Christmas Stress

Christmas StressIn the midst of the celebrations and holidays, whether religious or otherwise, I hope that you have had the opportunity for good times spent with people you love and care about.  Unfortunately for some people Christmas will  have meant a host of family arguments, relationship problems, disappointments, painful memories, losses and grief.

Stress at Christmas

There is a tremendous amount of expectation put on us at this time of year.  Expectations about spending time with people that we might actually not get on that well with for the rest of the year.  Along with eating too much, possibly drinking too much and spending too much money.  It undoubtedly can be one of the most stressful times of the year – Christmas stress.   As a therapist I have spent several weeks in the run up to December 25th talking to many of my clients about Christmas.  How they were feeling about it.  What meaning did they attach to the event.  Were they having the kind of Christmas they wanted?  Or were they under pressure to meet other’s needs.  How they might take care of themselves in the face of spending time with people where relationships might be difficult. Or deal with painful memories of events or of loved ones who are no longer here.

Improve your life

I’m also expecting an influx of calls following Christmas as many people reach the point of “this can’t carry on.” This is often the result of a miserable few days spending an intense amount of time perhaps with a partner or family member where things are not going well at all.  Where with the stress of Christmas all the problems in the relationship become heightened.

I invite you to give yourself permission to do what you need to do to take care of yourself.  This might begin by not adding extra pressure by thinking “but it’s Christmas, everything should be different.”  Although Christmas is heralded as a time of year of goodwill, for some people in some situations that is not feasible or even desirable.  If you need to do something different with your situation to improve your life then please don’t let the time of year stop you from taking action to change your situation.

It might also might mean contacting someone you’ve not been in touch with for a long time.  Telling someone something important. Deciding not to spend next Christmas with family.  Seeking out counselling for help with a relationship problem.

Christmas 2016

Stress at ChristmasThese last few days at the end of December can be lovely; with time for resting, celebrating in ways that are healthy and enjoyable, being with people you love and who love you.  Making meaning and finding ways to mark the changing of the seasons and the time of year that aligns with your beliefs and values.  If that hasn’t been your experience this year my encouragement to you is to reflect how you might have this for yourself next year.

Seasons Greetings and Best Wishes for 2016

 

Fun in the Sun

In just a few weeks the long summer holidays begin. Will it be a time of fun in the sun or a stress ridden nightmare with the kids hanging around the house driving themselves – and you – up the wall?

What is stress?

Why do we feel stressed?  Stress has its basis in ancient instincts for self preservation – the flight or fight mechanism where the body prepares to defend itself.   Thankfully, modern life does not present us with many situations where we need to run away but the mechanism still remains.   Periods of stress can result in tiredness or difficulties in sleeping, muscle tension, headaches, difficulties in concentrating, worrying, impatience and irritability. However,  research into the effects of stress has shown that people who are experiencing something positive at the same time as a stressful event can find it has less impact.   The level of stress is also dictated by how the person views an event.  So, doing something enjoyable and changing your perspective can reduce your stress levels.

Here are a few ideas on how to make this summer holiday more fun for the kids and  you.

Realistic Expectations

Be realistic in your expectations of your family and yourself.  Give yourself permission to make mistakes, after all, it is part of being human.  Be aware of your inner dialogue – what internal messages are you saying to yourself?  For example, it might be helpful to change negative messages to positive, such as  –“ I am easy going, calm and relaxed.”  Have someone to talk to and share your concerns, difficulties and successes.  And make sure that you reward yourself for being relaxed and calm.

Ground Rules

Agree the ground rules with your partner or with yourself.  Discuss these with the kids, involve them in the decision making process and get their agreement.  Make it clear what you want.   Tidy rooms, no stuff left all over the house, what time to be home, how much TV and computer time etc and in return they get some of what they want.  Set the consequences for not keeping to the agreements.  Make those consequences something that mean something to each child and that is appropriate for their age.  Remember to praise the behaviour that you want.

 Relaxation

Have fun together by spending time as a family doing things.  As well as all of the things to do that cost money there are lots of things to do that cost very little.  Here are a few you may like to try:

  • go to the park and have a picnic,
  • make food together – pizzas, cake or biscuits,
  • play music and dance together,
  • play board games or cards
  • or organise a game of rounders or cricket or just get out into the fresh air as anything involving exercise produces a “feel-good” factor in you and kids, and tires them out! You will have plenty of your own ideas, and so will your friends, so get together and put them into practice.

Most importantly give yourself permission and make time to relax. This might mean anything from a quiet coffee and magazine to time exercising, taking long bubble baths or even time chatting with friends and connecting with people.

Following some of these suggestions may mean changing the way you do things but starting with a few small steps is more likely to succeed than big steps that are more challenging. And as with learning anything new it takes time and repetition, so why not start planning how to have a less stressed summer now.

What ideas do you have for a stress free summer? Share your ideas by leaving a comment.

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Nesting Instinct

Psychological Well-Being

I love watching the birds at this time of year.  Blackbirds, blue tits and robins grappling with twigs and long strands of grass as they fly off to build their nests, making a safe place to raise their young.  I think that our “nests” are also really  important, not just for those of us with families, but for all of us.  Sometimes we  may not fully account how important the space where we live is to our psychological well-being.

Feeling Peaceful

We recently had an extension built to our house.  The builders did a great job, in spite of this, it was still a disruptive and unsettling experience for me as our space was filled with noise, dust and dirt.  So I’ve been thinking a lot about how important our own “nests” are, not so much in terms of expensive decor or labour saving gadgets, more about the connection we have to ourselves and the space around us.  How we can be  impacted and unsettled by a disturbance in our environment, whether at work or at home.  And of course the opposite is also true – having a space that is nourishing, that helps in the process of feeling connected to ourselves and our environment can be an important element in feeling well and being peaceful.

Supportive Homes

In the hectic busy activity of our lives we don’t always see this link and perhaps where we live is just somewhere to eat and sleep.  Yet my recent experience showed me how much more significant  the place where we live can be.  So an invitation to reflect: the next time you walk through your front door pause for a moment on the impact coming home has on you.  Is this how you want to feel? If not, what can you do that might make a difference and make coming home a positive and nourishing experience that supports you and your well being.

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