The festive season is supposed to be about joy and laughter and celebrating with family and friends. But the magic of the holidays can be easily forgotten when you’re fighting for a carpark at the shopping mall, stuck in the middle of a family argument or the turkey comes out more flame-grilled than tender.
This time of year can be incredibly stressful. Many people work right up to just a few days before the holidays, and then there are still groceries to buy, last minute gifts to get, baking to do, housecleaning and family to prepare for. Add in massive queues and endless social invitations and it can all become a bit overwhelming.
The extra financial pressure at this time of year can add further strain. Gifts and groceries can really add up, leaving a heavy dent in your savings.
Long periods of time with family can also be challenging, with old arguments rearing their ugly head and no opportunity for personal space or down time.
For others, loneliness can be a real problem. The holiday season can be a difficult time for those who are newly single or living apart from family and friends. If you have lost a loved-one, this time of year can intensify feelings of loss and grief.
Stress – The Holiday Downer
Stress takes the joy out of the festive season. Being too caught up in finding the perfect gift, cooking and to-do lists can make us forget about the fun things about this time of year - time with family and friends, a break from work and the magic of giving.
Stress is also incredibly damaging to the body. It affects every body system, from digestion to the functioning of our immune system. Sometimes we don’t even realise we’re stressed, but our bodies’ will certainly tell us! Some of the common symptoms to watch out for include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Digestive issues
- Anxiety and depression
- Tight neck and shoulders
- Feeling irritable or upset over small things
- Feeling like you cannot cope
- Shallow breathing
- Pounding heart
- High blood pressure
- Breakouts and other skin problems
If this sounds like you, and you want to take back control, follow our top tips to beat Christmas stress.
Keep Calm and Carry On – How to Beat the Stress
Buy gifts early and online– Avoiding malls in December is the easiest way to keep holiday stress in check. Plan what you are going to buy in advance, purchase whatever you can online and avoid impulse purchases. If you have to go to the shops, try to go at off-peak times – late at night or first thing in the morning.
Leave the lamb rack and crème brulee to the experts – Thanks to MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules, it can sometimes feel like we all need to be Nigella Lawson. The festive season is about getting friends and family together and enjoying a meal – it doesn’t need to be restaurant quality. Keep it simple and cook food you know you can prepare easily and without stress. A barbecue and some good bubbly is perfectly good enough!
Reduce the expectations - Gifts don’t need to be ‘perfect’. Guests don’t need to arrive to an immaculate house. If something on the to-do list doesn’t get done, who cares?
Order groceries online - There are few more stressful situations than the supermarket on Christmas Eve. Bypass the endless queues and order your groceries online. You won’t regret it.
Share the load – if you’re hosting family and friends over the holidays, don’t take on all the burden of preparing the entire meal on your own. Divide up the main parts of the meal and get everyone to do their bit. Get kids peeling veges, in-laws to make the desserts and siblings to bring nibbles. Enlist your partner to help with cleaning and preparing the house for guests to arrive. Outsource what you can.
Take care of money worries – Set a budget for what you can comfortably spend on gifts and holiday celebrations and stick to it. Avoid putting things on credit cards wherever possible – you don’t want to start 2018 with debt.
We all have different budgets and sometimes it can feel like you need to keep up with the higher incomes of others. Be honest with family and friends about what you can realistically afford. If you have a large family, consider only buying gifts for children or one larger gift for the family, rather than individual gifts for everyone.
Create a plan - If you are going to be alone over the festive season, make a plan for your day. Make a special breakfast, buy yourself a gift to enjoy on the day and plan your favourite things to do. If you think you may feel lonely, consider attending a carol service, community event or doing some volunteering.
Get moving – Heading out for a brisk walk is a great way to beat the stress of this time of year – plus it offers a welcomed break from family if you feel like you need some space. Grab your Ipod and head to the gym or out for a walk for an hour. That endorphin rush will make you feel a lot better!
Do something different – There are no rules for a great holiday season. If the thought of another year packed around the table trying to avoid family arguments fills you with dread, why not do something different? Flag the home cooked meal and go to a restaurant this year. Pack up the car and head to a park for a picnic. Do something voluntary. Go to the beach. See a movie on Christmas Eve. The possibilities are endless!
Meditate – When your to-do list is 50 items long, sitting down for ten minutes might seem like a ridiculous idea, but taking time out should be the most important thing you do. Meditating helps calm the mind and create perspective, making stressful situations more manageable. There is never enough time to meditate, so make time. You’ll notice the difference!
Schedule in down time – With the rush in the lead up to the holidays, the big day itself and all the family time around it, it can often feel like you have just finished work and then you’re back there again – completely unrested. After the family obligations and celebrations are over, try to schedule in a couple of days of down time. Stay at home, sleep in, read books, go to the beach or the park and just chill out.
Remember those less fortunate – Doing something for others always lifts the spirits. Many families simply cannot afford gifts or the traditional roast, so why not take the focus off your own to-do list by helping make their holiday season a little bit brighter? Buy a couple of cans of food for the Foodbank. Volunteer at the City Mission for a couple of hours. Put some little gift under the City Mission Christmas Tree for children who may not receive any gifts. It needn’t be expensive, but it makes a big difference.
Support your adrenal glands - Our adrenal glands are tiny glands that sit on top of the kidneys. They produce hormones - adrenaline and cortisol - that help us cope with short and long term stress. Producing these hormones depletes large amounts of nutrients, so it’s important to support the adrenal glands with good nutrition and supplementation.
B Vitamins are needed for the production of adrenaline and cortisol and help enhance our resilience to stress. Magnesium calms the nervous system, helping to reduce feelings of anxiety and also aiding with sleep. Vitamin C supports the function of the adrenal glands. Ensure you eat a well balanced diet and take a high quality nutritional supplement. Xtend-Life’s Total Balance range contains all the nutrients needed to support your adrenal glands, fight stress and promote healthy sleep.