Feeling stressed over Christmas?
As it’s December I really wanted to write something about holiday stress. Usually, around now things have started to slow a little, but this year I’m still seeing new clients coming in for therapy. Hypnotherapy can help in lots of ways, but sometimes a few simple, logical strategies to cope short term can be incredibly helpful too! So, if you can’t get to therapy right now because you’re too busy, hopefully, the strategies below will help you to cope in the short term. You can then come in to see a therapist when you feel ready.
4 types of holiday stress and how to manage it
Holiday stress comes in lots of shapes and sizes, so let's take a look at what this stress might look like, and what you may be able to do if you find yourself wanting to tear your hair out.
1. Are you trying to do too much?
Okay, so I might be guilty of this myself! I’m entertaining over Christmas. It’s the first time I’m cooking on my own, using my own recipes and doing Christmas my way and I was informed the other day that I might possibly be going overboard by making three different types of stuffing (I really like stuffing!).
To put it into context, I’m also cooking all the food for Christmas Eve. My Christmas food prep starts on the 23rd of Dec. I absolutely love cooking, but I think my friend might have a point. When I looked at all the different dishes I want to cook, compared to how many people are eating, maybe I got a little excited and forgot to think about how much work is actually involved. If you find yourself doing too much, perhaps look at some self-care.
We all want to make an effort over Christmas for the ones we love, but that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your own needs to meet what you perceive to be other people’s needs. It’s ok to ask for help. Look at everything you’re doing for the holidays and ask yourself - what could give here? Could you delegate at all? Or could you even just make one less type of stuffing? Remember, you matter too. Remember to look after yourself as well as other people. You deserve a break as much as anyone else!
2. Are you putting too much pressure on yourself?
This is similar to having too much to do, but sometimes people put way too much pressure on themselves. For example, I often hear the phrase “perfect Christmas” on the television and in films, and I find myself asking “what is a perfect Christmas?”. Remember each of us has our own interpretation of the world. What’s perfect for one person might be different from another. Are you simply afraid of failure? Christmas is a time for all of us to get together and celebrate the people we have in our lives. None of us are perfect. You’re great the way you are, and your friends and family want to see you and be around you. That’s more important than “the perfect presents” for everyone, a perfectly brown turkey, or in my case, three perfect stuffings.
This is where you do something not out of choice, but out of a feeling of duty. That might be seeing certain relatives or friends (maybe you don’t get on that well), or it could be cooking a huge Christmas dinner for the world and his wife because that’s what you think is expected of you, or you do it every year, so you feel obligated.
Firstly, if you are in a situation where you have to visit people you don’t necessarily want to, I suggest the pigeon-holing technique. We’ve all been there, the feeling of dread because you feel you’ll be in a situation for hours and hours. The pigeon-holing technique encourages you to look at the world in small bits. Plan your visit and split it into more manageable chunks. You can look at this from a timing angle (hourly for example) or an activity angle. Plan something enjoyable for after the visit. Focus on keeping on track instead of on the dread you’re feeling.
If you’re in a situation where you’ve cooked Christmas dinner for years and really would rather do something else, try to think outside the box. What would you rather do, and why can’t you do that? Are you worried about offending people? Could you open up a conversation about other arrangements, just to discuss it openly and look at other options? You never know the other members of your family and friends might really want a change but haven’t spoken up!
4. Leaving work behind for Christmas
For some people, they can’t wait to start their Christmas holidays. For others, they dread leaving work. This is not necessarily because they love their job, but because most of their time is spent at work and some people find it hard to switch off.
For those that are ruled by a schedule at work and miss the routine, or those that struggle to switch off, I suggest scheduling in for yourself a relaxation technique called progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). PMR is a technique used by hypnotherapists but it is something you can do yourself. Imagine a relaxing colour at the top of your head, and then imagine this relaxing colour is soothing each part of your body into relaxation as it moves gradually from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Keep focusing on this colour relaxing you.
Schedule in a time after work to do this and it will help you focus on something else. If you schedule it in, it’s less easy to forget! Another suggestion is to use an app like Headspace or Calm. If you have trouble sleeping, personally I find an app called Mindifi is absolutely great!
Lots of people feel some sort of stress over the holidays, so please don’t believe you’re the only person stressing. I hope the suggestions above are of some help!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!
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