Managing the Stress of Christmas

The Christmas season is here again.

Christmas is a season that takes us away from our usual routine. When anything strays from our routine, we feel stressed. When our routine is disrupted, we spend mental energy worrying about how we will manage. Because of these reasons and many more, such as family dynamics and the pressure to make everything “perfect,” the holidays can be a stressful time. Fear, uncertainty, financial strain, and a constantly changing pandemic context only compound the problem. As the holidays draw near, it’s essential that each of us make a plan for how to take care of our emotional well-being. Here are some ideas to carry you through.

Take a Pause and make a Self Care list

Sit down with either a journal, a pen and paper, the notes app on your phone, or your computer. Take some time to write down the skills and activities you usually use to take care of your mental, emotional and physical health. This way, they’ll be at the top of your mind when the season begins, and you’ll have a tangible reference list. Here are some ideas:

a) Sleep

Lack of  sleep = no recovery, so everything else  in your life will continue to be unbalanced. Ensure there are at least 7 and a half hours per night for you and for the children:

Follow the 80/rule

I make it a point to try to be consistent most of the time. One day of consistency out of five may seem like a lot, but it will result in a happier baby, toddler, and young child.  

You make the rules and call the shots

You are ultimately the one that has the last word on what your child’s sleep schedule looks like. If there are plans with family or friends that don’t line up with what would work best for your family’s sleep schedule, then you might need to skip out on a few activities to keep your sanity and your child’s sleep from derailing. Have a conversation with grandparents or other family members so they know ahead of time. Trust your instincts.

Set up a safe and inviting space

It’s not uncommon for your child to be hesitant about sleeping in a new space. Try to create a space that matches their room at home as closely as possible. Be sure to bring their night light, sleep clock, sound machine, and anything else that reminds them of their room.

Do not forget Social Jetlag

During Christmas we think that we can catch up on sleep but there is a cost and we suffer from Social Jet lag. Social jet lag, a term coined by German researcher Till Roennenberg in 2006, is the discrepancy in a person’s sleep pattern between the weekday and the weekend, which can cause a person to feel “jet lagged” or tired and fatigued.

While social jet lag can affect anyone, the problem is particularly common in teenagers. Teenagers are biological “night owls” who tend to go to sleep and get up late when schedules permit, such as on weekends or holidays. The problem arises when they are expected to go to sleep and get up early for school on weekdays. 

Basically, there are two forces that determine when we are awake or asleep at any point in time. The first is how long we’ve been awake, and the longer we’re awake the more tired we feel and it’s easier to fall asleep.

But, there’s this other force that keeps us awake during the day, which opposes that sleepy force or sleep debt that is building up. This is called our internal body clock or circadian rhythm. Dramatically adjusting the circadian rhythm confuses the body and brain – no longer knowing what time to go to sleep and what time to get up, which makes us feel horrible. Go to my blog here to find further information Back to School Readjustment

More ideas here on sleep for everyone below:

b) Breathe and Meditate

When we are stressed, eventually we feel and have thoughts. The more stressed we are generally they increase in negativity. We often ruminate on the past and future, this means our nervous system is constantly switched on. If we can remain in the here and now and be present, this will help our system to put the brakes on and calm down. Practices that incorporate deep breathing encourage full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure. Take a moment through every transition in the day.

c) Move and Exercise

All these habits are sensible but often when we are stressed we fall to activities to regulate that are not good for us. For example, endless Netflix, more than enough of our favourite tipple or food. Treat you body with love and care. Get enough rest, drink lots of water, make sure your nutrition is on-point and take supplements like Vitamin D. Prioritizing your physical health will better enable you to care for your mental health.

Set Boundaries

Additionally, some of us may need to consider our family dynamics. How comfortable do you feel spending time with family members or friends? Consider limiting your time at gatherings, or deciding on circumstances you are okay with. Don’t put your own physical or mental health at risk out of obligation. As a result, let go of perfection and pleasing. Clearly define them now. Distribute the responsibilities. Is someone able to bring a dessert or starter if you are making the main course? 

For children, Limits can be even more important in times of stress because they:

  1. Set out clear boundaries and expectations about what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.
  2. Help you to define your battles when you may be low in energy.
  3. Promote respect between family members.
  4. Enable children to feel contained at a time of great uncertainty.

More ideas below:

Implementing Limits

Manage Christmas Season Anxiety

You or your child may find social gatherings stressful, especially if they take place in someone else’s home with different rules and routines. Establish a schedule; we will eat then and open gifts then. You may want to show your child pictures/videos of where they are going and family members they have not seen for some time. Further posts on Anxiety:

Create a Quiet or Calm down Space

We all get a bit ” fizzy” at Christmas, create a calm down space in your or your relative’s home. This will help to de-escalate those hot, angry and tired moments. Ensure this is stated prior to a reaction. It’s helpful for everyone to know in advance. In addition, Ensure that you give your children 10 minutes of Special Time regularly. This will prevent any meltdowns or unwanted behaviour. For further information on Meltdowns and Tantrums, click below:

Prevent Blaming your Ex-partner During Christmas

Christmas can be so hard for separated and blended families. it so often results in children feeling sad, anxious and feeling it is all their fault. Manage any potential conflict by asking neutral friends or family members to manage the contact. Acknowledge it is hard for them, not having mummy and daddy together. Ask them what might help them to get through the season.

Helping Children with Divorce and Separation

Cultivate Compassion

Christmas like no other time of the year can bring up old family wounds and rivalries. Take a deep breath, detach, forgive yourself. Most of the time we are harder on ourselves than anyone else.  Compassion is something we should cultivate. Life is full of suffering, especially at Christmas. Compassion is a natural reaction to suffering. However, compassion isn’t self-pity. In other words, it’s showing warmth and concern for others, just like you would for someone else. We treat our friends much better than ourselves. Even at the best of times, parenting can be challenging, which is why extreme self-care is required through Christmas. This does not mean you are selfish.  

Click on the video below for three ways to develop Compassion.

Say Thank You

Particularly during a difficult day, the more I say thank you, the better I feel. Lighting a candle is something I like to do often. There is always a blessing in Ireland, whether it is food, something we eat, a goodbye or anything else. I really like that about my culture. Perhaps you can start your own culture of gratitude.

Seek Help

Christmas can be lonely, and bring up many wounds seek help. Contact me for a January Consultation or Mind have many numbers if your mental health is at risk, click here Mind, How to help in a Crisis

So for now, Thank you to all of you who have read my newsletter blogs, liked my Facebook posts, attended my workshops and who are my clients. My work is nothing without all of you and I am truly grateful.

I look forward to working and connecting with you in whatever form in 2022. From my heart to yours, wishing you a safe passage from 2021, I hope you find the key to open the door where every possibility awaits in 2022With love, light and so much gratitude Catherine.

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