Mind

How we cope with stress at Christmas

December 21st 2016 / Ayesha Muttucumaru Google+ Ayesha Muttucumaru

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Suffering from festive fatigue? You’re not alone - here’s how we find some instant calm amidst our most chaotic Christmas moments

Swapped snow for squabbles and carolling for chaos this Christmas? As deadlines loom and dinner party plans get underway, festive cheer can soon become more the stuff of yuletide fantasy than reality.

With gift lists, shopping lists, cooking and present wrapping all to be done, how do we, the GTG team, personally stop festive stress from spoiling our time off? From meditation to aromatherapy, candles to breathing techniques, these are the products, practices and relaxation tips that help us, and can hopefully help you too, keep Christmas as tension-free as possible.

Susannah Taylor, Editor-in-Chief

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"I had a moment yesterday during my ‘I'm trying to be organised for Christmas’ phase that I realised 'This could actually kill me before Christmas.' I was doing my second trip to the post office with some of our nine godchildrens' presents, in between writing lists for 12 people to eat for 3 days, washing sheets, wrapping a gazillion presents, picking up new car keys for my husband (I’d locked my phone in his car and he was away for three days), attempting to answer work emails, drawing some pictures for my husband for Christmas and trying to look after my children (emphasis on the word ‘trying’, but let’s say Sky Movies came into its own), when I just looked to the heavens and internally wailed. And then I went to yoga and it all melted away.

"Now, you may think I’m mad, but a small bit of exercise over the Christmas period helps me feel a million dollars. It makes me think ‘Sod the stress, everything’s good with the world’ and it also means I can eat more mince pies with double cream without feeling guilty. I’m planning a run outside on Christmas Eve and yoga on the 28th (and hoping I don’t pass out) and in between I’ll be eating and drinking whatever I damn well fancy. The other thing I’ll be doing if I can fit it in over Christmas, is meditating which I learned earlier this year (my plan is to meditate twice a day in January and I’ll write about its effects for you). Failing that, I’ll be hitting the bottle - I find wine to be very therapeutic at this time of year. It’s also worth getting things in perspective – it’s Christmas, and Christmas lunch is a big roast, that’s all, if people have enough wine they won’t know what they’re eating anyway. I’m going to tell everyone to help themselves, and to be honest I’m not going to let Christmas stress get in the way of spending quality time with my family in our lovely family home. A therapist would say this is practising gratitude, I just feel damn lucky."

Judy Johnson, Online Editor

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“I love heading back to my parents’ at Christmas and spending it with all the family, but fun as it is to be surrounded by everyone I also find it quite overwhelming - an introvert at heart I need my own space. Usually I’d curl up with a book and lose myself in a story (there’ll still be plenty of this, to be fair) but recently I’ve got into podcasts; I find them so calming given that you don’t have to do or hold anything, simply listen. The ones I’ve been tuning into are interviews with people I look up to, from Sarah Jessica Parker to Sali Hughes to Eat Pray Love writer Liz Gilbert, so as well as helping me to switch off it’s been an inspiring and entertaining exercise too. This Christmas when things get a little too much I’ll be lighting my favourite Ecoya candle, putting on my headphones and escaping with those soothing and interesting voices (I really recommend The Beauty Podcast with Emma G, The Nerdist and The PanDolly Podcast). If all else fails though, in my house the best way to calm stresses or lighten the atmosphere is to make everyone a cup of tea. Works every time…”

Sarah McGinnis, Art Editor

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“The festive period is a time to really unwind and de-stress (especially from the hectic year we've just gone through!). I am lucky enough to live near the sea, so to unwind, it’s usually a winter walk along the seafront with my family to really blow away the cobwebs. I've also done a little self-gifting in amongst my Christmas shopping and I've bought a couple of Neom Perfect Peace Candles, £30, which I will light up for those hygge vibes for ultimate relaxation.

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If all that fails, I'll probably lock myself away and treat myself to a bath - I feel there is never time for luxurious treats like this during a busy week, and I adore the Aromatherapy Associates Inner Strength Bath and Shower Oil, £45, to relax and unwind and to help me get a much calmer night's sleep. I've learned this year that life can change in an instant and if we blink we'll miss it. So we really shouldn't sweat the small stuff - just relax, and enjoy the moment.”

