While Christmas is thought of as a time of joy and relaxation, in reality, it can be a stressful time for many. Factor in the financial stress of presents, guests and increased socialising; the time stress of juggling work, family and social obligations; the emotional stress of difficult family dynamics; and it is obvious why people struggle. ‘Me-time’ tends to go out the window and we forget to look after ourselves.
If you have been feeling the strain over Christmas, you are not alone. Research by David Lloyd Clubs found that 33% of Brits say they experience more anxiety at Christmas than any other time of the year, with 69% of people saying they want more time to themselves during December and wellbeing takes a back seat during the festive season.
In an effort to look after yourself, there are a number of things you can do to relax and prioritise your own health.
Try a Blissmas class
David Lloyd Clubs has created a special seasonal class that gives people a break from all the Christmas-mayhem. Blissmas is a meditation class that banishes all things festive and replaces them with calm, warm lighting, gentle piano music, comfortable seating and guided meditation techniques that members can practice both in classes and at home.
In a 30-minute session, you’ll discover breathing and meditation techniques to help calm the mind and body, learning to replace negative stressful thoughts with positive pictures and affirmations to break the cycle of stress and doubt. You’ll learn exercises to take away and practice at home.
For example, you could try the following exercise:
“Sit on a chair with your feet on the floor, arms relaxed in your lap, your back against the back of the chair; or lie on your mat on the floor in a relaxed position with your arms by your side. Gently close your eyes and begin with a few slow, deep breaths. Each time you breathe in; breathe all the way down into your stomach. Breathe in slowly through your nose, and feel your abdomen and lungs expand with air. Let go of each breath, and with it, release any tension or stress you might have been holding on to. Feel your body melt, feel your muscles relax, feel your breathing slow down.
Imagine being in a shopping centre, it’s crowded, every shop is teeming with last minute shoppers. You’re tired, your arms are heavy and laden with bags. Stop yourself and imagine time standing still. People are still rushing past, but you are in a bubble, nobody can touch you. There are no sounds from the other people rushing past, they don’t even acknowledge you’re there, you have your own little peaceful space in time…
Now imagine looking up at the giant Christmas tree in front of you. Look for the gold baubles. These are special ones. If you look really closely at each one, you’ll see a picture of someone you love. It may be family, friends, animals but you are filled with the feeling of absolute love when you see their face looking back at you and smiling. Take a few minutes and slowly keep looking, find the other gold baubles with faces on. It’s not about the money and the presents, it’s about the love and togetherness. Keep looking until you’ve found everyone you’d like to find.”
Meditate or practice yoga
Dedicating just 10 or 20 minutes a day to practicing meditation or yoga can help to reduce anxiety. Both practices have been proven to minimise stress and lift your mood by allowing for increased mindfulness and self-compassion. They encourage us to be present in the moment and put aside the stresses of the day.
Set aside a short period of time to practice at home or try a group yoga class or meditation session at a studio or gym near you.
Get enough sleep
Over Christmas, sleep is often sacrificed to social activities and staying on top of all our commitments. This can be harmful as sufficient sleep is vital to our healthy functioning and overall wellbeing.
Sleep is a powerful stress reducer. It calms and restores the body, improves concentration, regulates mood, and sharpens judgment and decision-making. Research has shown that when you’re sleep deprived, you are more emotionally reactive, impulsive, and sensitive to negative triggers. This can give way to stress in a number of different ways.
Make sure you prioritise sleep this Christmas. While a couple of late nights will be unavoidable, try to head home early or give a few parties a miss, so you can rest and enjoy a better frame of mind during the remaining festivities.
Try to manage your alcohol intake
While increased drinking is normal around Christmas, drinking to excess can majorly impact your mood and increase stress. Alcohol is a depressant – it slows down the brain and the central nervous system’s processes. While it may help you to relax in the short term, it interferes with the neurotransmitters in the brain that are needed for good mental health and will make stress harder to deal with later.
Don’t deprive yourself but be mindful of the amount you’re consuming.
Move your body
Exercise is a well-known stress reliever. Not only does it release endorphins (your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters) and improve your mood, but it can help to inspire self-confidence, energy and positivity. It can also improve your sleep.
While time demands may mean you can’t make it to the gym, moving your body in any way is beneficial. This could mean going for a walk with the family, playing with the kids for an hour or so, or doing a short at home HIIT session – anything that will keep you active.