December Stress? Let’s Ease Stress & Anxiety This December
December is a stressful time for many of us and it can pass in a whirlwind of frustration, anxiety and burnout. Listening to my clients this week it feels like the preparations for Christmas are one of the biggest causes of stress and anxiety at this time of year.
The financial worry and potential for overspending is one of the culprits for stress and anxiety in the run-up to Christmas. Trying to keep up with expectations and live up to the idea of a “perfect” Christmas can prove expensive, as well as being highly stressful. Like many people, you may feel obliged to spend on food and gifts and get yourself into debt.
Overcommitting yourself is very common too. After the restrictions of last Christmas, you may be tempted to squeeze in as many visits and events as possible. Lovely as it is to spend time with people, it can also be a recipe for feeling irritable, tired and enjoying it far less than you should.
And then there are the many errands that quickly pile up, from food shopping to hunting for the perfect outfits, searching for the ‘just right’ present then finding the time to wrap them.
Once the preparation is done, it can feel there’s no time to enjoy the results. You may have laid the groundwork for a lovely Christmas, but it can be quickly followed by worries about what may go wrong. Will people enjoy the food? Will your gifts be well received? Have you forgotten anything?
Why We Feel Stressed At Christmas
Christmas itself isn’t stressful. It’s the negative thoughts you have at this time of year that results in anxiety, and this is strongly linked to an area of your brain known as the primitive brain.
The Effects of the Primitive Brain
The primitive brain contains the amygdala (which regulates your stress response and activates the fight-or-flight response), the hippocampus (which holds our inappropriate templates of behaviour and thought patterns), and the hypothalamus (which regulates chemical responses in the brain, notably stress hormones and neurotransmitters).
Unfortunately, the primitive brain is hard-wired to see the worst-case scenario. It’s a safety mechanism to keep you safe from danger. If you believe that threats are always a possibility, you’re more vigilant and able to react to them quickly.
But the primitive part of your brain can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality. So, when you are negatively forecasting it believes those thoughts are really happening which leads to you spending more time in the primitive brain and having more negative thoughts. The more time we spend in that part of our mind the more it activates the fight, flight process and the more negative you feel.
As a result, your thoughts are likely to become reactive rather than rational.
All those negative thoughts pile up and fill your stress bucket. Every time you worry about something, it’s added to your stress bucket – even if it’s the same worry repeated. When the stress bucket is ready to overflow, the primitive brain takes over and this is when we can feel overwhelmed.
How to Feel More In Control At Christmas
The pressure to get everything “perfect” can feel overwhelming over the festive season. Remember – it’s essentially only one day of the year and it’s not the end of the world if something doesn’t go to plan.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the little things mean the most. Focus on enjoying the celebrations and the opportunity to spend time with family and friends. Creating happy memories that will last for years to come
Trying to change your attitude towards the festive season can help reduce stress and minimise the impact of the primitive brain.
There are practical steps you can take too.
You may have taken on the task of organising Christmas in previous years but why not make a change this year? Delegate some tasks to other people to give yourself some respite from the overwhelm. We take turns hosting, however we all contribute elements of the food so that nobody has the full financial pressure of providing for the day. This took us a few years to get going but we enjoy doing it now and my mother-in-law definitely makes the best trifle!
Setting boundaries and saying “no” to invitations that will increase your anxiety and put you on the path to burnout can feel daunting. We often feel compelled to say “yes” to everything over the festive season and it can become highly stressful.
Putting yourself first is important too. Prioritising sleep and rest can help to avoid burnout. You’re less likely to overcommit to social events if you’re scheduling in self-care regularly. Your “me” time can take lots of different forms, but the important thing is that you’re not putting yourself at the bottom of your priority list in the run-up to Christmas. Please let me know if you would like a copy of my relaxation download, it helps you achieve quality sleep and feel rested and refreshed in the morning.
How Solution Focused Hypnotherapy Can Reduce Stress & Anxiety
It’s not always easy to manage stress and the run-up to Christmas can still feel out of control, despite your best efforts. This is where Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can enable you to change your thought patterns and replace negative thoughts with ones that are more positive.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help you get on top of stress and anxiety, so you feel more confident and in control of your thoughts and behaviour. It’s a great way to keep your stress bucket empty and prevent it from overflowing.
It can improve other areas of your wellbeing that are linked to your stress levels, such as sleep, chronic headaches and digestive issues.
Hypnotherapy can also help you to adjust your expectations, so you don’t feel the need to do everything perfectly. Instead you focus on the things that make you feel happy like family, friends and loved ones.
If there are any underlying issues that are contributing to the stress you feel at Christmas, hypnotherapy can reframe your thoughts around this too, so it has less of an impact on your emotions and behaviour.
If you would like to have a chat about how I could help you with stress and anxiety, you can contact me on the details below.
Clinical Hypnotherapist & Solution Focused Practitioner
Solution Focused Supervisor
Senior Lecturer at CPHT Leeds
T: 07580 041394
Or to book your Initial Consultation: www.havishamhypnotherapy.co.uk/fees-booking