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  • Writer's pictureJulia Smith

Stress Less at Christmas

an unhurried approach to the holidays B Y J U L I A S M I T H

As we head towards the holidays whether you relish the festivities or find them wholly draining, it can be hard to avoid being swept up by the busy-ness. Days become filled with completing work projects, finalising next financial period plans, school commitments, events, social occasions, shopping, wrapping, sports club socials and that's before we've even considered the food!

To help you approach this season with ease and grace, here are some unhurried habits to embrace.

Set your intention

Why not create the festive season you truly want? Have a vision of how you want this season to be, and how you'd like to feel at the end of it. What activities and moments are meaningful to you at this time of year? How do you find real joy? And, what are the steps you can take to make this beautiful vision a reality? Know your vision so well that you can call up the picture in your mind. Smell the aromas, see the scene before it plays out, hear the activity, feel how it is to be there. Being clear on the outcome you're looking for means you can take clear steps to achieve it.

Begin the day information-free.

Aim to begin the day with a sense of calm. The stress hormone, cortisol rises in the morning, so this is your chance to keep the peak to a minimum. Our days are crammed with information. At every moment of the day, there are literally, thousands of pieces of information received through our senses. The abundance of advertising, media and festive noise can perpetuate the pressure at this time of year, so disconnect where possible. Aim to get into the habit of delaying your connection with radio, TV and social media until you've started the day mindfully.

Be intentional about the media you consume.

Regular self-check-in

In the lead-up to the 25th, avoid daily burnout by connecting within. Ask yourself often throughout the day.; How am I feeling physically, mentally and emotionally? When I ask this, if I notice that I need something; say hydration, a stretch, a conversation or a brain-break, I try to fulfill the need straight away or make a note to do it later on when it's possible.

Let others' feelings be theirs.

Are you someone who easily feels the energy of a room? Being sensitive to the energies around us in the festive season can bring joy and connection. It can also mean absorbing the feelings of tension and chaos from other people. Connect closely with your own emotions and refuse to allow in anything that isn't yours. If you need help to develop this mindfulness muscle, look for a local meditation group or reiki practitioner for support.

Mindful use of your time and energy

It's ok to say no to social occasions. It really is! So many people find this time of year exhausting. By the time the 25th comes around, they're ready for a little more than a nap! Remind yourself that you don't need to attend EVERY event in the festive season. Be selective. Cherish moments, rather than exhaustion. Make a plan for yourself, decide on what's most important to you and then choose how you want to show up. Set boundaries, and stick to them... politely declining an offer can become a nurturing gift to yourself. You deserve it!

And remember, being busy is not a status symbol.

Make sleep a priority

Sleep is rejuvenating for your energy and your brain. Even one night of disrupted sleep can lead to irritability, mood swings, unwanted food choices (yes croissants, I mean you!) memory and concentration issues and even a greater chance of accidents.

So ensuring you get enough hours of quality sleep will help to manage stress and keep you feeling well.

Start to build a bedtime routine:

  • Finish eating a couple of hours before bed.

  • Turn off devices and screens within an hour of sleep at least

  • Make sure the room is cool at around 18°C for best quality sleep,

  • and aim for regular sleep and wake times.

Your body and mind love routine!

Anchoring joy in Christmas. Create new traditions.

I have a festive tradition. Actually, thinking about it, I have a few. Decorating the house on December 1st is a tradition handed down in my family. Like the tradition, I've held onto several ornaments since childhood. I also enjoy making festive goodies for friends and neighbours while singing along to my Christmas playlist. And lastly, watching my favourite festive movie 'Love Actually' on Christmas eve is a must! None of these activities cost a lot, yet they bring me joy each year. Think back over your past holiday seasons. Which moments did you particularly enjoy? What was it that made you and others smile?

It's often the simple things that bring the most meaning.

Avoid over-buying

Australians are now collectively spending around $11 billion a year on Christmas gifts. 86% of Aussies find Christmas puts a strain on their finances, with buying Christmas gifts reported as the major cause (66%) of this pressure. Yet, with all this spending comes over 20 million unwanted gifts at Christmas. If you're guilty of joining the over-buying trend here's a few tips:

  • Buy experiences rather than things.

  • Keep a list - plan ahead what to buy for each person and stick to it.

  • Buy practical, useful items.

  • DIY - homemade gifts bring a smile, so get creative!

  • Buy local - your local artists and producers will appreciate your business and there's no shipping required.

  • Don't tempt yourself with multiple 'browsing' shopping trips. Set aside time, shop once or twice and shop mindfully

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