Holiday stress? 3 ways to dial it down
It's that time of year again! We're getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season; for many of us there's food to plan and prepare, budgets to juggle, gifts to buy, the house to decorate, relatives to entertain. Our diaries are crammed full of events - some of which may not fill us with joy. And all this is on top of our busy everyday lives. The result? Holiday stress. Whether you have a faith or not, what could be a joyful time to celebrate and spend time with loved ones, can become exhausting and stressful. Here are 3 easy
things to do that might be helpful in dialling down that stress level so you can enjoy the season to the full.
Something as simple as controlling your breathing can make a huge difference to your stress levels, and can help calm anxious feelings leaving you grounded and more in control. Its all to do with calming your body's 'fight or flight' response. You've heard the expression 'a sharp intake of breath', often used when we've had a shock or feel overwhelmed. This sends signals to our nervous system that something's up, get ready for action. By focusing on the outbreath we send the opposite signals to our body - 'all is well, you can relax now!' Call to mind the huge sigh of relief when you finally made that deadline or caught the train you were aiming for. So here's how to do it: + Breathe in slowly through your nose to the count of 7+ Breathe out slowly through your mouth to the count of 11+ Repeat a few times till you feel calmer - just a few times- 3x usually does the trick for me. And that's all there is to it! The numbers are not all that important, but the key element is to make the outbreath longer than the inbreath. When we are anxious we tend to breathe more shallowly and this helps reverse that aspect too. Calming yourself also has the added bonus of helping you to be more objective and when faced with yet another task to take on, to ask yourself the question 'is this really necessary?' Here's an interesting article that explains 7-11 breathing in more depth:https://www.hgi.org.uk/resources/delve-our-extensive-library/resources-and-techniques/7-11-breathing-how-does-deep
2.Take a Mindful Moment
How you feel is influenced at least in part by what you are giving your attention to, think of how you feel when watching a heart-warming movie or conversely listening to a political rant. When we are stressed we can feel 'all over the place' and this is where a little mindfulness exercise can come in useful. There are various versions of this but I personally like this one: a 5 sense mindfulness tour. + Take a moment to be still and breathe. Look around, notice one thing that you can see.+ Now turn your attention to your sense of hearing. Listen; what can you hear around you?+ Your sense of touch comes next - what can you feel? Feet on the floor, hands on your lap?+ Sniff the air, what can you smell? Perfume on your wrist, fresh laundry scent on clothing?+ Taste comes last - can you identify a taste? A lingering trace of coffee? Take a sip of water? This is a great exercise to anchor you to the present and calm you down. If you get on well with it, you can expand it by finding 5 things to see, 4 things to hear, 3 things to touch etc.
3. Be Grateful
Finally, gratitude and appreciation. It's amazing what happens when we shift our perspective and allow a little positivity to spread some light into the situation. It may seem a little Pollyanna-like, but together with the 2 techniques outlined above, this stuff actually works. A case in point: there are currently major earthworks outside our house, and most of the street, courtesy of the Gas company. On what is normally a peaceful, village road, on the edge of countryside, we are surrounded by trucks and diggers, parking has been difficult, there are large, deep holes filled with water and part of the driveway had to be dug up. There are garish yellow fences, there is litter, and there is mud. I have family coming for the holidays and I want it to look nice - it doesn't, and the crew seems to have vanished with little chance of a tidy-up before Christmas. Having felt growing annoyance over this for the past few weeks I decided it was time to 'hunt the good stuff' (Martin Seligman) . Yes, it is a mess and its annoying. But what is good about this situation? What can I be grateful for?Having a piped, reliable gas supply, and the benefits of hot water and central heating as a result. Skilled people who can actually make this happen, and who are prepared to work in those nasty water-filled holes to ensure our street has a safe supply. The offer of electric heaters when the gas was turned off, and the promise to reinstate the driveway! The smiles and gratitude of the crew when we supplied tea after they worked late one night to ensure the gas could be turned back on. Lots of things to be grateful for, and as with every situation once you make gratitude a habit, the negativity ebbs away. Some things are much more of a challenge of course. But you can try.
“Feeling and expressing gratitude turns our mental focus to the positive, which compensates for our brains’ natural tendency to focus on threats, worries, and negative aspects of life.” ~Psychology Today
So those are my 3 top tips for a quick de-stress and re-focus. I hope you find them useful and they help you over this busy time. Please let me know what has worked for you! Relax when you can and above all - enjoy the season!