The festive season is seen as a time to connect with others and celebrate. It’s a time of joy and cheer, but for many people this isn’t the case, and now, with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, this year’s festive season will look different for many of us, and that may include a higher-than-usual level of stress in the lead up to Christmas and New Year.
In a year like no other it may not be possible for many to be together, and when you combine that with concern for loved ones, financial issues, family conflict, disappointment and loneliness, this may be a good time to think of ways to help you channel the holiday spirit, whatever that may mean for you.
So what steps can we take to ease the stress?
Practice A Little Self Care
With such a huge focus during the holidays on giving, it can be easy to forget to give back to yourself. Taking care of yourself will improve your mood and make it easier for you to take care of others.
Self Care can be as simple as setting aside some time to do things you enjoy. This might involve going for a short walk, listening to your favourite music, talking to a friend, or having a special treat. This can help refresh you and re-energise you for your next tasks.
SIC TIPSocial Impact Consultant Tips Whatever you choose, it doesn’t have to be an expensive or long activity; just something to give yourself a short break from the stress around you. And don’t forget the importance of a regular good night’s sleep.
Schedule time for exercise, relaxation, cooking and eating meals, and plan to complete certain tasks on certain days. These routines can be reassuring as they make life more predictable.
SIC TIPSocial Impact Consultant Tips Plan time for the additional things you need to do at this time of year, such as Christmas shopping, cooking and wrapping gifts by booking these in your diary, so you know you will get them done.
Have Reasonable Expectations
The holiday period can be a time when we place additional expectations and responsibilities upon ourselves. Re-evaluate what you can reasonably get done before Christmas, so that these goals are achievable.
SIC TIPSocial Impact Consultant Tips You may need to defer a get-together with friends until the New Year, or minimise the amount of cooking you might do. You may find that by reviewing your goals, the lead up to Christmas day is more enjoyable.
Be Kind To Yourself
Give yourself positive feedback. Tell yourself that you can cope, and that you will complete the things you need to do to the best of your ability. You are an individual who is doing the best you can.
SIC TIPSocial Impact Consultant Tips Negative self-talk can increase your stress levels, so keep your words gentle, as if you were reassuring a friend.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
It may be difficult to celebrate the holiday season if you’ve lost someone dear to you or distance makes it difficult to spend time together. Understand that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
SIC TIPSocial Impact Consultant Tips You can remember those you love with the simple ritual of lighting a candle in their honour. The glow of a candle can bring comfort and helps provide some sense of peace when you’re in emotional pain.
Volunteer to help with a charity Christmas event if there’s one near you. Helping others is a great way to boost your self-esteem and support people who may be going through a difficult time themselves.
SIC TIPSocial Impact Consultant Tips It’s a wonderful way to feel the joy of Christmas as well as experiencing a sense of community.
Be Financially Festive
spend money comfortably, then don’t – this will only add to stress in the new year. Gifts don’t need to be off the shelf. They can be experiences, time or your expertise.
SIC TIPSocial Impact Consultant Tips You could give someone a babysitting voucher where you offer to babysit for an evening, or offer to help out with a task that needs doing around the house or in the garden – whatever suits your skill set and the time you have available.
Stay In The Present
Being mindful can be an effective way to cope with holiday stress. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, try to bring yourself back to where you are and slow your breathing down. Incorporating breathing and relaxation exercises are great coping strategies to manage emotions that may get stirred up around this time of year. Most of these activities you can do almost anywhere and for little or no cost.
SIC TIPSocial Impact Consultant Tips You can download relaxation apps ahead of Christmas so they’re right there in your pocket for when you need to find a sense of peace and calm among the chaos.
Lastly, Reach Out
If you do need someone to talk to and, if you’re finding it hard to cope, you might like to talk to someone who’s not so close to the situation. Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline 13 11 14 both have counsellors who are available 24 hours a day, so feel free to call them if you feel overwhelmed.
Being proactive in your holiday planning can turn an otherwise stressful Christmas season into an enjoyable and memorable one. Merry Christmas!