Bye stress! How to stay positive & stress-free this Christmas | Holland & Barrett

If anything can help remedy a rubbish year, it’s a Merry Christmas!

Christmas comes around every year full of love, fun and so much potential – seemingly waiting to make up for any hard times the year has thrown at us. Tis’ the season to be jolly after all – and if these past few months are anything to go by – we desperately need some of that jolly-ness!

If only it were that straightforward, though… Christmas and the lead-up to it can also be one of the most intense and stressful times of the year. That’s why this year, we want to help keep festive stress to a minimum and have well equipped for a truly positive Christmas.

Keep reading for some of our top tips on how to stay positive this Christmas, so you can get ready for the rejuvenating Xmas you and your family deserve.

How to stay positive this Christmas

If you hear someone grumbling about Christmas, it’s not usually about seeing kids getting all excited about Santa Claus, the pretty fairy lights lining the streets or spending time with our nearest and dearest. No – it is usually the stress and pressure that can accompany Xmas that gets us feeling a little Bah Humbug!

Whether it’s dreading the in-laws coming to stay, the ever-growing present-shopping list or flapping about the meal on the big day, stress can be very real at this time of the year – but there are ways to handle it.

Here are some tips on how to stay positive when stressed:

Stop and smell the roses

Did you know that some scents can act as a natural remedy for feelings of stress? Next time you feel in a frazzle, try inhaling lavender, rose, chamomile, frankincense (extra Christmas points!) and vanilla essential oils or pop them in a diffuser. Or reach for your favorite Christmas essential oil to enjoy while relaxing.

Step outside

Getting outside, even for a quick 20-minute stroll or watching the world go by on a park bench, can do wonders for your stress levels. Always factor in a ‘breather’ when doing stressful activities to connect with nature and chill out.

Give your pet a cuddle

Hugging your cat, stroking your dog, or just generally being around your furry friends can help melt some of our stress away. That’s why several universities have ‘Pet Your Stress Away’ programmes to help under-pressure students relax.

Take a trip to the bedroom

No, not for a nap (unless you want to!) but to have a sniff of your partner’s clothes… As mad as you may feel doing this, research has found that being exposed to your partner’s scent, even when they’re not there, can help reduce stress.1

Turn up the music

Music can be a very useful tool when it comes to staying positive when stressed – especially if you pick the right tunes for the job. Go for slow, flowing music with 60-80 beats per minute (bpm), low tones, a lack of lyrics and lots of strings played at a maximum of 60 decibels for ultimate relaxation.2

Get cooking to chill out

Cooking, chilling out… do those things really go together? Don’t worry, we were a bit shocked by this suggestion at first but bear with!

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Activities like cooking, which require deep concentration and total task-absorption can put you into a blissful ‘flow’ state.3 Being totally ‘in the zone’ like this is a great way to de-stress as you won’t be thinking about much else other than cooking some yummy food.

The greater the challenge, the better the flow – so what once seemed like just another task to add to the pile, e.g. cooking a vegan nut roast for your niece, or perfecting your roasties could actually help you feel better.

Making food for others is also a – very tasty – expression of love and appreciation, so the next time you’re worried about cooking a meal for friends and family, try and make it into a positive activity for you, too. 

Appreciate family time

Christmas is very much a family affair for most of us, so if you’re lucky enough to have a supportive and loving family around you this Christmas, take a moment to appreciate it – however annoying your uncle or aunt may be on the day!

Too many of us live in some sort of ‘age bubble’ where we only really mingle with people around our own age. Christmas gives us a great opportunity to interact with different generations – which has been proven to improve our cognitive function and make us happy.4 It can also give us more of an understanding of wider issues going on like ageism and loneliness, and how to help older members of our family unit.