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MORE GLOSS: How to cope with Christmas overwhelm

Gemma Painter, Digital Marketing Manager

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“Christmas time for me is one of THE most stressful times of year - largely in the build up as I am ridiculously obsessed with Christmas. It’s my favourite holiday and it’s the time when I am the most artistically creative - I make my own decorations, I make my own cards, I cook all sorts of desserts and festive nibbles, I decorate two homes (mine and my parents’) and it ALL has to be perfect. Plus, I love buying presents for people, so I stress that I won’t get the right gifts - or rather, I won’t get the right reaction to a gift, and I worry about the amount of socialising, drinking and eating that is undertaken and how it will effect my weight and overall appearance to people I have not seen for a year or more.

“How do I deal with that? Every year, it’s very difficult to prevent myself from having a minor breakdown, but over the last couple of years I have had to really stop and remind myself that it’s ok if I haven’t got all the decorations I want this year (and if the ones I do have don’t match) - no-one cares; that I don’t have to make Christmas cards if I don’t have time; and that I don’t have to see EVERYONE just because it is Christmas. It’s fine to do what is comfortable for me. I am positive everyone is in the same boat and if they are a true friend or loved family member, they will be happy whatever they get (or don’t get) as long as I don’t forget them and make time for them when I can at other points in the year. I have had to come to terms with the fact that it is ok to be a little selfish - not in a malicious way, but if I prefer to go home and snuggle on the sofa with a blanket rather than go down the pub with my old work colleagues, I am not breaking any rules - I am simply taking some much needed time for myself - so that when the big day comes, I can arrive there with as little pent-up stress as possible. I also find that taking time for myself and concentrating on exercise really helps - nothing strenuous - just a walk in the cold air or an hour to myself in the gym really does blow away all those niggling thoughts stressing me out, gives me some breathing space and enables me to get some perspective. It also helps me to feel less negative about my appearance. Plus, after exercise comes a much deserved hot chocolate or mulled wine - after all, all that hard work surely deserves a little treat?!”

Anna Hunter, Senior Features Writer

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“Relaxation = Radio 4 for me. Anyone who’s ever lived with me for any length of time will be familiar with the Desert Island Discs theme tune floating through the air from a tinny laptop speaker, or if you catch me in the morning the tone will be more argumentative Today Show, but both serve the purpose of making me almost instantly chill out. Whether it’s engrossing myself in Woman’s Hour or falling asleep to The Shipping Forecast, Radio 4 will almost always distract me from whatever beef is going down in the household, and chances are I’ll learn something new to bring up next time awkward silences crop-up at festive gatherings. Combine Radio 4 with a bath, a meditative skincare session or a bit of low-key baking and you’ve got guaranteed lower blood pressure (blood sugar not so much in the latter case).”

MORE GLOSS: The Christmas self-care tips wellness experts swear by

Gemma Bellman, Managing Director

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“This has got to be my absolute most favourite time of year - the music, the lights, the Christmas cheer and the time off with family and friends - but the festive season can bring a new set of stresses from the daily grind. Those may be financial strains from all that shopping, travel delays on the long trek home, family disputes at the dinner table or awkward encounters with estranged in-laws - all of which can make relaxing over the Christmas period surprisingly hard to achieve. My advice for finding your calm amidst the holiday mayhem is to take back control with a generous helping of fresh air and perspective. While it may be tempting to allow days to merge into one over the twilight Twixmas period (that’s the time between Christmas and New Year), only surfacing from a food-induced coma to flick between channels or indulge in a little online shopping, this can in fact lead to a serious and infectious case of cabin-fever. Common symptoms of this may include, restlessness, irritability, lethargy and a general loss of perspective on what’s important and, by definition, actually stressful. My advice is simple, get up, get dressed and get outside - whether it’s a walk with the dog, your auntie or just by yourself, the fresh air in your lungs, a brisk walk and a dusting of vitamin D can do your nerves a world of good - and best of all - it’s absolutely free!”

