What can you do to help make your Christmas less stressful? The Christmas season is approaching again and for some, this is their favourite time of year. A time filled with joy, love, peace, family, friends, laughter, good food and great memories. However, for some, it is a time of year that brings stress, anxiety, frustration, sadness, financial strain, over-eating and drinking and loneliness.

Many people find the Christmas season, or silly season as some refer to it, to be very stressful and just down right exhausting.
There’s the shopping in crowded shopping centres, the relentless marketing surrounding us with messages of how we should be, the cooking, the cleaning, work commitments and parties.

There’s the anxiety of choosing the right gifts and the fear of getting it wrong, family expectations and the fear of being judged with thoughts of “Will they notice that I’ve gained weight?” or “I can’t afford a new outfit or an expensive gift this year.”

Maybe there’s been a falling out with a certain family member that has not yet been resolved, and the thought of facing that person on a day where everyone is expected to “play nice” is almost inconceivable.

Expectations and pressure are high this time of year, and many of us can feel pressured to do what we think others “want”, like feeling the pressure to over eat or to drink alcohol, and of course for some there is almost always the expectation to be in two places at once.

Pleasing everyone is not always possible. In fact, it rarely is.

The stress generated this time of year can be overwhelming, in fact, some people rate Christmas as more stressful than divorce or moving house and this is why it may be a good idea to arm ourselves with some new strategies to help manage some of the stress and anxiety.
After all, we want to enjoy Christmas too, right?

The team here at Love Thy Temple have come up with a few tips which will hopefully ease the tension this Christmas.

Make sure you get plenty of sleep.
This goes without saying, but we also often overlook it. We need to get enough sleep to refresh our body and mind. Less than six hours of sleep per night over an extended period can be harmful to our health by causing a rise in cortisol levels. An increase in cortisol levels places the body and mind under great stress and can increase levels of anxiety.
Wherever possible, try to keep a regular and healthy sleep routine and sneak a nap in when you can, while trying to avoid a food coma! This will keep you feeling ready to face each day. Remember, if you feel like you need time out, take it.

Use your head when it comes to what you eat.
It’s easy to get caught up in the season and to splurge on all of the food choices. It’s fine to indulge, just use your head and try not to over-indulge. After all, if you eat too much rubbish you’re going to feel rubbish.
Try sampling instead of over-indulging this season, you’ll be glad you did.

Be mindful of what you drink.
Ah the infamous Christmas cheer, as it is so often called. Having a couple of sips with friends and family this time of year can definitely be a lot of fun, but it can easily get out of hand. I think we are all aware of the physical damage excessive alcohol consumption or binge drinking can cause but there is another side also. When the body is under stress, so is the mind. These are not separate things. Excess sugar and alcohol absolutely punishes the nervous system which can agitate symptoms of anxiety. Not to mention that alcohol is a depressant and can adversely effect those suffering from depression or anxiety.
Enjoy your Christmas spirit in moderation and you won’t have to endure unnecessary added stress.

We are also aware that a lot of pressure is placed on people this time of year to drink. This is not ok and it is not the behaviour of a considerate friend or family member. People need to be able to say no to alcohol without being treated as an outcast or ridiculed. There can be a number of reasons that some of us choose not to drink. Let it go and allow everyone to enjoy the season in their own way.
It’s ok to say no.

Have a secret Santa this year instead.
This is one of our favourites. Instead of buying a gift for everyone this year, maybe your family and friends can do a secret Santa instead. Put all members names in a hat, choose one each and keep it a secret.
Set a price limit and everyone is tasked with buying one thoughtful gift for the person they chose.
Just place all the gifts under the tree with an anonymous name tag attached. (having these names printed out on stickers with the same font helps to keep the secret).
Also consider giving experiences, like dining or spa vouchers, over stuff…After all, it’s one less thing that ends up in landfill eventually.

Agree that presence is the best present.
With all that we have going on in our lives, especially in the past couple of years, scraping together the spare cash to buy gifts just isn’t possible for everyone.
Talk to your family and close friends and discuss having a catch up at a time that is suitable for everyone instead of gifts this year. If you can afford great gifts, just spare a thought for those that can’t and be aware that they may be feeling uncomfortable.
Let’s be real, unless your a child, then the gifts take second place to the company of our loved ones. Get something small for the kids perhaps, but take the pressure of gifting out of the Christmas season.
Let’s consider de-commercialising it and make it about family again.
The discussion around not having gifts at Christmas may be a bit awkward at first, once you become more comfortable in explaining your position, people will most likely become very understanding.
No matter what your family tradition, it can evolve like most things do.
Being present in the lives of those we love is the greatest gift of all.

Check in with yourself as much as possible. If you’re tired, rest.
Eat consciously and modestly.
Don’t max out your credit card just because of expectations, real or imagined.
Get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly and most of all, make yourself a priority. If you need time out, take it.
Be mindful of others and take notice of the beauty that is all around you.
Be grateful for what you have and for what you have to offer.

This can be a tough time of year for many, but with a bit of forethought and a strategy of self-care, it can eventually become a time to enjoy.

From all of us here at Love Thy Temple, we sincerely hope you give yourself, and those you love, the gift of peace this Christmas.

Author: Pete Welsh