Christmas & Stress

‘Tis the Season once again. I don’t mean of Yuletide and carols, or of peace and joy and goodwill to all men, I mean the season of Stress and pressure. The season of rushing about, worrying about spending too much money, having to “fit everyone in” and mainly of trying to be all things to all people. Last year I published an article called “20 things about Stress”. Well here it is again, but a little bit updated. Its my gift to you in this season of giving.

And whilst this article may feel a bit lighthearted in places, the message is serious. I always want to empower people to take charge fo their lives. Remember, you DO have a voice and how YOU feel does matter. The first thing about coping with a stressful situation is to acknowledge that it IS stressful, and that you are no less of a person if you need help to manage it. Understanding what it is about that situation that causes you stress will help you identify what about it you need to change. But you will need to be prepared to make some changes for yourself.

Happy Reading, and hopefully for some, Happy Unburdening.

1. Stress is not a condition on its own, it is a reaction to an external factor.

2. Most people, when experiencing extreme pressure, call themselves stressed.

3. But it’s not an event itself that causes us stress – that comes from how we react to a situation and how we are able to deal with it. So its not Christmas that’s making you stressed, it’s the expectations you place on yourself. It’s the Shoulds, the Oughts and the Musts that put you under the pressure.

4. What is stress? The medical definition comes way back from the 1930’s, and the scientific meaning is “an external pressure exerted on a malleable object to produce distortion or strain” Sounds a bit like an engineering term, doesn’t it?

5. When people under pressure are asked to describe their feelings, the reply we often get is that they feel pulled in both directions at once, overloaded, at breaking point. Anyone trying to appease difficult relatives will acknowledge this one.

6. Stress can have physical symptoms which include headaches, muscle tension, loss of appetite, sweating, poor sleep, dizziness, nausea

7. There are also potential psychological symptoms like anxiety, low self esteem, constant worry, irritability, racing thoughts, poor concentration. Add to that family tensions, obligations and the desire to please everyone and you have a recipe for upset straight away.

8.Stress is not ALL bad. Some stress is healthy and even aids productivity/creativity. Our bodies naturally respond to certain stimuli by creating an appropriate amount of pressure

9. Because it occurs naturally, it is difficult to stop, but stress can be managed successfully

10. A good idea is to start a “stress diary” which will help you identify what your specific triggers to feeling stress are

11. What feels stressful to one person can be helpful to another

12. Work related stress is known as one of the main causes of excessive drinking in men

13. The body sometimes uses crying as a tool to relieve the emotional tension and symptoms of stress. That’s why some of us get tearful when we are massively frustrated. And because our bodies are magnificent at self-regulation, the polar opposite also works just as well – so a real deep belly laugh can also do the trick.

14. People who cry after a major trauma are more likely to remain healthy than those who do not exhibit any emotion; those people may already be shutting down. So if you feel the strongest urge to sit down in private and have a grown up tantrumn and tears – go for it.

15. It is important to keep things in perspective. So what if you are late to the party? So what if your dinner table does not exhibit the same level of perfection as the one in the glossy Christmas supplement (that took 3 table dressers 6 hours to perfect anyway)

16. Learn to say NO. If you don’t HAVE to do something, then its ok not to do it. Taking the burden of unnecessary things out of your schedule will help you feel more in control and less overwhelmed. Give yourself some breathing space! Nowhere in the message or spirit of Christmas does it say – thou shalt spend time with all relatives on both sides of the family thus leaving no time for yourself.

17. If you are really feeling the pressure, take 5 minutes out to sit quietly and breathe, calmly and steadily. This will bring your heart rate down and help you to feel more in control. If you’re hosting, let everyone think you’re in the kitchen, stick some ready made food in the oven and then go sit in a quiet room elsewhere for 5 mins alone.

18. Talking things through with a friend can really help you to feel less isolated, and more positive about taking control. Feeling in control of your situation is one of the key ways to cope with stress; when you feel like you have a choice or a way of coping it is always easier to do just that.

19. Be smarter! You need to be able to accept there are some things you cannot do and some things out of your control that you cannot change. Save your energy to deal with the things that you can. Or just as importantly, the things you WANT to.

20. Be your own best friend and make other people share the burden. Also nowhere in the message of Christmas does it say thou shalt work yourself to the bone and feel unappreciated.  Peace on earth and goodwill to all men, that includes you too.

Wishing all of my readers a Happy New Year of peace, prosperity and mental well being.

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