Stress less this Christmas
It’s supposed to be a time of celebration and joy – but the reality can actually be packed with pressure. So if just thinking about your shopping list causes palpitations, try these ideas to keep calm.
If just thinking of your festive season to-do list makes stress levels go off the scale, try these easy ideas to keep calm
Keep up your energy levels
Carbohydrate-rich foods provide energy, so don’t be tempted to ditch carbs as a weight control tactic. You’ll only end up feeling listless, and if you reach for food as a pick-me-up, you may overeat. Instead, rid your diet of processed products such as cakes, biscuits and soft drinks, all of which score highly on the glycaemic index, giving an energy surge that quickly fades. For sustained energy you need to opt for healthy snacks such as a handful of nuts, piece of fruit or tub of yoghurt.
Chat over a cuppa
Hanging out with your girlfriends for a cuppa at a cafe is a fun way to debrief about any pre-Chrissie blahs. According to US research, feeling emotionally close to a friend boosts levels of the hormone progesterone, which reduces feelings of anxiety and stress. So text your besties asap, hit a cafe and order a pot of Earl Grey. While coffee triggers adrenalin release, tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which has calming properties.
Even taking a deep breath or two can help. “When rushed and stressed people often take in more than 10 to 12 breaths per minute, this increases their anxiety,” explains Dr Andrew Page, Winthrop Professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Western Australia. “This can lead to an imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide (often indicated by yawning), which can increase anxiety and stress symptoms like dizziness.”
For a quick de-stress, “Breathe in for a count of three seconds and out for three seconds,” Page suggests.
Eat to stay calm
The right foods can lift your brain’s levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps you sleep better and keep calmer. All protein rich foods do this, so include lean red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds in your diet. Carbohydrates also bump up this helpful brain chemical, giving you yet another reason not to ban them.
The mineral magnesium promotes feelings of calm and improves sleep. It also relaxes muscles and prevents irregular heartbeat. Keep your mood on an even keel with rich sources of this nutrient such as brown rice, green vegies and seafood.
Make a song and dance of it
Make a feel-good playlist, crank it up and sing along when wrapping gifts or whipping up dessert to take to a Chrissie barbecue. Studies show that singing boosts your release of endorphins, natural painkillers that make you feel calmer and happier. It also lowers levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Singing in a group causes an even bigger feel-good spike, UK research shows. So start an impromptu sing-along with friends or family.
Take a complaint break
Stuck in a traffic jam or a queue at the bank? Don’t tense up or spit the dummy. It takes more energy to get upset than it does to relax. Count the cars, spot the colour blue, do some pelvic floor exercises or clean out your wallet and turn the delay into a pleasant or constructive break.
Pretty as a picture
Take out old Christmas photos and laugh at how cute you or your kids were when little.
Share other fun memories from Christmases past – you can even make decorations using old pictures. Just reminiscing over old photos on Facebook is a potent mood booster, research from Portsmith University in the UK shows.
Choose your drinks wisely
Fuelling up on cups of caffeine can make sleep more elusive and leave you feeling edgy at an already stressful time of year. Swap coffee, tea and soft drinks for herbal teas or sparkling water. Also, don’t forget that large quantities of alcohol not only disrupt normal sleep patterns but also deliver a large number of kilojoules. Your body needs a couple of alcohol-free days a week, and the festive season is no exception.
Apply some (positive) pressure
Using acupressure can help with energy levels.
The points to counter fatigue and encourage calm can be found in the crease of the wrist in line with the space between your ring and pinkie finger or the fleshy area between the index finger and thumb. Hold the point for 30 seconds, then wait for at least 10 seconds before re-applying pressure. Repeat several times on each hand.