Counsellor Sarah Barr reminds us that Christmas can be very overwhelming, but there are simple things we can do to relax over the season.

Christmas can be a stressful time for many of us. With expectations and even perceived expectations of how we should celebrate Christmas. In today’s article I will focus on what stress is and discuss techniques you can try at home to help ease Christmas stress.

So what is stress?

Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you feel threatened, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.

Your heart beats faster, your muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed your reaction time, and enhance your focus. This is often known as the “fight or flight” response, as it is your body’s way of protecting you.

Stress within your comfort zone can help you perform under pressure, motivate you to do your best, even keep you safe when danger looms. But when stress becomes overwhelming, it can impact negatively on your mood and lead to a number of mental health problems.

“Stress is not what happens to us. It is our response

to what happens. And response is something we can choose”.


Tip 1: Treat yourself

We spend Christmas treating our nearest and dearest. At times buying presents for others, can be a very stressful experience. As we track down where we can buy the gift, wait in traffic and then direct ourselves as calmly as we can through chaotic and noisy shops. We do this to show that special person in our lives how much they mean to us.

But what about you? How often do you treat yourself? By buying yourself a gift over Christmas, you are saying “I deserve this” and you do. Don’t forget about yourself through the mayhem of Christmas.

Tip 2: Plan ahead

Christmas can be very overwhelming, with so much to do. Such as writing cards, shopping, cleaning and meeting up with family and friends. However, this stress can be reduced by taking some time to sit down and write a list of what you still need to do.

Tip 3: Prioritise

By prioritising the items on your list, and asking yourself can they be done now? Are they essential? Is there anything on your list you can remove? May help to alleviate some pressure.

Remember that we cannot achieve everything in one day, by trying to do too much we will only stress ourselves. By delegating jobs to family members will also help lessen our workload and stress.

Tip 4: Know When to Stop

Decide when you will stop your Christmas preparations, and try to stick to this goal. Christmas is for you to enjoy also. Be realistic in what you can achieve time wise and financially.

Tip 5: Keep Calm

Listening to relaxing music, burning scented candles or aromatherapy oil and enjoying a relaxing bath are just some ideas that can help lower stress and help you to feel calm. Also by focusing on our breathing, can help reduce stress levels. This simple exercise can be carried out at anytime throughout the day:

Breathe in deeply through your nose, hold for four seconds and then breathe slowly out through your mouth, repeat for a few minutes to instantly help reduce stressful feelings.

Tip 6: Have a movie day

Allowing yourself to curl up on the sofa and lose yourself in a Christmas movie is a great way to relax and unwind.

Tip 7: Meet a friend

Why not catch up with a friend today. Perhaps a friend who is home for Christmas, and you have not seen in awhile. Arranging to meet for lunch or a coffee, or even a walk. Sometimes talking to a good friend can be all the therapy we need.

Tip 8: Being grateful

Take time over the Christmas season, and practice gratitude. We can get caught up in the hype of Christmas, and forget what we have. By taking time and writing down three things that you are grateful for will often help put things into perspective. Appreciating what we have, can instantly make us feel better.

Tip 9: Eat well & exercise

Christmas is a time of over indulgence, however it is worth remembering what we eat can influence how we feel. By trying to maintain as much of a balance as possible over Christmas can help reduce feeling sluggish and bloated. Which may be trigger for stress.

If you do feel worried about over indulging at Christmas, exercise can help. Even a gentle walk, will help reduce stress and help produce mood-enhancing hormones such as endorphins.

Tip 10: Have Fun!

Remember it’s your Christmas too so try to relax and have fun and enjoy it. If things don’t go to plan try not to worry too much, instead laugh about them and make them into fun memories that you can talk about during Christmases to come.

Wishing you all a lovely and peaceful Christmas, Sarah.