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De-stress in run up to Christmas

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The festive period can be challenging. Picture: Alamy/PA
The festive period can be challenging. Picture: Alamy/PA

If you're feeling anxious about the festive period, there are things you can do to help. Imy Brighty-Potts asks the experts for their advice...

As the cost-of-living crisis continues, money is a serious concern for many.

And two-thirds of people are worried their financial situation will worsen over the year ahead, a recent survey from credit card provider Vanquis found.

With Christmas costs creeping closer, it might be hard to fend off festive fears.

“For some people, Christmas is a season to look forward to, but for others, getting through the holidays is a struggle,” says Dr Anna Mandeville, consultant clinical psychologist and UK clinical director at Koa Health.

“There are numerous reasons why – some people are reminded of loss, others feel pressure to put on a successful event and keep the peace while interacting with loved ones, and many are worried about the expenses involved.”

While there are plenty of practical things you can do to save money, this is how you can emotionally navigate worries…

Polly Bateman. Picture: PA Photo/Maslife
Polly Bateman. Picture: PA Photo/Maslife

Focus on your breath

“Taking time to catch your breath and seeing if you are all up in your chest will show how stressed you are,” says Polly Bateman, performance, wellbeing and life coach and resident at Maslife. “If you can take just three minutes to follow the four-seven-eight breathing technique this will help you relax, as it will shift you from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system.”

This is inhaling through your nose for four counts, holding your breath for seven counts, then exhaling for eight counts – repeating the pattern a few times.

“When you have relaxed a little, check in with yourself – ask yourself how you are doing and take notice of what comes up. If you need to share by talking find someone. Journalling how you are feeling can also help,” Bateman suggests.

Remember what it is really about

“Go back to what Christmas is really about. What are the core values of Christmas? Christmas is about connecting and giving and receiving – how can you create this sense of connection among family, community or friends?” Mandeville says.

“Gifts you exchange don’t have to be expensive, they can even be things you make. Focusing on the time spent caring for yourself and others in a mindful way helps us to enjoy Christmas as a time to rest and reflect. Reaching out to others who might be alone and lonely is also a powerful way to bring the values of Christmas alive.”

Set realistic expectations

There’s a huge amount of pressure for Christmas to be perfect, with Mandeville saying: “Unrealistic hopes can lead to disappointment.

“Figure out what ‘good enough’ would look like, and scale down expectations. Let go of things that don’t work for you.”

Workout your worries

“When we are stressed or depressed, we often become immobile – and that is something the body subconsciously relates to trauma and being trapped,” explains Bateman.

“So even just walking is helpful. Taking the time to listen to nature, birds, trees in the wind, or water, if you can be near it, will all add to the experience.”

Have a giggle

At our most stressed it can be hard to find humour – but it may just help. “Laughter really is the best medicine. It enhances your breathing, stimulates your heart and lungs and releases endorphins in your brain – as well as relieving your stress response,” Bateman suggests.

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