MORE GLOSS: Vitamin D - a guide to getting enough

Lorna Patrick, Marketing Assistant

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“I am obsessed with baths and they are absolutely my go-to for relaxing. I unfortunately don't have one where I'm currently living and showers have to do, but when heading home for Christmas, I have to admit they are the biggest thing I look forward to (aside from seeing my family, and enjoying all the food etc...of course!). I like to create a bit of a cocktail, but my pick for relaxation is always my stash of Aromatherapy Associates goodies that I keep there. The Deep Relax Bath and Shower Oil, £45, is a favourite of mine and when paired with a calming candle and a face mask, I truly am relaxed. In fact, I probably do this a little too often...but as I can't do it for the rest of the year, then I guess, why not!”

Victoria Woodhall, Deputy Editor

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“I’m with our Senior Features Writer Anna on the Radio 4 front. We Sagittarians love to travel - ideally I would be spending Christmas on a beach - and if a new and interesting location isn’t physically possible, travelling in the mind is the next best thing. For me that’s a Radio 4 documentary or drama - plus I can get some shut-eye at the same time.

“Any time I need to get away from family mayhem or too-loud TV, I close the door, lie down on my bed underneath my White Company wool blanket, put on my Olivia Von Halle silk eye mask, £65, squirt some This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray, £16, take out my old Samsung Galaxy phone which I now use purely for apps and which won’t ping alerts at me and have a scroll around BBC or the iPlayer Radio app, where I will find something to chatter soothingly on in the background as I doze. Quite often I hear the closing credits, only to find I have missed a big chunk in the middle and fallen asleep.

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“If I’m feeling stiff, I will take my laptop into the bedroom, roll out my Liform yoga mat, £100, log on to the brilliant online yoga platform MovementForModernLife.com and choose from one of the hundreds of yoga videos - their gentle meditation classes, pranayama and yin yoga are especailly good if you are feeling a bit under the weather or have had a drink and don’t feel like you should really be going upside down. Just a few minutes connecting with my breath is enough to ground me again. The site offers a two week free trial and especially for Get The Gloss, they are giving 50 per cent off all subscriptions. Enter the code GETGLOSS50. Now there’s an offer to bring your blood pressure down."

Ayesha Muttucumaru, Senior Features Writer

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“Christmas is my favourite time of the year, but it isn’t without its pressures. I don’t get particularly stressed about gifts or cleaning the house, but I do sometimes find it quite hard to deal with the time just before ‘term’ ends - wrapping everything up before Christmas (figuratively) whether that be packing or deadlines, making sure everything is as perfect as possible as 2016 ends and ready for the new year ahead. Additionally, while social engagements increase, so can my anxiety levels - don’t get me wrong, I love being around people, but sometimes find that ‘being on’ all the time can be quite draining.

“The best tool I rely on during those times? It might sound simple, but breathing. And, to take a leaf out of M&S’ Christmas ad playbook, not just any breathing, colour visualisation breathing (admittedly less catchy). I learned from someone a few years ago to colour code my breaths and it’s proven incredibly useful when I’m feeling particularly low. Stressed? Visualise sky blue (to represent calm) on the inhalation and red (representing stress) on the exhalation. Sad? Visualise orange (for optimism) on the inhalation, black (for negativity) on the exhalation. A few of those babies and my breaths transform from short and sharp to long and even in no time, leaving my nerves noticeably less frazzled and my emotions less ragged. Plus, it takes next to no time to do, leaving my days as free as possible for as much Christmas merriment as humanly possible.”

Alecka Micklewright, Commercial Director

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“Christmas is the time of the year that people look forward to the most but dread at the same time, but whether you’re celebrating with one person or 30, the most important thing (for me at least) is to try and remove yourself from your day to day routines and habits. That means, put down your mobile phone, try not to check your Instagram every five minutes and give your family your full, undivided, attention. It’s only recently that I’ve had my own child that I’ve realised how precious these holidays must be to my parents (or rather, they can’t wait to see the back of us!). On a more practical level, I also find lighting a good quality candle - ahem Diptyque Baies, £42 - and slipping on a pair of Esk cashmere socks, £75, after a long walk is heavenly. Watching movies you’ve seen a million times (the ones you and your siblings know by heart) and taking endless showers (sorry for the spenny water bill mum and dad). Basically, find all those little ways to remove the noise and carve out a little time for yourself and your nearest and dearest. Happy Christmas!”

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