Stress Relief This Christmas


With Christmas just around the corner, it’s time to start getting excited about parties, presents and pudding! It’s certainly a sociable time of year, which – although fun – can also be more than a little stressful. Family events, pressure to attend nights out, and increased consumption of alcohol can all lead to feelings of tension and anxiety. Here, Inner Smile mindfulness coach Michelle Whelan shares tips on how to avoid stress this Christmas. 

Family Pressures 

While it’s great to spend time with family you maybe haven’t seen much of in the last year, it’s also totally normal for some pressure or tensions to arise. Having extended family or in-laws staying with you, hosting a huge Christmas dinner, or rushing to get presents for everyone can add a strain to this already busy time of year! Michelle’s suggestion is to put less pressure on any time spent together. “In that type of family situation,” she begins, “try to manage your expectations. There’s huge pressure to bond, and if it doesn’t go according to plan, you’re left feeling guilty and disappointed. Try not to expect it to be all roses; just accept it for what it is.” 

Watch Your Alcohol Intake

As we all know, stressful situations can be heightened by excessive alcohol consumption. It’s lovely to catch up with friends for a drink or two during the festive season, but just be sure you go at your own pace, and opt out of expensive rounds if you don’t fancy a big night out. “You can’t attend everything,” says Michelle. “You’d be frazzled after it all, plus it costs a lot of money! If there’s too much going on, don’t be afraid to say no.” Remember, the Christmas period is also a great opportunity to rest and recharge, especially if you’ve had a lot on in the lead-up to the big day.

 

Organise an Event on Your Terms 

Another empowering suggestion is to take matters into your own hands. “I’ve a large family”, says Michelle, “and I’m always invited to a million things. So, every year, I book a show in December and invite everyone. It means I’m taking control and organising something, which in turn eases the pressure.” When it comes to catching up with friends meanwhile, Michelle notes that these don’t have to be evening sessions. “Suggest a nice lunch instead,” she says. “Night time is when a lot of alcohol tends to be consumed.” 

Practical Advice
 

Of course, there are times it really does get a bit much, and we can feel overwhelmed. Michelle has some practical advice to help you to be mindful in these stressful moments: 

  • Pick a phrase or ‘mantra’: An example of this could be ‘I’m going to have an enjoyable Christmas’ or ‘I am calm and in control of the situation’.
  • Take five minutes to repeat your mantra, nice and gently. You can do this at any time of day.
  • Focus on your breathing.  This simple activity allows you to step outside the stressful situation, meaning you’re less likely to react emotionally.  Place one hand on your belly and feel your breath as you’re repeating your mantra.

By taking five minutes during stressful times, you’re “slowing down, bringing your awareness to the present moment, and not judging it in any way”, says Michelle.
 
Interested in mindful meditation? Here are five apps to help get you started.