A survival guide for the holidays!

How to have a (relatively) stress-free Christmas!

Is a stress-free Christmas really possible?

Are you finding yourself caught up in the frenzy of buying presents, getting the tree up, organising the big day and coping with kids and family as the school year winds to a close?

Is your to do list a mile long – does that scare you?

This year, along with the normal stressors, we can add economic pressures, the ongoing health climate and anything specific to your community.

Where I live, we are facing long term flooding of the River Murray to levels not seen for nearly 50 years and the multitude of problems this causes individuals, families and businesses.

It seems that everywhere we turn there is something else happening that adds to what is already a stressful time for some people.  Those that struggle with mental and emotional health on a normal day can find their symptoms even worse.

How do we navigate these times, with ease and grace, making the most of the good things and minimising the not so good?

How do we cope with family tensions when everyone is struggling with something? We cope by being  responsible and kind to everyone, ourselves included! And understanding, of ourselves, the situation, and other people.

Remember everyone, including you, is doing the best they can with the resources they have got.  Resources means strength, energy, resilience, the ability to cope, and awareness of the situation and how people are impacted.  Everyone views the world through their own lens and may see and experience things differently to you. They may not have the strength or awareness that you have, or simply see something differently to you. This is important to remember if you are expected to spend the day with family members you would rather not see. This is a choice, even though it may seem like you don’t have one.  You can choose to spend the day with them and make the most of it, or not.  Maybe the best option is to spend only a short amount of time with them, or to not see them at all.  Yes, there are always family dynamics involved, but it really is up to you, how you choose to approach the day.  Remember if you are prickly at the start of the day and expect trouble, guess what there will be.  Or you could decide to make the most of the day and be as kind and calm as you can, while remembering boundaries. I’m not suggesting you be a doormat or accept poor behaviour from someone, if this happens you can respond rather than react.

Responsibility = the ability to respond – rather than react.
Responding calms situations and people, reacting is like throwing petrol on a fire. Learn to respond.

Challenge yourself to take that big breath and think about what is triggering you, then respond with kindness.

Whether it’s what someone has said, or done, letting yourself off the hook for the housework not being done, or the lawn that isn’t mowed, or the kids are running amuck, just STOP, take a breath, give yourself time to think and check in.

I don’t know about you but unless I look at photos, I can’t remember all the details of Christmases past, whether the food was just right, if everyone liked their presents, or who said what to whom.

If you are getting stressed by everything that “needs” to be done in the lead up to the big day, stop and think about how important the things are on your list.

Do they all really need to be done?

Will the world stop turning if there aren’t three options for dessert, or if the tree isn’t exactly how you want it, or if the shop is out of the gift you wanted to get someone?

Do you really have to go to a long list of social engagements just because you are expected to, or go to several different places on Christmas day.  You can say no.  It’s OK to say no, especially when saying yes causes more stress.

If you notice yourself getting wound up, tell yourself to STOP, take a big deep breath, or more if you need it, and then check in.

What is going on in your brain? Become aware of what is the root cause of the stress and then give your brain something else to do.  Ask if it’s worth getting upset about, or take some time out, go for a walk, listen to music, have a glass of water, take some deep breaths, or learn the yoga move legs up the wall or Brain Gym hook-ups to calm the nervous system and induce a relaxation response.  Practice relaxation activities every single day, deep breathing is something we forget to do, as is taking some time out to just be. Make it a priority and give yourself permission.

When things get stressful, or you feel reactive, tell yourself to STOP, take a breath and ask yourself “Will it matter in 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days or 5 years?” and then choose.

Choose to respond in a way that is meaningful and helpful. And have a lovely Christmas and New Year.

A Releasing Worries and Stress guided meditation with binaural beats is available for free on my website. Feel free to download and share the link with your friends.

Love and blessings to you all.