New Year, New Stress!

It’s no secret that Christmas can be a very stressful time of the year for many of us. There can be so many jobs to do, from buying and wrapping presents, decorating the house and making arrangements to travel to friends and family, to managing everyday life. Christmas can be wonderful, but it can also apply extra strain to a family and upon relationships, as well as adding financial pressure to your family budget.

If you’ve had a stressful Christmas, it’s important you deal with it as soon as you can.

Our relationship with stress

While many of us may dream of a stress-free existence, the reality is we need some stress to function in a normal manner. It is a natural emotional and physical response to the pressure of any situation where you feel you need to either cope or respond more than usual. It enables us to respond successfully to whatever life throws at us and without it weʼd live passive, un-reactive lives.

In the immediate term, our stress response enables us to respond more effectively to the immediate physical, mental or emotional challenge that we’re faced with - heart rate and blood pressure increase, your blood becomes thicker, you become more alert and hormones course into your bloodstream to prime you for action.

Short term this isn’t a problem, but if you are stressed too often or for a long period of time, your health can really suffer. In particular, your risk of a heart attack or a stroke may increase.

Successfully managing stress

No matter how stressed you feel, it is normally always possible to manage your stress levels to some extent, no matter how overwhelmed you may be feeling.

The secret is to understand the three stages of stress: the source(s) of stress in your life, finding ways to avoid or reduce them, and managing your response to them effectively.

You may feel under pressure from every angle, from work to your home, and with no time available to do anything about it. In this circumstance, it is not uncommon for us to be short and snappy with family members and work colleagues, and just generally feel in a bad mood.

Prioritising the issues that are causing the biggest problem and dealing with them one at a time should be the first step. Sometimes relieving just one of the problems can provide a huge lift. It can also help if we accept that there are certain things we cannot control, so worrying about them won’t help anybody. Instead, focus on any aspects you can control, as well as dealing with the result or aftermath of the situation as best as you can.

It also helps if you can find some time for yourself to do something you genuinely enjoy. This can be a challenge, but giving yourself something to look forward to can make even the worst days seem more manageable. Indeed, your time management in general is key to dealing with stress.

Becoming more resilient to stress

Unfortunately, there is no one single solution to helping us deal with and resolve stressful situations, but having a few options can help. Exercise is certainly useful, while breathing techniques can help too, as can taking a little time for yourself every day to relax. You may also want to limit your caffeine and alcohol intake, while ensuring you get plenty of rest.

Another key skill is learning how to say ‘no’. It’s natural to want to try to help and please those who are around us, but sometimes it can mean taking on more than we can manage.

Many of us may also have financial concerns after Christmas which can contribute to our levels of stress. It will help if you are active about those concerns rather than just wasting time worrying yourself, so write down a budget and come up with a plan.

All of these methods can really help you to reduce your stress levels at any time of the year, but if you are struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends, family members and work colleagues. Trying to deal with everything yourself can be a suffocating experience, so don’t expect yourself to be perfect, as that only applies additional pressure.