It’s a lovely theory, but for many, it’s the season to be stressed and miserable.
Did you know that there is an increase in heart attacks around the festive season? People literally die from Christmas stress.
So, what is it that makes the nights less silent, and the days far less merry and bright?
There are a few different factors that kick in at this time of year, so we shall try to look at them and find ways to help combat them.
For me, the best thing about this time of year is all the lights. I love seeing them all twinkling in the dark, and it always makes me feel that bit brighter inside…. Or so I thought.
It turns out that our brains don’t cope well with too much light, or too much dark, so a month of darkness with bright flashing lights really isn’t great. It can lead to agitation and negative moods.
It would be nigh on impossible to stop yourself from experiencing Christmas lights (and they are still lovely in small doses), but you can help minimise the effects.
- Use a static setting on your lights rather than flashing – even a graduated change would help
- Get outside in the daylight – if your brain is going to be overwhelmed with lights, then give it that respite time, and some natural light so it can build up a bit of resilience.
- Decorations in the workplace are great for morale but keep it to decorations without plugs so that you aren’t trying to work surrounded by bright, flashing lights.
The next thing is the obvious one…
There are pretty things everywhere, adverts for all the gifts in the world… if you don’t give someone a piano, how will they ever grow up to be Elton John?!?!?
But think it through.
Would you want a loved one to be in debt to buy you a gift?
The answer there should be no. If you wouldn’t want them to do it, why do you think that they would want it from you?
Work out your expenses for the month (including the Christmas party… you may have paid for the meal, but have you set money aside for drinks? A taxi?). Then consider gifts.
It sounds cliché, but honestly, a bauble decorated with gold pen can mean so much more than an expensive impersonal gift.
Doing It All
It doesn’t matter if you have known this is coming for the past 11 months. It hits a certain point, and everything seems to need doing at once. You need to buy the gifts, wrap them, buy food, cook food, go out, move the elf….
It is another time to step back and take a moment to remember that it is just one day.
Presents are wrapped like you had a fight with the cat and the paper? No-one will remember.
You didn’t get the specific camembert covered in cranberries? It is one meal.
The elf didn’t move? Point a Harry Potter figure at it and say that he was caught in a petrifying spell…
- Plan truthfully – we often think that things can be done faster than they are – by telling yourself that, you set yourself up to fail. It is going to take an hour to do the food shop? Add in the journey there and back, the unpacking, the little old lady who picked up the wrong size shoe and is waiting for the replacement… The shopping slot is now 2 ½ hours, and it seems like there isn’t enough time for everything now. It was always going to take that long, just now you don’t have the added guilt of “failing”.
- Cross off non-essentials – Do you really need 3 different shops because the Tesco bread sauce is better, but Waitrose is the only place to get the mulled wine with the little dots on? If you can get everything in one shop, you have now saved yourself a whole lot of running around.
- Accept help – “It’s fine, I always wrap all of the children’s presents. It’s easier that way.” Really? Someone doing half a job for you isn’t easier than doing it all by yourself? Accepting help is fine!!
- Say no – Hear me out, I don’t mean in relation to accepting help. I mean in relation to offering it when you cannot afford to do so. You have a list as long as your arm, so does your friend. They want to know if you can help with x/y/z. It is ok to say no. It is ok to put your own list first. Looking after yourself must happen just as much as everything else.
The Perfect Christmas
The presents are all beautifully wrapped. The tree wins decorating competitions (well, you win them for your tree, not the tree is starting decorating). The school play will win Olivier Awards. Gordon Ramsay weeps over the perfection of your dinner.
This is the image that is shown to us via the media, but the reality…?
You run out of wrapping paper halfway through the last present and finish it with some birthday paper.
The cat has pulled down the tree for the fifth time and it isn’t even December 15th.
Your child misses the plug socket and rebounds onto the stage in his plug suit.
Ramsay just weeps, and you deny all knowledge of ever having considered cooking parsnips when someone asks where they are.
Think back – which of those Christmases stick in your mind most? I remember the year I did beautiful wrapping, but I smile at the year of no parsnips.
For every “perfect” image, match it to one in your mind that makes you smile. It gets it all into proportion.
For a season of joy, there is so much misery and stress. Each time the joy and magic begins to fade, stop. Take a breath. Remember the same situation in a way that makes you smile.
It is a time for sending the darkness away and welcoming in the light.
So, stop, breathe, and welcome the light.
For more suggestions on keeping a balance in life, check out this post.
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