It’s that time of year again! Whether you love it or loathe it, the Christmas season is upon us and I for one am definitely feeling the Christmassy vibes after a day of Christmas shopping in the capital! Gift buying can get a little tedious, so if, like me, you’re looking for something a little different this year, something a bit more sentimental maybe, I would definitely recommend checking out the Cardiff Christmas Markets. With all the hustle and bustle of present buying, the planning and preparing, not to mention the pesky work deadlines that need to be met before everyone leaves for the office for the holidays, it’s not surprising that Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year. But let’s be honest, most of us are stressed on some sort of level all the other times of the year too.. So lets not get our Scrooge hats on just yet.
Every single one of us will experience stress at some point, it’s an unavoidable physiological response to the world around us. It’s not always a bad thing either – stress can be very beneficial to us under the right circumstances. Take for example the stress we feel just before an exam or an interview, the adrenaline often helps us to focus and do a good job. So stress is just a normal part of life, right? To a certain extent this is true, but what about prolonged stress, also known as chronic stress? Is that normal? Is it something we should just accept?
Imagine you’re about to skydive out of plane, 12.500 feet above the ground. Adrenaline will be coursing through your body, your heart rate will have increased, you might start sweating and even start feeling slightly dizzy from the rush of hormones your body is currently experiencing. Similar to the stress caused by the exam or interview, this is known as acute stress. It’s short-lived and can be beneficial in terms of motivation and focusing on a task at hand. You’ve probably heard of the ‘Fight or Flight Response’, a theory that suggests that the reason we experience this acute stress is to trigger our fight (face the threat head on) or flight (run the hell away) response, in potentially life threatening situations – a response that would have been extremely valuable to us when we were running around in caves trying not to get eaten by bears! Now imagine that stress response never ending. Your body constantly in overdrive. The consistent and ongoing increase in heart rate and the elevated levels of stress hormones and blood pressure. This is Chronic stress. Chronic stress is far from beneficial, it has major implications on our physical and mental wellbeing. It’s the stress of unrelenting demands and pressures for long periods of time. When we’re faced with this type of stress, we need to take steps to manage it, or it will eventually make us ill.
There are so many things you can do to manage stress, and it obviously depends on individual circumstances as to what action you take. But here are some of things I feel are beneficial in combating stress, and ones which I personally find useful.
As stress is a physiological response to whats happening around us, by changing the way we view these things, we can prevent our stress response kicking in and taking over. Simply changing the way we view a situation can massively influence how we feel about it.
2. Taking control:
Linked with changing perspective, taking control of a situation can help reduce the stress associated with it. When we are stressed we tend to feel helpless and adopt the mindset that ‘stressful things are happening to us’. This type of statement indicates that we have no control over whats happening to us. If we recognise whats making us stressed and act in ways to reduce it, we’re actively taking control which has been proven vital in combatting stress.
3. “What other people think of you is none of your business”:
A lot of the time, people don’t like to admit that something is causing them stress, maybe due to pride or fear, that people might judge them. This can then prevent them from acting and doing something about it, whether it be removing themselves from the situation entirely, or just making a few changes to reduce the stress. You have to acknowledge it in order to address it.
I’m not necessarily saying sit cross-legged on a mat with your eyes closed making ‘ommm’ noises (unless you want to of course). Mediation is a skill which if done correctly will result in your mind being relaxed, your thoughts clear, and you feeling a refreshing sense of peacefulness. Whether its for a few seconds, minutes, or half hour, its an amazing way to reduce stress and ease your mind of worries. Theres so much stuff about meditation online, including different ways to meditate etc. Some people like complete silence, whereas others like to have music or listen to an audio guided mediation. Find what works for you and try to practice it a few times a week.
We all need a hobby. A hobby is the best way to make you feel good. Mine is obviously blogging – when i get stuck into a blog post it makes me feel good. It’s like my own little bubble where i can talk as much crap as i want. Regardless if people read it or not, I enjoy it and thats what matters!
This is a new one for me, but Ive recently become slightly obsessed with essential oils. Again, theres loads of stuff about which oils are good for what online. Being pregnant I have to be careful about which oils I use as not all are recommended for pregnant women, but my current favourite is Lavender. I use Neal’s Yard Organic Lavender Oil (currently reduced!) and its so relaxing, it’s honestly become part of my night time routine. I usually put a few drops in the bath, or dab some on a tissue and just sniff it whenever I feel like it!
7. Take a break:
Taking time out is so underrated. We cant all afford a snazzy city break every time we feel stressed out, but a trip to the beach for some fish and chips or a cosy little cafe for some hot chocolate by the log fire, can be just as refreshing and calming. I don’t mean to bang on about it again but if you have read ‘The Little book of Hygee’ then you’ll know what I’m sayin’.
8. Make something:
Baking, painting, gardening, drawing, carving, cooking, whatever you fancy! Staying creative and doing something ‘handsy’ now and again is so refreshing. We spend 99.9% of our lives on our phones or at our desks or driving or watching tv / youtube etc. Put it all down and pretend it’s 1985.
9: Get a dog:
Dogs have been scientifically proven to reduce stress in humans…. Hey, I don’t make the rules.
10. Remember what’s important.
A Professor called Karl Pillemer asked people over 65 what their biggest regret was when they looked back at their life. The most common answer he received was “I wish I hadn’t spent so much of my life worrying”.
I hope you enjoyed this post!