07 Dec 5 top tips to manage holiday stress
Managing the pressure
Feeling the pressure? Lots to do and manage? Holidays can feel stressful as our expectations are high. We often assume we need to be enjoying ourselves, and if we are not, we judge ourselves harshly. Thoughts such as ‘whats’ wrong with me’ and ‘why am I so ungrateful’ can circulate, lowering our mood and creating anxiety. This is alongside the social anxiety that might emerge from more frequent social interactions and family meet ups.
And that’s often before we pile on the stress. Stress results from demanding circumstances, where the load or demand placed on us is greater than our resources to deal with the demands. We often feel we need to appear, sound, look and behave perfectly, as do our children, despite the fact that this isn’t healthy for us, and often robs us of our enjoyment.
So what can we do to lower the load and increase our resources this holiday? Whether you are struggling with your mood, feeling the demands or even feel quite relaxed about the break, our top tips will help you develop that balance for you and keep any stress in check.
Some stress is good for you, but it’s not wise to overload yourself. Gently identify which situations you find stressful over the break. Notice any patterns in your stress regarding events, times of day etc. Decide what is important and prioritise. Try and let go of what others will think and when prioritising, put yourself first. Remember you have the right to say ‘no’.
Once you have identified where the stress lies, reduce your demands. Break down your goals into manageable, achievable bites. When you reduce your load, make sure you are kind to yourself; try reminding yourself that you don’t have to be perfect, nor do you have to live up to other’s expectations.
The effects of deep breathing are never ending. Spend a good period of time focusing on your breath and if you can, follow your breathe until it reaches just behind your naval. Try to elongate your outbreath so your outbreath is longer than your inbreath, but if this feels difficult, just follow your normal breath. If your mind wonders (as it will!), just gently draw it back. Use imagery if this helps, so try and imagine breathing in one colour and out another, or imagine breathing a wave in and out.
Find me time
Me time is the opposite of selfish. Take 10 at intervals throughout your day to get some head space, some perspective and to break the stress cycle. Would you drive your children around in a car without a service and MOT? Probably not?
This is a good metaphor for our job as mums, as we often work tirelessly to support, nurture, without checking what’s going on within us. Me time acts is a bit like those all important checks on our cars, making sure everything is in running order and noticing any issues emerging.
Self-soothing through engaging with our senses (a bit like hygge and the idea of finding cosy and special) is great for our body and mind. Not only does it give us time out from our thoughts, and help us shift our focus to the moment, but it’s also great at potentiating our happiness neurotransmitters.
Take a few moments out to self-soothe using your 5 senses, smelling food or something that calms you, looking at calming pictures or videos, going for a walk, noticing certain materials or textures that ground you etc.
AUTHOR: DR JO GEE
Dr Jo Gee is a psychotherapist and specialist in women’s health. She is also the co-founder of The Luna Hive. Jo offers individual and group psychotherapy in Guildford and at the Priory Hospital Roehampton. Book Jo today for counselling in Surrey.