If you believe the hype, the Christmas/NYE holidays are meant to be some of the best days of the year. But if you’re anything like the majority of us, you’ll agree that we often find ourselves feeling like we’re running a marathon. The holidays can however, be a breather and a chance to reenergise for heading into 2020. An opportunity for you to destress. And although you might be reading this thinking “Yeah right, that's not gonna happen!”; there are surprisingly simple things you can do to destress and allow yourself a more peaceful Christmas time.
Choose what matters most
Think about what you want to get out of these Christmas holidays. Is it more time for yourself? Want to start a new habit or hobby? To reconnect with your partner or children? To allow your mind to let go of work? To do a few projects at home?
Identify what matters most to you at this time of year and keep this as your priority over Christmas. Allow this priority to guide your planning and choices. For example, when you get invited at short notice to the 5th BBQ of the festive season, perhaps ask yourself, "Does going along to this BBQ fit with what matters most to me right now?". If not, you can say no thanks.
One way to do this is to just take some deep breaths. No, that doesn’t mean you need to start meditating and doing yoga (although they can help with managing stress); but whenever you feel stress or unpleasant emotions building up, try just taking a few slow deep breaths. You can even try finding a little quiet corner to close your eyes and focus on your breathing while you shut out everything else around you. It can help if you make your "out breath" longer than your "in breath", so try breathing in for count of 4 and out for a count of 6. This practice really helps you to pause for a moment to settle, recentre and helps clear your mind.
Another way you can destress and rest during the holidays is to simply plan fewer activities. There are tons of things to do during the holidays but if you try to do every little thing, you’ll quickly find yourself drained, stressed and not having much fun. Pick the activities you’re most excited about or you think your family will enjoy best and make sure you do those. If you want to do other activities, there’s always next year. The key is to do what’s really important and is going to bring you joy. Leave the unnecessary stuff out. Limiting the number of activities you do will reduce your stress and allow you the space and time to do other things like reading, going for a walk, or just having the time to clean that junk drawer that you’ve been putting off for so long.
Keep it small
If you’re planning on hosting friends and family over the holidays, try planning smaller, more intimate gatherings. As much fun as it is to have an entire house filled with loved ones enjoying themselves, hosting a bustling Christmas party can also be really stressful. Instead, try inviting a few interesting people over, offer simpler refreshments (or better still, ask people to bring a plate!) and enjoy the process of getting to know the people in your life better. It’s less stressful and you’ll actually be able to sit down with each of your guests for a chat.
Take time off
You could also try taking time off from work (in addition to the public holidays) over the festive season. Depending on your job this could be close to impossible, but if you have the annual leave days available, this is a great time to make use of them. Having a few extra days along with the public holidays to relax and destress around can really make a whole lot of a difference. You can use them to mentally and physically destress in preparation for the Christmas season or you can use them to get shopping and other things done. That way, you won’t have to squeeze in a dozen different things within a short period of time and you may be able to have more rest in amongst all the activity and socialising.
If it's too late for you to organise time off this year, think about what would work best for you and make a note for yourself to plan your annual leave differently next year so you are feeling less pressured in the lead up to Christmas.
Routine is boring, but good!
Don't forget to keep some of your usual helpful routines, such as meditation or exercise. If you've worked hard in 2019 to build a few self-care rituals, don't let the essential ones slide during the holidays. Try to keep the most important ones going, so you don't undo your good work! Even though we know the benefits of being outdoors and getting regular exercise, some of us forget about it during the holidays because we're busy shopping or socialising. However, with its ability to help reduce stress, exercise may be one of the best things you can do for yourself these holidays. You don’t have to engage in a killer workout at the gym either, just taking 20-30 minutes out of your day to go for a walk can help improve your stress levels.