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Written by Marion Stobie on December 16, 2019

How to stay stress-free this Christmas

Holiday Fun – & Flubs

So excited for the holidays! So often we hear this and say this at this time of year.

We New Zealanders have all our goodies at once – Christmas and New Year celebrations, time off work, and long, hot summer days to relax.

This all can be eagerly anticipated, and amazing, but for many of us it can be overwhelming.

It is not only the potentially extra financial burden (extra catering for cherished relatives coming to stay, Christmas presents (have I got the right one? Will he like it? He wants the more expensive model, 50% more than I had budgeted, but should I get it anyway?), and also social pressure – racing round to have lunch/ dinner/ coffee/ drinks with a friend whom we haven’t seen all year but absolutely must see before Dec 25th. The malls are busy & crowded and suddenly there is not enough time to get ready. And so on!

So this time of joy & celebration can bring on anxiety or even panic attacks for up to 75% of us according to a poll. A full-blown anxiety attack can often be mistaken for a heart attack, another factor to send stress levels soaring. If you feel that you are having a heart attack however, never hesitate to call 111.

There are many ways to address anxiety, no two people are alike.

For some, a good 5km run is just the thing to defuse & let off steam

For others, medication can help more than anything.

Here are some tips to help navigate through the Christmas holidays.

First Line

Walk away.

Stand up and move to another room. If you can’t find a space to be alone in, go outside, or into a bathroom or an unused bedroom. Distance yourself physically from whoever is angering you or upsetting you.

Sit down if you can and centre your breathing. Deep breaths – 4 seconds inhale, 4 seconds hold, & exhale fully for 7 seconds.

Don’t return to the group until you have calmed your breathing and you feel ready.

The Countdown Game

If it is too difficult for you to leave the room, stop engaging, & play the countdown game. Here’s how it goes:

  1. Find FIVE things you can see in your immediate field of vision. TV? Screaming child? Pohutukawa tree with a tui in its branches?
  2. Find FOUR things you can touch. You don’t necessarily have to touch them, but you can think about it. How soft your hair is, the beads on your bracelet, the silky feel of the dog’s ears, the grass beneath your feet?
  3. Find THREE things you can hear. Your siblings fighting? The kettle whistling? The birds singing outside?
  4. Find TWO things you can smell. Easy at Christmas, right? Cinnamon and spices from the mince pies? The pine smell of the Christmas tree (if you have a real one)? The cologne of a favourite relative?
  5. Find ONE thing you can taste. Maybe it’s wine, or chocolate, or a little slice of the glazed ham.
    Lose yourself in the game, and come back to engage with reality when you are ready.

Let the R.A.I.N. fall

R. Recognise when a strong emotion is present. Anxiety is not a weakness, a mental failing or childish. It is a scientific, physiological stress response that your body is experiencing in reaction to an uncomfortable or potentially threatening environment.

A. Allow it to be there. Fighting anxiety produces anxiety. Let your palms sweat, or whatever your physical manifestation of anxiety is. Don’t disagree with you body about what’s happening.

I. Investigate the feeling. Are you hurt by a certain comment? Outraged at ideological differences? Find out why you’re having the reaction you’re having

N. Non-identify with the feeling. Tell yourself that the feeling is not YOU. It is not yourself, your permanent state of being. It is a feeling. Acknowledging that can help take power away from the story the feeling is telling your brain.

If you think you may be prone to anxiety attacks over the Christmas holidays and would like to take something to balance you out, there are herbal combinations that may be helpful for you; if you would like to discuss one, please call Marion at Holden Healthcare and make an appointment before Friday 20th December.

The office is closed from Fri 20 Dec to Mon 20th January 2020; if you start to experience anxiety during this time, please try the tips above. If the anxiety persists into the New Year, please make an appointment to see me from Monday 20th January onwards.

Marion Stobie
Registered Naturopath, Medical Herbalist & Nutritionist

Article written by Marion Stobie

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