being with your family, or goingfor a walk on the beach.
The good news is that there are some simple ways to break this cycle. Often, it is simply a matter of remembering; to breathe, to be in your body, to be mindful of what is happening. In addition, remember to smile.
Here are some simple tips to stay stress-free during the festive season.
- Plan and organise your days by making a list of what important things you need to do before Christmas day.
- For Christmas lunch, decide what you are cooking and if you planning to cook turkey, make sure you purchase one sooner rather than later.
- Always recognise when you have done something worthwhile and feel good about doing it.
- Make sure you are not under pressure from family, or friends, it is also good to have to say no at times, and not take on too much work.
- Delegate some of the tasks, Christmas is about sharing and having fun.
- Take frequent breaks and pace yourself.
- Try some breathing exercises, these help if you are feeling panicky and anxious.
- While you are busy in the kitchen, keep young children occupied by showing DVDs or videos, children love watching television.
If Christmas is an emotional time for you, if you have lost relatives or friends, or have family aboard, try to think about the happy times together.
They may not be with you physically, but the memories are always there, so use them well. After all, they would not want you to be unhappy.
Finally, do not drink too much! It could spoil Christmas for you and everyone else!