Well is that time of year again Christmas is upon us, many of us are finishing up for the year and currently experiencing the Christmas break where we are already away, or about to head off on holidays to celebrate the New Year. As parents, we also have school holidays following until the end of January as well so it is a busy period!
So, how is it that we can actually manage our stress during this Christmas period? For a lot of people, although Christmas is meant to be happy, it can be incredibly stressful. Many people, have dysfunctional family relationships’ and returning home, can bring into play old family dynamics which can leave many adults feeling frustrated, irritated, overwhelmed, stressed and highly anxious.
I know for myself that family gatherings can sometimes be very overwhelming and can cause a lot of irritation and frustration, so how is it that we can manage this stress and still remain positive while being amongst family members and friends?
1. Deep breathing.
Deep breathing can assist us to recentre, refocus and to regain our own space. I find that with my family it becomes very noisy, very overwhelming and I just need to remove myself from the actual main festivities find a nice quiet spot either in a room away from the main area or outside then I like to close my eyes and just take a few minutes to breathe. Breathe in through the nose for a count of 6 and out through the mouth for a count of 6. This enables our nervous system to calm down – which in turn lowers the amount of cortisol and adrenaline being released into our body, causing us to feel “stressed”. It also lowers blood pressure and our heart rate and allows us to quiet our mind and relaxes the muscles in our body. It is also amazing for providing us with a sense of calm and being grounded.
2. Balancing emotions
Catching up with friends and family can often bring out a lot of different emotions for different people. For those trying for a baby it can be a time of high stress and anxiety as people begin to question you on when you are having a family, or telling you that you should be pregnant by now, or asking what is taking so long. If this is the case it is extremely difficult and can create a lot of worry a lot of stress and increase anxiety in couples that are trying to conceive. My advice to you is to breathe nudge and just reply that’s okay it’s no one else’s business what is going on, smile breathe and remove yourself from the conversation. It’s never easy being in this situation, I recommend that you have rescue remedy on hand for situations like this as it will calm down your nervous system to assist in reducing stress, anxiety and sometimes the feeling of being overwhelmed. It can be hard in these situations to see that family and friends are only wanting the best for you when you are trying for a family and it hasn’t happened yet. It may also be beneficial to have a pre-plan coming into family and friends celebrations as if you get caught and you find that you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, signal your partner that they can come and rescue you. Deep breathing, counting to 10 and drinking chamomile tea helps to calm down your nervous system.
3. Organise your time.
Many of us have numerous functions that we need to attend to over the Christmas period. Many of us end up running around going from one house to the next to the next and not actually really enjoying it properly due to being rushed. Before making plans, have a look at what feels right for you and your family – do you really need to go to 5 different places on the one day? Can you organise to have a family lunch and a family dinner so that the amount of travel that you do is reduced? In our situation, it has been that every 2nd year we have a family breakfast and then the next year we might have a family lunch, however, this year for the big family celebration we are actually not celebrating it on Christmas Day but 2 days after Christmas so that everyone had can attend and no one has to do a lot of running around and driving trying to make different Christmas functions. This way everyone gets to spend time with family, and no one ends up missing out. If you cant reduce the amount of family functions that you have to attend, perhaps have a plan for how long you will stay at each function and try and reduce the amount of driving that you have to do – or share the driving. It may also be beneficial to organize to stay the night at the last function if the function is a fair distance from your own home.
4. Meal preparation.
We all experience it every year, someone is in charge of hosting the family Christmas and/or New Years celebrations. It works out that these people get extremely stressed, spend a lot of money and sometimes don’t often enjoy the event. I have found from previous experience, the best way that everyone can enjoy the family events and keep costs down for everyone is to share the meal preparation. We all know that we all have one of those people in the family where they’re like “Oh I’ll bring a salad” and all they turned up with is lettuce. However, if you organise it a few days before you can have lots of different meals and work around anyone who has dietary concerns. Sharing meal preparation reduces stress and time and stops having people just being kept in the kitchen and away from the festivities. For everyone else, it prevents people from being left out, shares the load and cost of all the meal preparation. Organise yourself so that entrees, main meals, and desserts should be allocated to different family members a few days before or even a week or month before, so that everyone knows what they’re doing and the load of meal preparation is shared.
We all tend to feel very tired around this time of year with lots of parties and festivities a lot of us are up late at night which can also leave us feeling quite depleted. During this time, it’s also important that we try and maintain our sleep patterns so that we’re not depleting our systems even further. Try and maintain a normal sleep routine such as getting to bed before 11 and getting up with the sunrise, this helps your body maintain a normal hormone balance, assists us to have better quality sleep and also helps us maintain our energy levels. Too much sleep or too little sleep can leave us feeling less energetic, irritable frustrated and very lethargic. It’s also important for little ones to maintain a sleep routine to make sure that they don’t get overtired and over-emotional. Try and aim for a minimum of 7 hours sleep, for children about 10.50 hours of sleep. If you find that sleep is a problem around this time of year then try a cup of chamomile tea about 40 minutes prior to bedtime will help to relax your nervous system. You can also try our calming tea which can be found on our website.
