Christmas can be stressful – here is help!
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Christmas can be stressful – stressful situations can happen at home as well as at work and Christmas is a particularly stressful time. If you’ve coped with a lot of stress at work then dealing with the extra stress of Christmas at home may make you feel overwhelmed.
Christmas can be stressful – symptoms
What happens in stress is that your body goes into overdrive and you may find yourself with
- Pounding heart
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pains
- Feeling faint
- With shaking limbs and jelly legs
Now, of course, chest pains and breathlessness should be checked out with a medical adviser. But all these symptoms can be exaggerations of your body’s normal response to fear or stress (the “fight or flight” mechanism). They can feel very frightening in themselves and that makes things worse. But once you’ve checked with a doctor, you need to keep in mind that they are not dangerous or harmful provided you take action to help you handle the stress.
They are happening because your body is flooded with stress hormones such as adrenaline and corticosteroid. They were helpful when we had to run away from dangerous animal but now they produce those frightening symptoms.
So what can you do to feel better.
- First recognise the symptoms for what they are. If it is possible to remove any of the pressures on you, then do so. Use the same techniques you would use at work to organise and prioritize any work you have to do at home.
- Start to control you thoughts – when anxious thoughts and worries come into your head take a pause and start to repeat to yourself quietly; “This will pass.” Each time a negative thought comes into your head say it again, until the new thought replaces the negative one. And you know at Christmastime that the 2nd of January does come round remarkably quickly.
- Have little stock of things you enjoy, such as, music on your iPod, or in my case very old BBC Radio comedies. Even if you can only find 10 minutes alone to enjoy to them, do so everyday.
- Be quite ruthless in protecting yourself from the harmful effect of negative friends and relatives. If you have to spend time with them then make sure you take regular breaks and reward your self for your patience in dealing with them.
- Avoid over eating and drinking too much but make sure you have a little of everything that you enjoy.
- If it is at all possible take short walk in the open air each day.
- Recognise that this is an emotionally demanding time and if you feel like having a good cry then do so – tears can be a very healthy response to the feelings within us.
- Practice relaxed breathing – the technique is described below
Practise deep breathing at a regular time and in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.
Loosen or remove any tight clothes, such as shoes or jackets. Make yourself feel completely comfortable.
Sit in a comfy chair which supports your head or lie on the floor or bed. Place your arms on the chair arms, or flat on the floor or bed, a little bit away from the side of your body with the palms up. If you’re lying down, stretch out your legs, keeping them hip-width apart or slightly wider. If you’re sitting in a chair, don’t cross your legs.
Good relaxation always starts with focusing on your breathing. The way to do it is to breathe in and out slowly and in a regular rhythm as this will help you to calm down.
Fill up the whole of your lungs with air, without forcing. Imagine you’re filling up a bottle, so that your lungs fill from the bottom:
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Breathe in slowly and regularly counting from one to five (don’t worry if you can’t reach five at first).
- Then let the breath escape slowly, counting from one to five.
Keep doing this until you feel calm. Breathe without pausing or holding your breath.
Practise this relaxed breathing for three to five minutes, two to three times a day (or whenever you feel stressed).
Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in helping people lead happier lives and feel more fulfilled. She has worked in management as well as coaching and personal development, as well as starting up her own businesses. That means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up a new business or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues.