Christmas is meant to be a time of joy and relaxation. In reality, it can also be a time of stress, and that’s particularly true in the run-up to the big day. It’s all-too easy to feel overwhelmed – from increased social obligations and the rush to get work done before everyone clocks off for the year, to worries about potentially tricky family dynamics. And that’s before we’ve even got to the seemingly never-ending process of Christmas shopping.
So how can we avoid burnout and still enjoy a happy, healthy Christmas?
The thing is, well-being can often take a back seat in the festive season. As we try so hard to meet the needs of others, we can forget to look after ourselves.
That’s why we’ve put together some simple self-care ideas to reduce stress as Christmas draws closer. We’re not, of course, suggesting you completely abandon your to-do list (tempting as that may be). These are small things you can build into your everyday routine in order to prioritise your mental and physical health.
Read the full guide or simply jump straight to whichever ideas are most appealing.
Self-care ideas to avoid burnout this Christmas
Over Christmas, sleep is easily sacrificed to social activities and staying on top of all our commitments. But sleep is such a powerful stress reducer. Research has shown that when you’re sleep-deprived, you are more emotionally reactive, impulsive, and sensitive to negative triggers.
Make sure you prioritise sleep this Christmas. While some late nights may 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.
Of course, the amount of sleep you need is entirely individual – you’ll know whether or not you’re getting enough by how you feel during the day.
How to do it: Check out our guide to getting enough sleep and rest for you
Meditation encourages us to be present in the moment and put aside the stresses of the day. Dedicating 5, 10 or 20 minutes a day to practising meditation can help to reduce anxiety.
Get out in nature
It’s totally understandable if you feel the urge to hibernate as the temperature drops, and darker days become the norm. However, getting out in nature has numerous benefits when it comes to our mental health. Try to persuade yourself outdoors for some exercise whenever you can, even if it’s just a brisk lunchtime walk.
How to do it: Check out our family wellness challenge – walking the Three Peaks from home.
Choose a relaxing playlist
There’s research to show that listening to music can help reduce stress levels – particularly before carrying out a challenging task. With that in mind, make sure you put on some relaxing music while working through your Christmas to-dos – wrapping presents, for example, or even prepping the sprouts on the big day itself. You could also try to remember to listen to some stress-melting music on your commute, or ahead of a big night out.
How to do it: Explore our relaxing playlist of feelgood tracks.
Use positive affirmations
Do you ever find yourself caught up in negative self-talk in the run-up to Christmas? We’re taking about an annoying little inner voice making unhelpful comments, such as “Well, you’ll never get through your workload before the holidays at this rate” and “By the way, there’s only a week left before Christmas and you haven’t finished your shopping – typical you”.
Let’s quieten that voice, using positive affirmations.
If you’re not used to it, making positive statements to yourself can feel a little weird. But once you’ve tried it a few times, you may well find it becomes a well-loved habit that gets you through stressful times.
How to do it: Read our guide to positive affirmations to get started.
Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you understand them more clearly. Keeping a diary – or ‘journalling’, as it’s now often called – has been shown to have real mental health benefits.
Don’t worry if you’re not a keen writer, as audio journalling as been shown to have the same effect. Simply make a regular voice note about how you’re feeling and how your day has gone.
How to do it: Discover different ways to get started with our how-to guide to journalling for well-being.
Give up exercise guilt
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 also help to inspire self-confidence, energy and positivity.
At Christmas, however, time demands may mean you can’t make it to the gym or to your usual exercise class. Don’t beat yourself up. Instead, think realistically about how much exercise you can do during the festive season and adapt accordingly. Any movement you can find time for will be beneficial.
How to do it: Take inspiration from our guide to easy exercises you can do on high-stress days (that won’t take up too much time).
Practise breathwork techniques
Consciously controlling our breathing can have a very calming effect. It can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths before reacting to a stressful situation.
But there are also breathwork techniques you can use to take time away from everyday life, giving you a break from the festivities and inviting a sense of relaxation.
How to do it: Try the three techniques in our guide to breathwork and see which one works best for you.
Set some intentions
This is the time of year when thoughts naturally turn to New Year’s resolutions. This year, however, why not try setting intentions instead of resolutions?
Intentions aren’t as restrictive as resolutions, making them easier to stick to – and to adapt as the year progresses. Choosing intentions makes you think about your well-being and what you want to achieve, setting you up nicely for the year ahead.
How to do it: Read our guide to setting your personal intentions.
Enjoy mood-boosting foods
As well as all the delicious treats to enjoy at this time of year, there are some easy tweaks you can make to your diet that may provide relief if you’re feeling stressed. Reducing daytime caffeine intake can be an easy win when it comes to improving sleep, for example, and increasing magnesium may help regulate your nervous system.
How to do it: Explore our guide to nutritionist-approved ways to use your diet to support mental well-being.
Create a morning routine
This may sound like it’s easier said than done during the controlled chaos of a family Christmas. But if you can put together a routine that actually suits you – and stick to it most of the time – it can really help you feel more in control of your day.
How to do it: Learn how to put together a personalised routine with our 9 steps to your perfect morning.
Consider cold therapy
A cold shower in winter? That may not sound hugely appealing, but there’s been a huge increase in our understanding of the benefits of cold water therapy when it comes to everything from post-exercise recovery to the release of feel-good endorphins.
How to do it: Be inspired by our guide to cold water therapy, including getting the most from plunge pools.
Take care of yourself this Christmas, and we wish you a happy and healthy festive season.
A David Lloyd Clubs membership is designed to benefit your fitness and overall well-being – at Christmas and beyond. Find out more about what’s on offer.