Christmas is a time that is stressful for many reasons. It’s a time when many of us are busiest at work, it’s a time when our budgets are usually stretched to the limit, and it’s a time when many of our children’s schools and extracurricular activities have end of year presentations or gatherings. Add that to the list of hip-and-shouldering your way through the Christmas crowd while shopping for gifts, and arranging Christmas catch-ups for family and friends, it’s a time of the year that many of us can hit peak stress levels. In fact, one study even found that Christmas time can actually cause heart attacks.
We spoke to LYSN psychologist Noosha Anzab about how you can reduce your stress levels this Christmas.
Get a new perspective
Noosha explains that for many of us, it’s the ghost of Christmases past that cause us stress.
“Christmas stress often comes about because of the way our brains associate that time of the year with the stress of past experiences,” says Noosha. “To avoid this, try tackling tasks with a different perspective. If Christmas gift shopping previously made you stressed and just thinking about it brings on those same feelings of anxiety, do things differently this year. Perhaps it’s time to introduce the concept of a Secret Santa, meaning you’ll only need to worry about one person’s gift (or just a few).”
Make a list, check it twice
Noosha explains that the practice of making lists and jotting down your thoughts can be more than simply a way to remember all the things you have to do, it can be a way to ease your stress and anxiety.
“Christmas shopping can be incredibly overwhelming. Beyond trying to think of what to buy everyone, it’s the stress of catering, hosting and trying to fit everything in that often overwhelms us,” says Noosha. “Make a list of all your Christmas shopping to ensure that you can tick each item off without having to worry about forgetting anything or anyone.”
“While you’re at it, make a list for your grocery shopping too. The practice of making lists can help ease stress, anxiety and clear the mind for a more peaceful existence. Ticking off items on your list can show you just how much you are getting done which can be really empowering.”
Not dissimilar to how you might manage your workload, managing Christmas is about delegating different jobs to different family members, so that no one person is responsible for everything.
“Sometimes it can feel like the stress of Christmas gets piled onto one single person, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” says Noosha. “If you’re feeling the pressure of surmounting tasks, be sure to delegate them to others. Make someone else responsible and accountable for some of the tasks, just to ease some of the pressure. The same goes for Christmas day! If cleaning, hosting and cooking is going to be a lot of stress on the day, delegate tasks in advance.”
Make the most of what’s available to you
Christmas is the time of year when not only should you be delegating small tasks to other family members, but making the most of the different home delivery services and gift-wrapping desks that pop up during the holiday season.
“Christmas is a huge time for retail businesses and this often means there are added services available that will assist you in your tasks. For example, take advantage of things like free gift wrapping or grocery services that deliver to your door. Sometimes these services might not be advertised so be sure to check with staff. Leaving small tasks in the hands of professionals will be sure to ease some of the stress you might be feeling.”
Ask for help
“Remember that you’re not a superhero and that it’s ok to ask for help at this time of year (even if you traditionally take on all the tasks). You’ll often find family members will enjoy being involved in the tasks and it’s a great opportunity to spend time together.”
Know when to say ‘no’
Although Christmas time is traditionally hectic, it’s important to make time for self-care.
“Christmas time often means an excess of parties and events to attend, along with family gatherings. While many of these events might feel like important occasions, don’t be afraid to say no if you’re feeling exhausted or overwhelmed,” says Noosha. “Say ‘yes’ to the smaller, more meaningful events, and no to the extravagant ones which might mean too many people, resulting in less quality moments. Remember, no matter how busy social life gets, it's really important to sneak some time in for rest and recuperation.”
Focus on what’s important
Enduring the Christmas period can sometime have a fishbowl effect on your life, and make small issues seem bigger than they are. It’s important to keep this in mind, and if you do get upset, refocus your energy on what’s important.
“It’s so easy to get caught up in the commercialisation of Christmas that we sometimes forget to put things in perspective,” says Noosha. “At a time of great abundance, try to focus on what’s most important, which for most, would be spending time with family. This can sometimes make things seem less overwhelming and let you realize that some of the things you’re worried about don’t matter when compared to what’s really important (like family) rather than which decorations go on the Christmas tree.”