Our Wellbeing Expert, Sam Sargent, provides pragmatic tips for creating a stress-free month in the lead up to Christmas.
Warmer weather, blue skies and summer approaching inevitably means one thing … its that time of year again - Christmas.
While Christmas and the holiday season is something that most of us look forward to with elation, it can also be quite stressful. Do you find yourself with a massive ever-growing to-do list as the end of year comes closer? Somehow convincing yourself that all those 'things' must be done before December 31. Do you say 'yes' to every invitation for a night out? Do you get carried away with all the champagne and celebratory night's out at this time of year? Do you notice your stress levels rising at the thought of Christmas approaching? Why is it that we load so much extra pressure on ourselves at this time of year? The season when we really should be relaxing and enjoying quality time with our loved ones.
If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, can I please offer a suggestion…slow down. You have a choice of how these next few months pan out, so how about consciously creating a summer of relaxation, serenity and love, as opposed to a silly season of frustration, exhaustion and stress.
1. Nights in
Make your health and sanity a priority. Don't feel pressured to go to every party or event. Ensure you set aside 'nights in' to relax with loved ones. Or 'nights in' to create relaxing at-home spa experiences. Light a couple of candles (scented with calming essential oils) or add a few drops of essential oils to your oil burner. Run a warm bath and lay back with your eyes closed, breathing in peace and calmness, and breathing out all your worries. Gently massage natural body oil on to your skin. Brew a pot of herbal tea and relax on the couch with a good book, or an old favourite movie. Make this a routine ritual (once a week) to help bring about a little more serenity to your life.
2. Mindful breathing
If you do notice your stress levels rising, stop whatever you are doing and find a quiet place where you can practice mindful breathing. Sit with legs cross-legged and eyes closed. Breathe in through the nose for a count of five seconds. Pause for two seconds. Breathe out with pursed lips for a count of 10 seconds. Pause for two seconds. Repeat with every inhale, visualise breathing in relaxation and energising oxygen. With every exhale, visualise breathing out any and all stress that has been taken on throughout the day. With every pause, relax any tense muscles.
Ensure that you continue with your exercise routine to help maintain a healthy body and mind. Try incorporating yoga in to your weekly routine. Yoga is a wonderful discipline that helps to reduce stress and calm the mind. Another added benefit is that it can be practiced anywhere: in a yoga studio, in your living room, or in a hotel room.
Start each morning with a walk at the park, beach or countryside. Or if that's too much to ask for, get up 15 minutes earlier and go for a brisk walk to the shops to get the morning paper. Gaze in to the sky and acknowledge the sun's brilliant energy.
Treat yourself to a massage once a week/fortnight/month (whatever your budget permits) or make a pact with a friend or lover to gift each other weekly massages in the lead up to Christmas. One week you gift your friend, and the next week you receive from your friend. It can be as simple as a gentle shoulder and back rub for 20 minutes, or you can go all out and bring out the massage table, soft music, essential oils and body oil.
Alternatively you can treat yourself to a morning self-massage ritual. Start at your ankles and gently knead all the way up your legs. Follow with gentle strokes from your ankles to your bottom. Knead and pummel your hips and bottom. Knead all over your waist and gently stroke your tummy in a circular motion. Gently knead your breasts. Starting at your wrists, gently knead all the way up your arms, onto your shoulders and around the back of your neck. Very gently 'pitter patter' your fingertips all over your face and head, making a conscious effort to avoid your delicate eye area. As you are practicing this self-massage be grateful for every part of your body and practice 'positive self talk' by thanking your body for all that it is and for all that it has the potential to be.
Essential oils stimulate receptors in the nose which relay messages to the limbic system, the part of the brain that regulates emotions. So, if you are prone to stress and would like a little helping hand, arm yourself with a couple of bottles as a preventative measure to help bring about a happier and stress-free you. Naturally I am biased towards Be Genki, my one range of organic essential oil blends that target four specific emotional states - vital, tranquility, serenity and sensuality - however any reputable brand of 100 per cent pure organic essential oils will do the trick. Essential oils that are beneficial for helping to alleviate stress include neroli, lavender, sweet orange, bergamot, geranium, rose otto and ylang yang.
Above all else, be realistic with your to-do list and daily/weekly schedule. Your entire world is not going to come crashing down upon you if you don't catch up with everyone, or go to every event that you're invited to, or if everything on the to-do list doesn't get ticked off before December 25.