Christmas is approaching fast, we can see everywhere Christmas fair flourishing as well as Christmas lighting ceremonies. Children start working on their Christmas list (which tends to me a mile long!) and many women start their lists as well, people to send cards, menus, food to purchase, tasks to complete and so on… We have been convinced that the best holiday celebrations involve more: more decorations, more presents, more food, more commitments, more, more, more… With the build-up of those lists, we tend to see a build-up of stress, there are too many events and not enough empty boxes in the calendar, too many expectations, real or perceived, and not enough hands to do it, too many people of the gift-giving list and not enough in the wallet. Christmas is much more than lists decorations, cookies, presents and cards. It is a spirit, a tradition, being with the people you love… And we all tend to forget this as it is really easy to get swept up in the consumerism of Christmas.
There are many ways to welcome the Festive Season without letting the stress get out of control. Of course, the advice of focusing on the important, the true value of Christmas are the easy ones, they are, nonetheless, absolutely valid. If we look at those essential values, family, love, kindness and forgiveness, we can work with them as a start.
Looking at the shopping aspect, we could keep in mind that gifts which are meaningful tend to be more remembered than the expensive ones. Make a point on preferring small business to ensure your purchases are benefiting a real person, not a brand, aka a big corporation. Make also sure that you do not buy something for the sake of having something to give. If you are not able to find the appropriate gift, write a small note and give a voucher (for money or the future delivery of the gift). I have written on different gifts here.
Many of us would love to host a Martha Stewart Christmas lunch or Christmas Eve diner, but we should really keep in mind, what is the main point of getting together, sharing a wonderful moment and enjoy each other’s company or impressing each other’s? Why not offloading some of the stress and look at ways to simplify those festive days? May be the cooking could be shared (someone could help with the food, someone else could be in charge of some – or all – of the drinks)?
Reevaluate your commitments and keep them at a level which you find bearable and preserve your sanity (this will vary from person to person). Make a list of what you really would like to do (keep it realistic though) and compare it to you actual to-do list. Make adjustment that keep you comfortable and decline politely any one which is not absolutely mandatory.
Now, it will be challenging to simplify drastically in one go, and we know there will still be some stress related to the Christmas preparation. And for this, there are natural ways to deal with stress.
Exercise releases powerful endorphin chemicals in the brain, which act like the body’s built-in painkillers and mood-lifters.
Yoga has been shown to have similar benefits, reinforcing the “mind-body connection,” improving how people (especially women) feel about their bodies, helping with sleep and controlling anxiety.
Meditation and healing prayer are both proven stress relievers that help people deal with worry, anxiety and finding peace of mind. Best of all, they can both be practiced conveniently anytime of day, in your own home and with no therapist, practitioner or program needed, making them a no-brainer.
Going outdoors helps to relieve your stress naturally, with research showing levels of the stress hormone cortisol lower in those who live in areas with the most green space, as are their self-reported feelings of stress.5 Even five minutes in nature can help reduce stress and boost your mood.
Adapting your diet, could be a major help to help deal with stress:
Foods high in B vitamins: B vitamins are derived from the ingestion of proteins such as fish, poultry, meat, eggs and dairy products. Leafy green vegetables (think kale), beans, and peas also have members of the vitamin B complex.
Foods high in calcium and magnesium — as relaxing minerals and electrolytes, calcium and magnesium are important for relaxing muscles, relieving headaches and helping you sleep. Pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashew and pistachios are high in both calcium and magnesium, and so are chia seeds, while sesame seeds are high “only” in calcium. All beans (white beans, kidney beans, black beans…) are all good sources of calcium and magnesium. Teff, amaranth are not known as quinoa, yet they deserve to be on your plate as they are all loaded with calcium and magnesium. Figs, Currants, avocados and oranges as well as tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and radishes are among the fruits and veggies mots loaded with magnesium and calcium. If you eat animal products, eggs, turkey and chicken are good sources of those nutrients, but remember to choose them organic to avoid chemical contamination.
Food rich in zinc such as dairy produce, egg yolk, liver, red meat, seafood and whole-grain flour are necessary as zinc plays a part in modulating the brain and body’s response to stress all along the way.
Ashwagandha, rhodiola and holy basil are adaptogenic herbs that are often used as a natural remedy for anxiety because they help to stabilize the body’s response to stress.
Lavender oil has been shown to reduce anxiety and help relax the body and roman chamomile essential oil is used to calm nerves and reduce anxiety because of its mild sedative and relaxation-promoting properties. Inhaling roman chamomile works as an emotional trigger because the fragrance travels directly to the brain to help fight anxiety symptoms.
I have given you some tips to help deal with stress, but remember, may be the best way to not feel overwhelmed is to take the time to stop and pause from time to time. In a month time, we will celebrate the Winter Solstice (which I have written about here) and that may be the best excuse to slow down a bit…