Thriving Through The Christmas Stress

It’s that time of year again where we find ourselves confronted by a rotund, sherry swilling, excessively jolly chap, chirping “ho, ho, ho”, as he clambers down the chimney. Is this really a time to be merry or are you running for cover, overwhelmed by the relentless and inescapable stress of it all? Will you find yourself basking in the plethora of delights that Christmas brings, or will you cringe and clench your teeth, hoping just to make it through the season?

What is the impact of the holiday season on us? What does Christmas ‘spirit’ really mean? Christmas is the time of year that frequently polarizes people, even more than Marmite. You’ll hear people say how they love Christmas, and those who hate Christmas. Whether you love it or hate it…or even reside somewhere in between, there’s a good chance that you dread feeling stressed, overwhelmed or worse. If this is you then it’s not so much that you have lost the Christmas ‘spirit’, it’s probably because you have become disconnected from your own ‘spirit.’ So what steps can you take, what path can you walk to improve your Christmas experience and reduce the chance of more stress and internal discomfort?

Here are my simple and straightforward tips for reconnecting with your ‘spirit’ to enjoy your best Christmas ever. But before I get into them, play with this little exercise and see what you can create.

Take a moment and imagine this is your first ever Christmas. OK, this may seem farfetched, but just give it a go. Imagine you’ve just landed on the planet and some Christmas lovers are telling you all about the season, what it means to them, how it fills them with love, joy, goodwill and happiness. Imagine yourself feeling everything they feel: the excitement, the love, the joy, the gratitude, the sense of connection. As you allow yourself to begin to feel some of these feelings that are being radiated by the Christmas lovers in your imagination, what would need to be different about the way you approach December and Christmas for you to feel more like this? 

Here are my practical tips:

1. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Feel through what you do. When you start feeling stressed or overwhelmed, don’t push it down or ignore it, stop for a moment and ask yourself, “Do I really need to do this? Do I need to do it now? Do I need to do it in this way? What can I change to make this feel right for me?”. Feeling stressed is not inevitable, it is something we can take charge of. By doing things in the right way for you, at the right time, without forcing yourself you’ll notice a significant difference in how you feel.

2. Don’t think that you SHOULD be happy because it’s the holiday season, take steps to CREATE happiness by doing those things that bring YOU joy and fulfilment. 

3. Don’t do things out of obligation or go along with what others expect of you. Take your attention off what everyone else is doing and carve your own path, set out your intentions and follow them through. If that means curling up in front of the fire with a good book, then make that a reality. If going out seeing friends is what you want, make that happen.

4. Take action – do something: avoid sitting around thinking about the past or future, or how you should feel.  

5. Exercise – the endorphins that are released into the brain following vigorous exercise are a natural analgesic and mood enhancer. If you enjoy exercise, even if it’s a walk in the park, make time for it, build it into your holiday season, it’ll boost your mood.

6. Write a big list of everything you SHOULD do. Take a good look at it then rip it up and throw it in the trash. How does that feel? Next write a list of everything you WANT to do over the holiday season. Stick it on your fridge so you can see it every day. Tick off items as you do them and give yourself a pat on the back.

7. Be more present – it’s easy to ruminate at Christmas and this usually leads to feeling miserable. Get in the NOW, breathe, and open your senses – meaning your eyes and ears. Get out of your head, get into your body, feel, breathe and fully engage in everything you do.

If you follow these simple tips, you might be surprised how your holiday season turns out.