Now that Bonfire night is over with it’s time for another seasonal tradition: pre Christmas stress. For most of us the weeks leading up to Christmas are full of overcrowded shops, inefficient public transport and pre-holiday work pressures. Then when the festive season finally arrives there’s a turkey to cook, family feuds to be resolved and lots of late nights to be had.
Wednesday 7th November is Stress Awareness Day and as we all brace ourselves for the hectic period ahead we thought it would be nice to find a few ways to make the most of this year’s Christmas break. Whether you’ll be enjoying a week away or just a few days out of the office this December, take a look at these tips from psychotherapist Sherilyn Thompson on how to use your break to really relax.
This is about how much you personally feel you have freedom and choice. If your Christmas to do list has personal meaning, you are less likely to see it as a chore. Look through your list and decide which tasks have the most meaning to you. Start with these and decide whether you can delegate or hire in help for the others. Finding freedom in the to-do-list will bring a sense of autonomy, a core psychological need. Low autonomy and control at home have higher levels of depression and in addition, men experience more anxiety. So find something that you choose to do in and amongst your responsibilities. It is important to focus on your needs too.
This is about making a conscious choice to 1) detach from work and 2) relax. Detach from work by deciding what you can leave in the office. This could be your mobile, e-mails and responsibilities ( ask a colleague to pick up essential work so that you do not need to). You can also detach from work by not using the same skills on your break as you use in your job. If you work in IT, time away from technology would be more beneficial. If you work in a building trade, try to avoid the temptation to turn your work skills to your own home.
Relaxation is not about doing as little as possible, it is about doing activities that bring positive emotions. The ‘broaden-and-build’ theory of positive emotions says that developing your ability to enjoy a good mood will broaden your mind and build inner strength. Allowing yourself to feel good will give you a wider perspective and relief from the difficulties of work. Think about activities you enjoy and allow yourself to appreciate them as much as possible.
This is how competent, effective and capable you feel in your leisure time. Find an opportunity to develop a special hobby you rarely have time for. Feeling that you can competently master a developing interest can help you feel a sense of choice and autonomy and bring positive emotions essential for relaxation. Sharing your interest with others can also help you feel masterful. See if you can use one of you natural personal abilities to enhance others’ Christmas experience. For example, offer your quality to be kind and generous, join a local choir, or use a creative flair on the decorations.
This is being able to reconnect with friends and family. It is not always easy for families to get along at Christmas, so focus on the people who support you the most. Accept offers for help and take that as a sign of someone caring for you. It is also not worth prioritizing the to-do list if it means having a fall-out with a loved one. Prioritise the people, let go of the list. Christmas parties can feel like a strain. Manage your time by limiting those which you will attend and make an excuse to leave early. It is fine to save your energy for your nearest and dearest and for the social events that enhance your mood rather than drain you.
While Christmas time is a notorious time for seasonal stress, it is also traditionally a time for peace and goodwill. Following these simple CALMS tips will help bring you the most wellbeing even with minimal leave at a stressful time of the year.
Sherylin Thompson is a registered integrative psychotherapist in private practice and can be contacted at www.skype-therapy.co.uk and followed on Twitter at @sherylin.
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