12 coaching tips to help you enjoy Christmas
Driving home for Christmas? This may fill you with festive excitement and a welcome relief to end the year. You may not, however, find the festive season that merry or bright.
Family politics, hectic schedules travelling up and down the country, overthinking gifts or having unrealistic expectations for a picture perfect Christmas can lead to heightened stress and anxiety.
A recent YouGov survey showed one in four Brits have struggled with anxiety or depression over the festive period. It also showed a disparity between women and men with 51% of women saying they felt more stressed over the month of December compared to 35% of men.
Here are 12 tips to make the 12 days of Christmas that little bit less stressful:
1. Consider what’s important to you
What’s important to you over this period and how can you make those things happen? If you have a clear idea of your values, it may be worth considering how you can honour these during the Christmas period.
You may need to carve out some alone time or you may want to embrace conversations with certain family members to build deeper connections. Everyone is different so be aware of what you need over the festive period.
2. Set boundaries
‘Boundaries’ has become a bit of a buzzword, but mainly because many people don’t set any! Not doing so can heighten stress levels, especially when everyone is thrown together at Christmas and everyone fits into everyone else’s timetables.
What can you say YES to and NO to in order to create these boundaries?
Can you say yes to taking a winter stroll every day and no to mobile phones at the dinner table? Yes to presents but no to overspending on one gift? Yes to seeing the in-laws but no to spending the New Year with them as well?
Consider both physical and mental health and protect enough time and space for both.
Relationships thrive on communication and being able to be honest and negotiate boundaries is key to emerging out of the festive period unscathed!
To avoid misunderstandings and ensure you’re not stepping on other people’s boundaries or needs it’s important to listen.
Recently I wrote about the skill of actively listening. See if you can pick up on what’s not being said as well as what is so you can amend behaviour and solve any tensions quickly and peacefully.
4. Call on the cavalry!
Tell those around you how they can support you and ask for what you need ahead of time.
This may not necessarily be family or the people you’re spending time with over Christmas but may be trusted friends that you can talk to if you find it hard. It may even be a therapist or coach.
5. Plan ahead
Christmas can be hectic! Plan ahead to create the time and space you will need during that period. It may be planning a solo walk in the morning or a bath before festivities begin.
Try to include some physical activity in this as recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Exercise is widely documented to improve symptoms of anxiety and stress as it reduces stress hormones such as cortisol and increases endorphins - the ‘happy hormones’. It also helps to boost energy levels, improve sleep and enhance your mood.
6. Write things down
Thoughts, worries, stresses and anxieties can worsen when we keep them to ourselves. However if you don’t want to talk to someone as suggested above, or you still feel worried then try writing your worries down.
Writing them down helps to get them out of your head and can help you to rationalise them and come up with solutions.
7. Challenge assumptions
Think about what assumptions you are making and whether you can manage these. Question the likelihood of them even happening. For example, if you’re thinking ‘I’m going to be made to cook the whole meal,’ how likely is that to be true?
More often than not we project worries about what might happen that are extremely unlikely or unfounded. If you’ve written your worries down, challenge them and consider how valid they truly are.
8. Monitor your inner critics
Inner critics have a habit of cropping up in stressful situations! Be aware and notice any inner critics that start to get louder and consider what they are saying.
Is there any evidence to back them up? If not, wrap them up and send them off on a sleigh ride!
9. Call on past experience
If you find Christmas stressful, think about what calms you. If you find it lonely, think about what makes you feel connected to others. If you find it overwhelming, think about what helps you feel grounded.
Call on past experience and apply it to the festive period. Don’t let the ‘magic’ of Christmas banish all rationale!
10. Think of your impact
Think about the impact you want to make on the people around you and what you can do to make that happen to give you a greater feeling of contentment and satisfaction over the period
This may be in the run up and getting in touch with those that have helped you during the year, or it may be the impact on the people you’re spending the holidays with.
Reflect on the year that has gone by and ask yourself a few questions to help put you in a positive mindset:
What am I proud of and want to celebrate?
What positive changes have I made?
These don’t have to be big achievements but anything that you are happy about and proud of. See Christmas as a chance to celebrate these things and enjoy celebrating other’s successes too.
12. Find accountability
Find someone to help hold you accountable to doing these things so that you actually do them!
Again, if you don’t have a friend or family member to help then a coach is always a reliable and objective alternative. If you feel you need extra support over the festive period then do get in touch.
If your mental health takes a big dip during the holidays or you’re struggling to cope then do reach out for help. You can call the Samaritans for free on 116 123 in the UK.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and if you do find it difficult or stressful, I hope these tips will help to make it go as smoothly as it can.