‘Tis the season to get stressed out? Some years, it can feel that way, with idyllic visions of a peaceful holiday season making way for Christmas stress – AKA festive fatigue. With seemingly endless planning, shopping, wrapping and cooking involved, the most wonderful time of the year can also be one of the most exhausting.
In fact, according to a study by Harvard Medical School, 62% of respondents described their stress level as “very or somewhat” elevated during the holidays. In the last few years, COVID-19 may have been adding to that stress with a host of new challenges – from deciding who fits into your festive bubble to, quite simply, worrying about the virus itself.
With that in mind, we’ve pulled together six reminders for those battling Christmas stress this year. The overriding message? Find moments of peace where possible. This year, we all deserve a mental break.
1. Schedule in Self-Care
Self-care can sometimes sound like a social media buzzword, but the soothing impact of taking time for yourself can not be understated. It doesn’t have to mean investing in pricey meditation subscriptions or trips to a spa. Oftentimes, it can be as simple as taking your vitamins or scheduling in downtime. Showing yourself these small acts of kindness can have a big impact on your mood, so make sure there’s time in your festive break for a real break. We have plenty of self-care ideas to get you started.
2. Ask Others for Help
There’s always one person who shoulders much of the Christmas planning and stress. Perhaps it’s you who takes on the role of head present buyer, go-to wrapper, food shopper, cook and peacekeeper. Quickly, these tasks become tradition, and you find yourself working solo every year. This year? Ask for help from your friends and family. You may even find they enjoy getting more involved.
3. Keep the Laptop Closed
If you work from home or split the weekdays between your place and the office, there’s no denying that relaxing after WFH can be a challenge. Having your dining table double up as a desk can make it tricky to set clear boundaries, but Christmas is the time to hit ‘reset’ on your over-working habit. Tuck the laptop out of sight, turn off email notifications on your phone, and remind yourself how good it feels to be present in the moment. Even if it’s just for Christmas and Boxing Day, the break may prevent you from suffering burnout – a feeling of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that’s often caused by work.
4. Maintain Feel-Good Routines
We’re creatures of habit, and many of us thrive on having a good routine in place. That’s why, when Christmas leads to late nights and long lie-ins, we can start to feel a little deflated. Often, we think of routine as being in a rut or too set in our ways. However, it’s these daily patterns that help to improve sleep and reduce feelings of anxiety. That doesn’t mean you have to bid your loved ones goodnight at 10pm on Christmas Day, but if you have certain habits that calm you – like an early start or an evening run – try to make them part of the holidays.
5. Set Manageable Goals
It’s good to have goals; when you tick them off, you feel an unrivalled sense of achievement. However, when you set too many, you can end up with feelings of guilt if they prove unmanageable. We’re all prone to optimism bias, where we become unrealistic about what’s feasible to achieve in a given time frame – and Christmas is a time to be mindful of overstretching yourself. Instead of writing yourself a long checklist of tasks to ‘make the most of the time off’, trim it down to the essentials. Any extra achievements will feel like a bonus, not a burden.
6. Put Social Time First
We’ve all been feeling a little more disconnected since the pandemic first began. There’s been less time with family and friends than ever before, leading to loneliness and isolation. So, above all else, try to prioritise mood-boosting social time with the people you love this Christmas – whether that means seeing them in person or staying connected via Zoom.