How to stress less during the festive season

Kristine Tarbert
Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer

It’s no real surprise that while the festive season is a time of family, fun, and food, for many of us, it ends up being an extremely stressful time of year.

And apparently we are stressing so badly that it is impacting our health. According to one study, the Christmas season can be so bad for our health that it actually leads to an increase in heart attacks.

Human behaviour expert Dr John Demartini believes holiday stress is often self-imposed and comes from feelings of expectation and other negative emotions. And that kind of stress can have a huge impact on our bodies.

“Stress can run our immune system down, lead to inflammation and raise our blood pressure,” Dr Demartini tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

“It can also create muscular tension, constrict certain arteries, lead to cardiac arrhythmia, and disturb our microbiome and neurochemistry.”

Christmas season can be so bad for our health that it actually leads to an increase in heart attacks. Photo: Getty

He says that during the Christmas season our normal expectations can sometimes be elevated to the point of becoming a bit unrealistic. That is why when our expectations of ourselves can’t be met it leads to negative emotions like anger, resentment, guilt – all culminating in extra stress.

Because of this Christmas isn’t always a happy time for everyone. However, with careful planning, preparation and budgeting, Dr Demartini says you can be better equipped for a happier time over the holidays.

Stick to a sensible budget

Budget is a big contributor to stress over Christmas, as many of us will often feel the need to overspend or overcompensate.

Dr Demartini says that could occur for a number for reasons. We might underestimate the costs when deciding what we would like to buy for loved ones and then discover it is more than expected.

Maybe we feel guilty that we have not communicated with them through the year and overcompensate by buying their affection,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle

Competition and the attempt to keep up with others who might be more well off is another danger. As well as impulse buying and not realising the overall costs of using credit cards.

We can sometimes assume we have more money in reserve than we actually do, or we we will make more money shortly after the holidays to cover our possible overspending,” he says.

To combat this Dr Demartini says to be realistic about how much you want to spend on gifts and how much you can really afford.

Don’t exaggerate what is not within your means. Understand that sentimental gifts – such as a sincere letter of gratitude, or a hand-crafted item – can often be more meaningful than expensive ones.

For some the season is the most stressful time of year. Photo: Getty

Schedule in time for yourself

Plan your Christmas calendar as far ahead as you can and schedule some time in for yourself over this period, Dr Demartini suggests.

Importantly, try not to say ‘yes’ to everything – only commit to the time you actually want to spend and be specific about your availability.

“There is nothing wrong with telling people ahead of time that you’re planning to drop by and only stay for an hour, or even less,” he says. “Fill your day with inspiring stuff, don’t just commit to other people’s plans. You’ll enjoy the season a lot more.”

Set basic rules

If you have family coming to your home at the holidays, it will make things much easier for you if you let them know what the rules are in advance.

“Setting basic rules – such as take shoes off at the door, no political conversation, everyone shares in the clean up – can increase the fun factor at Christmas by reducing aggravation.”

Prepare for awkward conversations

Christmas might be considered a time to spend with family, but for many this aspect of the holiday season can sometimes be the most dreaded.

When catching up with family, having to deal with prying and personal questions about relationships, work and money can often be par for the course.

“The only solution here is to arrive at your event prepared for those questions,” Dr Demartini says. “Come up with a witty remark or two, so that you can greet the question without feeling pressured to divulge personal information.

“Or, list the benefits or the positives of this area of your life and lead the conversation toward those aspects – for example, you might not have a partner this Christmas, but it has freed you up for seeing lots of friends and given you greater flexibility with your plans.”

If you’re experiencing feelings of anxiety or depression contact Beyond Blue, Batyr or PANDA for support.

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