Stress less these holidays 11 December 2019 Would you like to know how to stress less these holidays? While there is much to look forward to as the Christmas holidays arrive, the social, family, school and work celebrations and get togethers that fill up our calendars can bring an added layer of stress and anxiety. Preparing meals, family expectations, competing deadlines, blowing budgets on expensive presents, travel, social obligations and perhaps conflict with family can cause an increase in stress. Here are some tips to help make the most of the holiday season so that you can stay well, happy and relaxed. Thrive don’t just survive With planning, you can turn a potentially hectic, stressful time into a positive, memorable experience by prioritising what is important to you and taking charge rather than being overwhelmed by what life throws at you. Making lists, shopping and organising travel early will help reduce that last minute rush. Prioritise what is important. Perhaps some things can be outsourced to others or simply don’t need to be done. For some of us, learning to say no to people and things that you really don’t want to do can make a massive difference to our sense of control and stress levels. Practise relaxation daily Research has shown that meditating just 10 minutes a day can make changes to your brain that can help you worry less and become more resilient to stress. This can be as simple as sitting in silence or listening to gentle music in a quiet, comfortable space. Empty your mind of your “to do” lists and daily life for a short time. There are many helpful apps that you can use, and some are free, such as Stop, Breathe & Think; Smiling Mind; Calm; and Headspace. Just breathe A very simple breathing technique that you can do anywhere, anytime, when you feel that your stress levels are beginning to rise is the 3 x 3 relaxation technique. Breathe in for 3 Hold for 3 Breathe out for 3 Hold for 3 Repeat for 3 That’s it! If you practise this regularly, you will be able to use it to quickly relax when you feel tension rising in your body. The more that you use this technique, the better you’ll become at recognising the signs and intervene early to reduce them. Keep active Exercise not only improves physical health but is wonderful for our mental health. It can reduce anxiety and stress, make us feel happier and more positive, reduces depression and improves our quality of sleep. Reduce alcohol To de-stress, it’s a good idea to avoid alcohol altogether as alcohol dehydrates the body, stresses the liver and body, (making it work overtime), and can reduce sleep quality leaving you tired. It can also cause erratic blood glucose levels. But avoiding alcohol completely can be very difficult at this time of year. Pacing your drinks and alternating alcohol with water will help you stay hydrated and cope better. The liver prioritises the processing of alcohol over food so eating food before drinking will help your glucose levels. Sleep well Plan to sleep for at least 7 to 8 hours per night. A good night’s sleep helps us to be more resilient. Fill your senses Put on some special music, put up decorations that bring you joy, maybe light a candle and spray scents or oils. By stimulating all of your senses, you will feel more relaxed and comforted in your home. You will enjoy those necessary chores and activities more in a reinvigorating environment. Reach out if you need help For some people, the holiday season can trigger strong emotions. You are not alone. Reach out to a friend who can support you, or call Lifeline, Beyond Blue or Black Dog. If you would like to book a confidential, informal, over-the-phone discussion with our psychologist, contact us on 1300 342 238 and make an appointment to speak with Katherine Dixon. Please note that this is not an emergency service. Create happy memories Prioritise your family, and your own happiness and enjoyment. Give yourself permission to relax, have fun, laugh and be merry. In years to come, wouldn’t it be wonderful to look back at the happy memories that you are creating right now with joy?