Due to my Aspergers certain things can send my stress levels soaring and I can get pretty overwhelmed too if there are lots of loud noises, it’s too hot or cold, if the lights are too bright, if there are too many shiny things reflecting light, too many different things flashing, and Christmas is no exception. I developed strategies to help me stay calm and enjoy my day, so if you find you get stressed maybe a few of these tips will help you.
- Try the mindful 4-7-8 breathing exercise. This method is really useful when you can feel the start of your stress levels rising. Exhale as much as you can through your mouth, close your eyes and inhale through your nose for a count of 4, then stop and hold your breath for a count of 7 before exhaling through your mouth for a count of 8. Repeat as many times as needed.
- Go to a quiet place for 5 minutes. Excuse yourself for 5 minutes, set a timer and sit, doing nothing for that time. Don’t be tempted to check on social media, reply to texts or anything else. Just try to sit and do nothing. Once 5 minutes is up, take a few deep, belly breaths then return.
- Make lists of what needs doing and when, for example : turkey needs to be in at 10, peas to boil at 2. Cross things off your list as you do them so you don’t need to worry about whether they have been done.
- Delegate. If you need the kitchen worktops cleaned then ask someone to help. Don’t try to do everything yourself. If you can, sit everyone down for a talk a few days before the day and explain what you expect from each person, delegate the jobs to them so they know what to do on the day.
- Try to prepare the veg the night before. I always prepare the veg the night before because for me, standing in a hot, sweaty kitchen on the day battling a peeler and the potatoes is no fun. If you can prep most of it the night before then try to. I find that peeling the root veg and leaving in saucepans of cold water overnight stops them from drying out. You can do the same with broccoli and sprouts.
- Don’t try to please everyone. See #4. If you are unable to get Great Aunt Mildred a drink even though she asked for you to prepare it, don’t be afraid to say that you can’t at the moment, then delegate out to someone else.
- Don’t wear tight or uncomfortable clothing. Tight or uncomfortable clothing coupled with being too warm and eating too much food can cause stress levels to rise and for me to become irritable. Instead of wearing something restrictive put on something comfortable, loose-fitting or dress in layers that can be easily slipped off if it gets too hot.
- Don’t eat too many sweets, chocolate or pudding. The sugars in the foods may boost your mood for a short period of time but when you hit the sugar crash your mood can come crashing down with it. Also, feeling too full can cause feelings of irritability that can increase stress levels.
- Try not to drink too much. Too much alcohol + stress can lead to people saying things they shouldn’t, being argumentative or being short with people which can lead to friction and tension in the atmosphere. If possible limit alcohol to the meal and sip soft drinks, water or juice the rest of the time.
- Make time for a nap. If you can, try to take a nap or at least have a lie down for half an hour. It will give your stress levels a chance to come back down and will help you to clear your head. It will also refresh you and you will be able to continue your day feeling better.
- Open windows. The air in the room can become stale and with most homes having central heating on, cooking and guests, houses can heat up really quickly. Allowing a circulation of fresh air is certain to help everyone’s mood and stop people from feeling groggy.
- Try Essential Oils. Tisserand make some lovely blends of essential oils. I’m a huge fan of their Aromatherapy Roller Balls especially their Everyday Wellbeing Set, the Total De-Stress one works really well, just apply to your pulse points and inhale the scent as needed. You could also try a lavender-scented candle or an oil burner with some lavender oil in it.
- Go for a walk. After dinner why not encourage everyone to join you for a walk, it doesn’t need to be a long walk but a breath of fresh air outdoors can do wonders for everyone’s stress levels and can help to boost energy along with helping your digestive system start working too.
- Think about the things that make you overwhelmed and try something different this year. Like the sound of tv coupled with people talking and noises from toys being played with. Why not encourage a couple of hours with the tv off and play board games instead?
What kind of stress busting tips do you have to help over Christmas?