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6 ways to stay calm this Christmas

With over a quarter of the UK feeling stressed during the festive season, is 2021 the time to rethink how we do Christmas?

‘Tis the season to make your never-ending to-do list and check it twice. Although December can be the most wonderful time of the year for many people, over two in five Brits find the festive season challenging [1].

Women often play the role of ‘hostess with the mostest’, meaning it’s not surprising that 51% of women feel more stressed and 35% feel more anxious during the festive frenzy [1]. Looking after our mental health is important for us to prioritise all the time, not just when we feel anxious or stressed [2]

So, love it or loathe it, amidst the frenzy of Christmas shopping, organising the house and preparing for the most anticipated meal of the year – can we find the time to look after our wellbeing in the run-up to the big day? 

Is stress at Christmas bad?

High stress levels can negatively impact your physical and mental health. The steroid hormone cortisol regulates different processes, including metabolism, the immune system and the body’s response to stress.

If your stress levels are constantly high, cortisol can suppress bodily functions, leading to health problems. High cortisol levels can also cause the body to store fat around the organs in the abdomen, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes [3].

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Maybe it’s time to rethink how we prepare for Christmas?

Look at our six simple steps to help you enjoy a happy holiday and leave you feeling merry and bright this Christmas time.

  1. Share the load 

If your tinsel is in a tangle and the festive season leaves you feeling frazzled, it’s time to lighten your load.

Don’t take on more than you need to, and try to delegate tasks to those around you, such as food shopping or present buying, where you can. Splitting tasks can help relieve the pressure and bring everyone together.

Make a list of the jobs that need doing, then ask your family and friends to each put their name to something. Be clear where you need a little extra support and give people enough time to get their jobs done.

  1. Consider how food affects your mood

Who doesn’t love a mistle-toast to the holiday season? But when we’re surrounded by tasty tipples and treats, it can be very easy to overindulge, leaving us feeling tired and sluggish.

Maintaining a healthy balanced diet can help improve your mood and give you more energy. Healthier food choices can also help support your mental health

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day and choosing foods that release energy slowly will help to keep your sugar levels steady so you’re less tempted to raid the Christmas chocolate collection. Slow-release energy foods include pasta, rice, oats, wholegrain bread and cereals, nuts, and seeds [4].

  1. Don’t break the bank

Writing a list of what you think you need to buy can help you budget and make informed decisions.

Remember, the best presents are not always the most expensive. The age-old saying of it’s the thought that counts really is true. Focus on the memories rather than gifts and invest in experiences rather than things. If you do want to buy presents, choose personal presents that your loved ones will appreciate.

Chat with family and friends to agree on spending limits. If you have lots of people to buy for, you could also encourage everyone to take the Secret Santa route. This can lighten your financial load and give you more time to find a thoughtful and meaningful gift. 

  1. Think sustainable

You likely have enough on your mind without worrying about your carbon footprint this Christmas. But being greener doesn’t have to mean sacrifice.

By buying less, but better quality, we can minimise our impact on the environment without spoiling any of the magic. Shop local and support small businesses.

Get creative with gift wrap and decorations; choose recyclable wrapping paper, reusable fabric wraps and use string or ribbon instead of tape. There is no shame in collecting old wrapping supplies and reusing them later. Instead of buying Christmas cards, consider sending digital e-cards or making a charitable donation instead. 

  1. Remember what’s important

Christmas 2020 was a strange one for us all. You may feel the pressure to make up for lost time and make this year even more magical but think about what matters to you and those you love.

Chances are flawlessly wrapped presents and planning a picture-perfect day don’t make the top of the list. Taking a second amid the Christmas chaos to remember what the holiday season is all about will help gain perspective. Spending time with family and friends is an excellent way to release happy hormones dopamine and serotonin.

  1. Take some time for you

No matter how many things you must do or how many presents still need wrapping, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Prioritising your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing is important all year round, but even more so when you’re super busy.

Curl up with that book you’ve been meaning to start, stretch and move your body, run that bath, have an early night - whatever works for you and whatever fits into your schedule is the right thing to do. Indulging in self-care can be as simple as taking five minutes out of your day and will help you to rest, recharge and reset.


Stress-related tests

Our Stress Cortisol Saliva Tests (4) is our most popular cortisol saliva test. It helps you understand your stress levels and adrenal function over the course of a day. This helps pinpoint the times when you are most stressed to support you to make necessary lifestyle adjustments.


References

  1. https://yougov.co.uk/topics/health/articles-reports/2019/12/18/christmas-harms-mental-health-quarter-brits 
  2. https://www.nhs.uk/every-mind-matters/mental-wellbeing-tips/top-tips-to-improve-your-mental-wellbeing/ 
  3. https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/cortisol/
  4. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/food-and-mood/about-food-and-mood/