Festive fitness

Christmas Stress


The festive season can be a stressful time, with presents to find and wrap, food to prepare and plans to organise, many people find themselves feeling the strain as Christmas approaches. We all deal with stress in different ways but there’s no doubt it can get in the way of enjoying the holiday, with the pressure starting to mount from the beginning of December. Endless lists of things to do, relatives to visit and work parties loom and all this combined with late nights, rich food and too much alcohol means people tend to burn the candle at both ends, making stress worse.

An important rule to remember is that it’s ok to say NO, with pressure coming from all angles it is important to remember that you don’t have to say yes to everything. Saying no doesn’t make you selfish, it ok to turn down yet another night out when you really feel like a night in chilling on the sofa or having a relaxing bath. Saying no can be a great way to reduce your stress levels, and it means is that you will really enjoy the things you say yes to. Remember rather than trying to please everyone all the time, try to reclaim some time for yourself to do the things you enjoy, read a book, have a bath and spend time with different people.

Some people work really well under pressure but if you don’t, start your shopping as soon as possible so you can take your time. This will prevent “panic–buying” and it doesn’t matter if you come home empty handed because you’ll still have lots of time to go again. It will also stop you worrying about how much money you’ve spent out of sheer panic. By buying your gifts in advance you have time to wrap them up without rushing or adding extra stress to your schedule.

You can get stressed when you take on too many responsibilities and feel as though you cannot cope. Try to recognise when things are getting too much and don’t be afraid to ask for help. For example, if you have the whole family coming over for Christmas dinner, try sharing responsibility between family members rather than taking on everything yourself. If everyone has a job, (even the children) they are responsible for, no one family member will carry the whole burden and stress levels should be reduced for everyone.

On Christmas Day it can help to have a plan prepared. Agree the plan beforehand with input from everyone, then letting the whole family know rough timings of what is happening to make sure you all enjoy the day.

One of the main causes of stress is the feeling that you cannot control a particular situation. Try to identify what you can and cannot change and be realistic in what you have real power over. Learning to accept what you don’t have control over will mean you are less stressed in the long run. There are some things you simply cannot change, other people’s behaviour, for example, is hard to control and so, where you can, when irritations arise try to let them go.

It’s a well documented fact that exercise can help lower stress levels as it burns off hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and helps produce mood-enhancing endorphins, so even if you have no time for it, try to get out for a brisk walk, a quick bike ride or a run to give you some time to clear your head. Or pop in and see your personal trainer who will find you a program that will fit in with your busy schedule. Fresh air and sunlight are also important so go outside at lunchtime or on your way home from work, the exercise will lift your mood and make you feel and help reduce stress levels.

Many of us tend to overeat at Christmas with lots of rich food and drink on offer, then get stressed in January when we have tight waistbands and don’t feel so great. So while it’s fine to indulge now and then, try to plan some healthy meals to counteract the effects of this and make sure you still get your daily allowance of healthy vegetables and fruit, and again this is where the exercise comes in, you’ll feel better for it once the festive season is over.

The circumstances that cause stress will vary for everyone so it’s important to recognise what your triggers are. Over the festive period there are more stress triggers than usual so identify what can turn into an issue and plan how to manage it accordingly.

Try to avoid excessive alcohol as it dehydrates your body and makes your liver work overtime to process it. Drink as much water or juice as alcohol as this will help you to stay hydrated, feel better and therefore cope better with stressful situations.

Finally, decide when you will stop your Christmas preparations and start to relax and enjoy the holiday. Work towards and try to stick to this goal, even if it is in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve. Remember that Christmas is your holiday too, enjoy.

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