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Christmas….stress to be a success? Tips to get you through the stress of the holidays.

Here we are again. Headaches over what to buy, where to spend it, can we afford it? Not everyone‘s favourite time of the year. How to cope with the pressure in the countdown to the big day?

You might have some tried and tested coping strategies that you already use…getting the presents in early, organising where to be and who to be with, taking time to ensure that you continue with the activities that help you to relax. However, unless you are really organised these good intentions can slip, and you may find yourself feeling the pressure to keep everyone happy by setting overly-ambitious and unrealistic targets, which result in you feeling deflated and overwhelmed.

Tips for managing the stress of the holidays:

When we feel uncertain or overwhelmed about future events we can start to feel anxious and overwhelmed. Strategies for managing your anxiety can be practiced to help contain worries which might otherwise snowball (ha! No pun intended..). These include "worry postponement" and the use of a (Christmas) "worry tree". What is worry postponement? This is a technique which many of you may be using already. Imagine. You are sat at home, relaxing over a cup of tea, the biggest problem you have to deal with? Marmite or jam on your toast for breakfast then WHAM….a metaphorical slap in the face. Christmas…you still haven’t sorted it out. At this point, you may start to worry about the many things that you need to do but do not have time to do because you’re preparing for work. This could lead to a sense of unease which could stay with you all day….coming back at regular intervals to remind you that you have lots of things to organise. Alongside this, you may also identify other worries, issues as yet unresolved, which are hanging around like a dying, browning Christmas tree, 3 weeks after Christmas.

Here is what you can do:

Set aside some time in the day ( about 30 mins) at a time in the evening when you are usually relaxed and winding down. This is your worry postponement time. Schedule this into your diary so you are more likely to observe it. When you become aware of starting to worry about anything in the day, make a note (mentally or on your phone perhaps) of this, and take it to your worry time in the evening. When the worry time comes about, you may be surprised to find that several of the worries have already been resolved. Those which are left can be looked at (maybe with the help of a trusted friend/ relative) and an action plan devised, again to contain the worry and reduce the uncertainty.

The Christmas worry tree…

So you imagine a tree and you start at the top as you work your way through your worry. Ask yourself , is this worry real or 'hypothetical' worry. A hypothetical worry could be something like” is it going to snow on Christmas Eve and stop me from driving to great Aunty Maude ‘s house”. Can you do anything about this ? No…it will snow or not regardless of whether you worry about it. So, you might want to make a plan for what to do if it does snow then let it go….

A 'real' worry….there aren't enough turkeys in the supermarket and I can't buy organic Brussels sprouts. How do you manage the anxiety associated with this? Make a plan. Action plans are a great way to contain anxiety. Put your plan on the phone/ fridge then when you are relaxing so when you get the WHAM…remind yourself you have done all you can and there is nothing more you can do, at this time. It does take some practice to change these ways of thinking but we are all familiar with the dread which accompanies unresolved issues. A lot of time can be spent worrying about things that may never happen and we know that practicing enjoying what we are doing in the moment ensures we find time for moments of pleasure each day without being distracted by worries.

If your worries feel bigger than this, or like you might need extra support, there are a number of organisations that can offer support for anyone feeling overwhelmed at this time of year. This could be due to ongoing issues of anxiety and low mood , feeling lonely or a sense that this is yet another stress to try to manage. Here are a few:

Samaritans 116 123 or 01273 772277

Shout is the UK’s first free 24/7 text/SMS service for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. Text 85258. . To be considered in need of the crisis support for people with hearing impairment, phone anxiety and/or mobility issues who can’t go to drop-ins.

Stand alone. A charity supporting adults who are estranged from their The silver Line. Provides support, information and friendship and advice for people over 55 who feel lonely and isolated. 0800 4 70 80 90. The National Association for People Abused in Childhood(NAPAC). Supports adult survivors of any form of childhood abuse. Offers a helpline, email support and local services. Call 08088010331.

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