Top Tips for Beating the Stress of Christmas
All roads lead to Christmas. A couple of weeks ringfenced and strewn with holly and tinsel await after weeks of darker days and dipping temperatures. It makes all the sense in the world to look forward to this festive period stocked up with good food, free time and space to see friends and family. But to be truthful: stress exists at Christmas.
Instead of pretending this isn’t the case, manage and mitigate stress by acknowledging it and understanding its causes and the responses that work for you.
Stress can appear at any time of year. Christmas stress, however, has a few unique causes and they tend to intermingle. Take one example of a Christmas-specific cause: expectations to provide thoughtful presents. This can create worry about money, about relationships, about loneliness and about spreading yourself too thin among family and friends. Time is precious and demands both from work and at home can be higher around the holidays which can lead to feeling run down just when you found space to relax. That’s a lot to deal with.
Common symptoms of stress are raised blood pressure, muscular tension, headaches, low energy, digestive issues and even changes in visual and hearing acuity. It’s no wonder that increased irritability is another common symptom of stress. But each person, each family and each team experience stress and respond in different ways.
Throughout the festive period, do your best to take a step back and recognise what is causing your feelings of stress in the moment, as well as what tends to cause you stress over time. And in the spirit of generosity that ought to be present in this season, think about what may be causing stress for your colleagues, friends and family too.
Automatic responses to stress aren’t necessarily all that helpful: increased alcohol consumption and social isolation are common. It’s important to find safe outlets for emotions during stressful periods. Going to the gym, exercise, making time for close friends, keeping a journal and seeing a counsellor or therapist are all reasonable stress relievers. For all those moments when you can’t bolt out the door in your running shoes or pen a diary entry, here are some top tips for responding to stress in a healthy way:
- Avoid applying shoulds and musts to yourself and others.
- Take a break from social media. Seriously.
- Celebrate achievements, however small, and accentuate the positive.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Far too often we overlook and underestimate the effect of what we eat.
- Remember it’s okay to say “no.” People pleasing can be a bigger drain than you think.
- Spread out your diary and be realistic. There are only so many days in December and January has plenty of space.
- Share the load and ask for help. Allocate tasks and give other people responsibility.
- Drink responsibly and avoid going overboard at home or at the office party.
- Stay active and remember to get outside for some fresh air.
This advice is not a single-application panacea. Stress will loom and lurk when schedules are busy, money is short and family is involved. The best action you can take is to notice the causes of your stress, how those causes affect your body and your behaviour, and understand the responses that work for you and help you to feel happy and more relaxed.
When you recognise causes, effects and solutions say them out loud or write them down. This will help you to anticipate possible stressors and take action to mitigate against them in the future. Be honest with yourself and how you are feeling and remember what you’re grateful for. Remember that this season is supposed to be one full of good cheer and goodwill. Pay attention to your body, your feelings and the people around you to beat stress this Christmas.
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7 Steps to Winter Wellbeing
Don’t wait for cold and dark days to take hold of you. Be the master of your domain and go get your winter wellbeing.
The eternal and unchanging fact about winter is that sunlight is in short supply. And if you spend your work hours inside an office, daylight hours are at an even greater premium. So look out for opportunities to get outside and soak up what vitamin D is on offer, even if it’s cloudy, cold, wet or windy. There really is no substitute for fresh air and natural light. Stretch your legs at lunchtime to get a little physical activity, meet up with a friend, stimulate your senses, refresh your attention and boost your happiness.
This is advice worth heeding at all times of the year, but it is worth emphasising during the winter months as there’s a good chance your motivation to move is reduced. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each day. This could be cycling, fast walking, kicking a ball around in the park or even intensive housework. As long as you’re raising your heart rate and getting a sweat going, you’re doing enough.
You can add in short bursts of physical activity in the workplace too. Choose to take the stairs, do some stretches while at your desk to improve your flexibility and posture, and turn regular screen breaks into opportunities to stretch your legs and interrupt long stretches of staying in your seat.
Get out of bed
Waking up to cold and dark days makes staying under your warm duvet extra irresistible. But resist! Lying in on the weekends can affect your sleep patterns through the week. This is especially true during winter. Try your best to get up and at ‘em to reduce feelings of sluggishness and maximise the time you have for yourself. In turn, mid-week you will be in a better position to hit the ground running.
Get enough sleep
No, this doesn’t contradict the last get. Be good to yourself and avoid staying up long and late. The Sleep Council recommends between seven and nine hours of sleep as optimal. Each person is different, however, so follow NHS advice and understand how much sleep you need to rest and refresh. Some general tips for creating a sleep-conducive environment are avoiding caffeine after 6pm, turning devices to silent before you get into bed and keeping your bedroom at around 18 degrees.
Get some greens
This is not to say never eat a roast - that would be nuts. Rather, recognise that a hunger for carb-heavy comfort foods and ample sweets aren’t going to make you feel great in the long run. These foods are tougher to digest which can leave you going to bed with a full stomach -- and that’s not good for your sleep cycle. The British Dietetics Association recommends we aim to eat five 80g portions of fruit and vegetables each day, so try to partner some extra green vegetables with your winter casseroles and stews.
Get that water!
There’s never a good time to be dehydrated. Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you aren’t losing water. Cold weather can reduce your thirst and lead you towards greater consumption of tea, coffee and cocoa. Be aware that these drinks are diuretics and can leave you prone to dehydration. It’s also worth keeping in mind that they can have high sugar content, so try not to get carried away. As a rule, try to drink eight glasses of clear liquids each day and match any hot drink you have with a glass of water.
The bottom line
All these recommendations work in unison. Furthermore, eating well, staying hydrated, getting out of bed on the weekends and making space to get outside rely more on perspective and mindset than talent or technique. The more healthy actions you take, the more healthy habits you’ll form and the better you’ll feel. It takes a little extra effort in the winter months but the reward is worth it. Better health, reduced absence from work, improved productivity and all the consequential benefits of those cornerstone benefits are on the cards if you take care of yourself this winter.
NHS Live Well
Welbot Product Update
Extending our Wellbeing Platform
Following the release of Welbot 2.0, which saw signifcant improvements to our design, content and contextual intelligence, we have been busy behind the scenes working on some major updates to our wellbeing at work platfrom.
In early 2020, we will be launching a whole new customer interface with advanced features and reporting. If you'd like to get a sneak peek at what we've been developing then you can request your free trial and demo here: Free 14 Day Trial.
As well as our free product trial we offer customers a free on-demand demo service too. If you would like us to walk you and your colleagues through the product features, and what we have pipleined for future releases, then we can set up a remote video call for you.
You can book your personal online demo here: Welbot Online Demo