The to-do list is never-ending, it’s the season of coughs, colds and the vomiting bugs and on top of all that there’s endless Christmas parties and still so much work to fit in between now and the Christmas break. Does that sound familiar? Are you feeling the strain?
Sometimes even those things that we know we should do to reduce our stress levels can go out of the window because we just feel as if we don’t have the time. For example, regularly exercising, watching our diet and sleeping properly can be so much harder to do when there are lots of social events to fit in and an overwhelming sense of not feeling on top of things.
So how can we survive the next few weeks without bursting into tears, collapsing exhausted into bed at the end of each day or rushing around frantically? Consider this for a moment: 90% of the stress we experience is caused by our response to the perceived stressful event. Only 10% is caused by the trigger.
Write this down: 90% of my stress is caused by my perception of it. 90% of our response is directly linked to the meaning we attach to the stressor. That’s a big percentage. The good news is – there are things we can do to influence that 90%.
Our thoughts lead to feelings, which in turn influence our behaviour:
In other words, if we think “I am so stressed, I have so much to do, I can’t cope it’s all out of control” We are going to feel anxious, panicked, uptight and exhausted and rush around behaving in a stressed out manner (such as snapping, shouting and being short with those we love).
Try this instead: imagine yourself flying up into the corner of the room and watching yourself deal with the next few weeks in the best possible way for you. Visualise it – What do you see yourself doing? How are you feeling? What is it that you need in order to thrive? Note these things down. Now how do you feel? More able to cope? Slightly calmer?
No one ever asked us to be superwoman/man. It’s the expectations that we place on ourselves sometimes that create the pressure. Try being kind to yourself for a moment. Looking ahead to the next few weeks – if you could let one thing go, or turn down one invitation, or delegate one task to someone else – what would it be? What is it that you need to do in order to look after yourself?
Try noticing the thoughts that automatically pop into your head, and practice challenging them. So often we tell ourselves that we must go to that party, we ought to be more organised, we have to cook the perfect Christmas dinner. What if you didn’t? What if you gave yourself a night off and didn’t go out? I bet you are more organised than you think you are, and as for the perfect Christmas dinner – no one asks for perfection – except you. One year I tried to roast a turkey with my oven turned onto the plate warming setting. It didn’t cook. By the time we realised what we had done, we had drunk rather a lot of wine/prosecco/sherry and it didn’t matter. We just ate a bit later!
Finally, remember to breathe. This is such an easy and readily accessible way to instantly feel calmer. This exercise can be done anywhere – all you need is 60 seconds. Find a quiet space, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Start to notice your breath, and notice where it is. Is it a short, shallow breath in your chest? Try starting to take longer breaths, breathing more deeply from your lower abdomen. If you find that your mind starts to wander to all the things you need to do, just gently bring your focus back to your breath. To help, try visualising a 4-sided square and complete the breathing exercise below imagining one side of the square with each in-breath, and another side with the out-breath:
- Breathe in deeply for a count of 4
- Breathe out for a count of 4
- Repeat x 2
So, have a go at reframing the way you look at the world over the next few weeks – you can choose to relax and enjoy it.