You have been working hard for the whole year and your body needs to rest. The Christmas holidays are filled with both joy and stress because there are a lot of things you want to do in little time which brings anxiety.
Kizito Wamala, a clinical psychologist at Centre for Victims of Torture, says if you find yourself feeling extremely overwhelmed by emotions, pressures or obligations this year, try to shift your perspective by deciding what is most important and what you want the holidays to mean to you.
Get enough sleep
Stress is known to increase during the holidays due to an escalation of demands in family issues and being unable to manage expectations. This could bring about financial and emotional stress.
You, therefore, need to have enough rest and that way you are less likely to become physically sick and emotionally overwhelmed during the holiday season.
“Good sleep hygiene includes establishing a consistent sleep pattern, limiting daytime naps if you do not fall asleep until late at night and taking a warm bath before you sleep,” he says. He also recommends cutting out stimulating drinks such as alcohol or coffee close to bed time and keeping screens such as televisions, smartphones and tablets out of the bedroom if possible.
During the stressful time, it is important to pay close attention to your bodily demands. Your body needs nutrients that will boost your immune system. According to Dr Alex Mokori, a dietician at UNICEF, “This can be achieved by eating a balanced diet but also paying more attention to minerals such as magnesium that will help relax muscles and decrease anxiety.
Take zinc to boost your immune system as well as omega-3 fatty acids which are powerful anti-inflammatories.”
Magnesium-rich foods include wheat, spinach, peanuts, black beans, avocado, and Omega-3 rich foods include sesame, chia seeds as well as fish. The foods that contain zinc are meat, legumes, nuts, grains among others.
When you have a considerably overwhelming to-do list, try to assess what is reasonable and let go of the things that are beyond your control. Have a top priority list of things to do and let these include things that are important to you rather than focusing on other people.
Do not focus so much on the things you have failed to accomplish but be happy for those things you finished. When you are stressed, it is easy to forget about your own health. Listen to music, read a book, exercise and if possible, set things aside that can wait until next year.
“Make time for a daily routine for something you enjoy doing and would make you relaxed. To your routine exercise, you may add a less strenuous activity like walking, yoga or meditation that would help reduce blood pressure and stress,” Wamala says.
If you have very little time to accomplish some tasks, it is important that you involve your family and delegate different tasks to different people including children. This will make the tasks less stressful and enjoyable for the whole family since everyone is involved.
You can also ask your spouse to watch the children while you schedule some time alone. Seeking some solitude is both healthy and necessary to reduce stress.
Draw clear boundaries between work and family
People in the travel industry, retail, hospitality, and food services will be working even during the holidays because they have very tight work schedules and may be working more than usual.
So when you actually get off the station, have a distinction between home and work. Make it clear that you cannot respond to texts or emails on your days off, and do not feel pressured into filling in for co-workers who ask to swap shifts.
If you have lost a loved one or are facing other difficult life situations you may feel sad during this time of year when everyone is supposed to be jolly. Do not ignore the feeling of grief or sadness. It is normal to express these feelings during this time of the year than suppressing them.
“Talk freely about what you have enjoyed with your loved one in the past because pretending as if the loss does not affect you will make things worse. Going out to volunteer will give you a sense of belonging and being loved,” Wamala says.
Watch the signs
Listen to your body. If you are noticing any of the following signs then it’s time to make changes:
• Change in sleeping habits
• Change in eating habits
• Feeling irritable, moody and unhappy
• Exhaustion and fatigue
• Panic attack symptoms like dizziness, heavy chest, heart racing, headache, feeling nauseous, hot and cold flashes
• Physical signs such as headaches, stomachaches, joint pain and low immune system (catching frequent colds and illnesses).
These symptoms are all warning signs of too much stress and anxiety in our life. This is a sign to slow down.
This is the time of year that we should spend more time counting our blessings, remembering what we have instead of worrying about what we don’t. Take a minute to appreciate the abundance of love, health, family, and friends. Teach your kids about abundance. They should know that the most important things in life are the things that make us the happiest: good relationships with family and friends, a partner we can share our life with and a full schedule of social activities that involve lots of smiling and laughing.
Before digging into treats lying around the house or office, ask yourself if you are really hungry, or if you are just stressed. If the answer is the latter, distract yourself with another activity; try calling a friend, taking a quick walk, reorganising your bag or closet (if you are at home). And, if you cannot figure out which it is, have a stress relief snack on hand such as carrots, nuts and creamy Greek yogurt.