Here are some top tips on how to have a happy multigenerational Christmas:

  • Try a book swap instead of a typical gift exchange to share your favourite stories
  • Use an online music service to take turns playing everyone’s favourite song to share with the whole family
  • Form age-integrated teams in the kitchen to help cook a big meal or get everyone to bring one of their favourite childhood Christmas dishes
  • Look for a Christmas-project to do as a group, e.g. wrap presents for a family in need or help out at a homeless shelter

Enjoy a news blackout

24-hour news is pretty impressive – you can find out what’s happening worldwide at the flick of a switch or click of a button, but we’re sure you agree that it can get a little too much sometimes. Especially when the news we are exposed to tends to be largely negative and emotionally draining.

Thankfully, Christmas can give us a natural break from all the doom and gloom and allow us to focus on things that make us more relaxed and happier. Remember, it’s nice to remain ‘ignorant’ to every big and little thing going on in the world every once in a while.

Even if something you’re passionate about is happening and you’re worried about ‘missing out’ try limiting time spent seeking out news, e.g. allocate a small part of the day to catch up like reading the paper at breakfast or catching the 7pm news on TV and nothing else. If you have a news app, turn off the notifications.

Treat yourself

Planning solo treats is so important at this time of year, providing some much-needed respite from all that shopping and socialising. Embrace alone time and use it to do the things you want to do, e.g. a nice long bath, your favourite fitness class, a wander in nature, or pouring quality time into your hobbies. You’re more likely to get burned out if you only focus on your responsibilities.

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Enjoy a waste-free Christmas

Staying positive when stressed about all the waste that usually comes with Christmas can be a challenge. In fact, two-thirds of us worry about all that Xmas waste, so here are some practical ideas to decrease your festive carbon footprint:

  • Always make a shopping list so you’re less likely to impulse buy
  • Buy fruit and veg loose and opt for UK-grown products where possible
  • Instead of impulse buying cheap decorations, try to use what your have first, like jazzed-up jam jars as candle holders, homemade gingerbread people to decorate the tree, a homemade wreath using leaves from the garden/park and bowls of pine cones and fairy lights for the coffee table
  • Wrap gifts in recyclable plain brown paper with real ribbons that can be used year after year
  • Plan your meals and what you want to do with leftovers. Remember, you can always freeze bubble and squeak or other leftover concoctions for an easy January dinner
  • Try to share transport where possible
  • Compost any food scraps
  • Instead of buying gifts from halfway access the planet, try your local craft fair, markets, or visit local businesses who make bespoke gifts like bakeries, artisans or potters

Take your time

When everything seems so frantic, it’s imperative that you take things down a notch and practice ‘savouring’. Research show that taking the time to fully enjoy experiences is fundamental to feeling content, just like you savour your favourite dessert or last chocolate from the box.5

It feels pretty natural to savour food but try doing the same with other things you do. For example, a big pile of presents looming in the corner and waiting to be wrapped is likely to make you feel stressed, whereas if you take that same pile and plonk it in front of a Christmas film on the telly, get some fairy lights on the go and take your time to wrap each one beautifully, you’re not likely to feel as stressed.

Slowing down should also be a priority when you’re doing the things you enjoy, e.g. being snuggled up with your favourite book on the sofa at the end of a long day or luxuriating in a bubble bath. It’s all too easy to get distracted and not fully savour the experience, so try to mentally hold onto it by paying attention to all your senses.

Finally…

Don’t try and store all this advice in your head, make some notes on your phone or in your diary to help bring you back to a calmer world when all the Christmas stress starts to kick in!

Last updated: 23 September 2020

Sources
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Marco_Tullio_Liuzza/publication/327484867_The_scent_of_security_Odor_of_romantic_partner_alters_subjective_discomfort_and_autonomic_stress_responses_in_an_adult_attachment-dependent_manner
https://news.stanford.edu/news/2006/may31/brainwave-053106.html
3 https://positivepsychology.com/theory-psychology-flow/
4 https://www.ageuk.org.uk/Documents/EN-GB/For-professionals/Research/Making_Intergenerational_Connections-Evidence_Review(2017).pdf?dtrk=true
5 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/241737020_Does_savoring_increase_happiness_A_daily_diary_study



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