The calm before the storm...
Friday 15 January 2010
The party season is upon us already, and while we’re sold the image that this means endless laughs, fun and merriment, the reality can be altogether different.
With so much shopping, cooking, planning and present-wrapping involved in the holiday season, it can be hard to sit back and actually enjoy the winter months.
Time always seems to go by faster when we’ve got a lot going on in our lives – wouldn’t it be great to get a bit of that control back and savour the moment?
We've scoured our library of health resources to bring you some of our favourite de-stressing tips to make sure you stay on top of things when things start to get hectic!
Halloween's already flown by – it’s time to do some serious preparation before it's too late! Here are our favourite ways to allow for the most free time as possible over the coming months…
Plan, plan, plan
Not sure whose house you're going to for Christmas? Don't know who's going to take the kids to Bonfire Night? Clueless about what you'll do this New Year's Eve? Now's the time to work it out, so you're not struggling to put your schedule together later.
The sooner you can plan out a sequence of events, the more chance you have of it happening. So if you want a quiet Christmas dinner with just your close family, now's the time to arrange one! Let your parents know that they shouldn't invite other people along to lunch, finalise their arrival times and help them sort out their travel plans before they get roped into other plans.
If you fancy a girls' night out for New Year's Eve, plan it now - this way, you won't get gouged by £50 door fees at your local pub, or face getting turned away from clubs when the crowds turn up. Or, if you're planning a party, set it up now so your guests don't face being double-booked.
Consider getting a notebook, calendar or box file to put holiday-related things into, so you can keep track of what you have and haven't planned yet - sometimes, even if things aren't finalised, getting plans on paper makes them easier to deal with.
De-stress at work
If you’re at work, you might find that certain parts of your home life creep into your schedule, causing a bit of brain-overload, and adding to stress in and out of the office.
A lot of people find that they stay productive – and safeguard against stress – when they live by the 55-minute hour in stressful times.
This means that for every hour you’re at work, you take five minutes to make a cup of tea, have a flip through a magazine or take a brisk walk around the office.
If you take a step away from your routine, you'll have time to gain a little perspective on what you've achieved so far that hour, and will be able to look at existing projects with fresh eyes.
Bach Rescue Remedy have also put together their three top tips to help you keep afloat at work when you’ve got a million things to organise at home:
Keep your caffeine levels low – stimulants encourage the body to produce adrenaline, which isn’t the most relaxing hormone! Try a herbal tea or low-calorie hot chocolate instead.
Try deep breathing – when you’re having a stressed-out moment, take a step away from you're doing, and take a minute or two to breathe deeply and gather your thoughts.
Try herbal remedies - Bach Rescue Remedy is a mixture of five plant extracts dissolved in a tincture, and many people find that it’s soothing in times of panic.
Still stressed? Talk to your boss or confide in a colleague that you're feeling a little stressed out - you might find that your workload could be split among other people if you're working on something particularly difficult.
Keep a clear head when Christmas shopping
It's always the way, isn't it? You make plans to buy your Christmas presents early, but your recipients never actually tell you what they want until the middle of December.
As a result, you end up stuck among the crowds, pushchairs and lost, clueless boyfriends doing their last-minute gift shopping, adding a lot of stress to what should be an enjoyable task.
If you are shopping in the holiday rush, remember to be polite to store staff and to fellow shoppers - everyone will be just as stressed as you are, so try to empathise before you dish out a dirty look!
If you can't get any answers out of your friends and family for present ideas, maybe suggest a lazy Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning with the papers or magazines, and drop hints about what they're reading to see if they mention a top or gadget they like the look of.
Alternatively, make a gift box over the year, and fill it with things that are universally appreciated gifts for your loved ones to receive - a vintage bottle of merlot for your wine-loving aunt and uncle, a Hannah Montana DVD for your niece, bath salts for your grandma, a Top Gear annual for your older brother, and so on.
That way, if you truly run out of time (or money), you'll have some handy backups to draw on at the time - without the crowds!
Book in a little 'me-time' when the going gets tough
If you can't find a way to switch off from your schedule on a day-to-day basis, and feel as though everything's gotten a bit much, you're most definitely due a little me-time.
A treatment like a massage, facial or manicure should take around two hours out of your schedule - something that can be easy to arrange a week or so in advance, so no excuses! Having something indulgent to look forward to can make a busy week easier to cope with.
If there's nowhere local to indulge, consider booking yourself in to coincide with your Christmas shopping, or to fit in before a visit to relatives (most day spas will have somewhere for kids to be entertained, or even for them to have a treatment!).
Relaxation techniques inspired by Chinese medicine can be beneficial to people who have tried everything already since, unlike Western medicine, it takes the seasons into account with its treatment (ever wonder why summer seems less stressful than winter?).
Master Jin from Innersound in London says: ‘When we’re stressed out, our body’s energy doesn’t flow, and energy channels can become blocked, which can lead to a legion of stress-related symptoms.
The answer to this can be found in one particular ancient tradition: ‘Acupressure can unblock these channels – we use sound therapy to help people’s energy flow correctly, leaving you feeling de-stressed.'
Even if you're sceptical about alternative remedies, doing something that's a detachment from your daily routine can be enough to help you switch off, or to mentally take a step back from your schedule, and you'll still get the pampering factor from acupressure - sometimes, having someone else take care of you for half an hour is all you need to clear your head.
Don't fancy coughing up the cash for a therapy? A hot bath, listening to your favourite albums or a chat with a friend or family member on the phone are great cheap ways to distract yourself from life's everyday stresses.
We hate to sound like a dodgy makeup commercial, but you are worth it - if you've got all these seasonal stresses on your plate, people must realise that you're valuable to their lives.
So whether your priorities lie in buying gifts, keeping the peace at work, helping out with the family, or all of the above, make sure you don't forget about yourself!
By Amy Bangs
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