Magnesium is great and helps us to relax it also helps with muscular aches and pains and can help us feel more energetic as well. I highly recommend soaking in Epson salts for a minimum of 10 minutes per day to help assist with calming your nervous system. Magnesium is great for calming down our nervous system, for easing tired and aching muscles, and also to help reduce our stress levels. You can take magnesium as a powder, you can use magnesium oil or magnesium cream which is rubbed directly onto the skin and absorbed straight into the blood system, so it only takes about 30 seconds to work. Soaking your feet in Epson salts or having a bath in Epsom salts is extremely beneficial and assists with a good night’s sleep, calming the nervous system and also reducing muscle tension and fatigue. I recommend having a bath at night soaking for a minimum of 10 minutes. Start with a little bit of water and a cup of Epson salts so that your feet, legs and hips are covered with water soak for 5 minutes and submerge your torso soak for 5 minutes. This is nice and relaxing, gives you some time out and will assist with calming you down and re energising your system, while allowing you some time out as well.
7 Stay hydrated.
Yes, it’s that time of year where we’re all tending to catch up with friends and family. Out comes the beer, wine and other liquor. While this can be good, alcohol is a known depressant so if you are suffering from anxiety or depression it is recommend that you watch how much you drink as this can also affect your mood. Here in Australia, we can have extremes in temperature, and it can quite often be over 30oC. If we’re drinking alcohol our body actually gets dehydrated quite quickly. It is recommended that you have one glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage so you can stay hydrated. Alternatively you can drink hydralite or gastrolite. It’s also incredibly important for little ones as well as they can sweat a lot more than us as adults and it’s important that they stay hydrated.
Meditation is extremely important in helping to recentre ourselves, calm nervous systems, and also to enable our body to function correctly. Balancing hormones assists with digestion and meditation also calms our mind, it is extremely beneficial when we are over worried, overthinking in times of stress, and when anxiety increases. 10 minutes of meditation a day can be extremely beneficial in helping to lower your stress levels, calm nervous system and takes us out of that running around period. It can also help to refocus our brain and to stop us from worrying or overthinking or going around and around in circles. 10 minutes of meditation a day can improve our breathing, sleep quality and our energy and digestion. When I’m talking about meditation it doesn’t mean that you have to sit there for an hour, in fact there are many apps available on your phone where you can do one-minute meditations. Just by listening to the sound of running water, the rain or waves is extremely calming and assists in changing our brain waves. If you lack time or you find that you’re actually getting very stressed, find a nice quiet spot, even if this is in the middle of a family gathering just find a room or somewhere outside, where you can sit down and just play the sounds of the ocean even for just a minute because it will refocus your annri balance you and calm you down. Another way that you can do this is via singing, singing has also been shown to relax and reduce tension, even just chanting and having the sound vibrate through your throat will help release beta waves in your brain. This in turn will reduce the nervous system response and reduce cortisol levels
9. Have a contingency plan.
While Christmas is all about family and friends, not everyone in a family always get so long and issues can arise that can cause family tension and arguments. As stated previously, it’s important to remove ourselves from situations that are going to cause us stress or anxiety. Having a contingency plan means having plans and ways that we can handle these situations.
A contingency plan may include taking an adult time out where you can go and check on the kids, go to the toilet, or for a quick walk around the block. This helps us to remove ourselves from a stressful situation or where family members may be baiting us. It also helps us to keep our egos in check and prevent family issues or arguments from arising. As previously stated, if you don’t like being around family, but you feel obligated this time of year, limit the alcohol so that you can assist to prevent family tensions arising.
It may be a contingency plan to pop in and visit with certain family or friends for half an hour only so that you have done your duty and fulfill obligations and then you leave.
Another contingency plan may be that you have pre-prepared ways of dealing with family and friends and certain questions or family dynamics that tend to occur when you are together. This can be counting under your breath to 10, as mentioned taking an adult time out, walking around the block, smiling and changing the subject or just saying that we need to go.
10. Keep the big picture in mind.
Many of us dream of having friendly, happy, emotional reunions with family and friends. This may not always be the reality for most people, as we don’t have the kind of relationships that we want. The big picture for some of you is that we need to survive a few hours or days with family during the Holidays and then we can get back to our normal lives. The big picture is to survive without too much family drama keep your expectations reasonable and manageable. I’d like you to also be grateful, no matter how stressful family can be, it really is important to be grateful for what you have. If your reading this then you are alive and we all have family relationships and family dynamics that we dislike or that we would like to remove ourselves from, however in the big picture I’d like you to be grateful for the family and friends that you do have because Christmas can be a very lonely, sad and depressing time for those that have lost loved ones, children or that have no family.
I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of you are very Merry Christmas and a very safe and happy new year for 2020. I hope you have found these tips helpful and I would love to hear some feedback on what you think.
Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous new year. Thank you so much for reading my blogs and being part of the Rebalance family.
I hope each and every one of you has a very special Christmas and I wish all of you a very prosperous and happy new year for 2020 and I hope that the coming decade is amazing for each and every one of you.
Warmest regards, Julia Bartrop.