Join me during December as I count down ten tips for practicing self-care during the stressful festive season.
We each celebrate in our own way during the festive season. But often it follows a predictable pattern:
- A hectic month or two of work pressures, financial pressures, social engagements, planning, shopping, and cooking
- Christmas day – which might be a lovely and peaceful time, but often isn’t!
- Cleaning up and recovering
- Setting some unrealistic new year’s resolutions
- Giving up a week later
- Then returning to normality until you do it all again the next year!
Some people aren’t too phased by all this, or actually quite enjoy it. But I think we underestimate how much of a strain it can be for many people. And this time lasts for nearly a quarter of the year, every year!
Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for people with mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. It can be a time when people struggle with nostalgia and the awareness of people who are no longer around to celebrate. And although family plays a big part for some people at Christmas time, for others this time of year can highlight feelings of loneliness and isolation.
What effect do these extra stresses and pressures have? The increased pressures from busyness, finances, and increased time with family and friends can lead to :
- Strained relationships and conflict
- Fatigue and poor sleep
- Poor concentration and difficulty making decisions
- Irritability, impatience or aggression
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope
- There is also an increase in deaths from heart attacks at Christmas and the New Year, which is thought to be associated with increased stress at those times of year.
- Sadly there is also an increased suicide rate on public holidays including Christmas Day and New years Day.
But there is hope! The first step is identifying the issue, which means looking out for an increase in any of the symptoms and signs I listed above. Often the symptoms start slowly, and gradually increase, so you will need to pay careful attention to notice some of them. As symptoms develop, people begin to accept them as the new ‘normal’.
It can be interesting to ask someone who knows you well, and whom you trust, whether they have noticed you behaving any differently to normal recently. Or even just asking them whether they think you seem stressed. You might be surprised with how obvious these things can be to people around you!
An assessment such as the Perceived Stress Scale can give a general indication of how much stress may be affecting you. If you are intending to work on reducing your stress levels, then it can be interesting to complete this now and make note of your result, and see if it changes if you redo it in a month or so.
Please note that the symptoms and signs of stress are varied and non-specific, which means they can have many other potential causes. Please see your GP if you have any concerns, and particularly if your symptoms persist or worsen after efforts to improve them.
My next tip for the festive season is all about helping you celebrate with food! If you want to make sure you hear about all my posts, you can follow me on Facebook, sign up for my emails, or join my Facebook group. Or simply check back in on my website!