For many people the run up to Xmas can be a highly demanding time that sees their stress levels soar.
Stress is triggered by the fear that one or more of our emotional needs is under threat. In the run up to Xmas the emotional need that most often comes under threat is our need for control.
Because, once we perceive that the level of demands we face, exceeds the resources we have to meet those demands, we experience a loss of control which arouses fear and creates stress.
What sort of additional demands do people face in the run-up to Xmas? Here are some typical demands that you might have to juggle with, alongside the usual day to day demands you face:
- expectations from your family to create a ‘wonderful Xmas’
- expectations from your workplace or friends to attend Xmas parties
- the need to buy presents; put up the Xmas decorations; send Xmas cards, prepare the spare room for relatives who are spending Xmas with you
- the need to organise the family Xmas holiday
How can you reduce the Pressure and Hence the Stress?
Take Back Control
To avoid the excessive pressure created by the additional demands that you face in the run up to Xmas you need to:
- Reduce the demands you’re facing
- Increase your available resources
Doing one, or ideally both, of these actions will help you feel more in control, thereby lowering your stress level.
- Reduce the demands you are facing
A really effective technique involves writing down all the demands you’re currently facing (work and personal) and assigning each demand into one of the following three categories:
- Important and urgent
- Important but not urgent
- Not important
Once you do this, instead of having an unknown quantity of demands swirling around in your head, all crying for equal attention, you have a clear picture of which demands are ‘Important and Urgent.’ These are the ones you need to focus your limited resources on, first. Best of all, now you know what the unimportant demands are, you can simply let them go. This gives you back a real sense of control.
Increase your available resources
Key resources that you need in the run up to Xmas include time, money and support.
Time: If you’ve completed the exercise above, you should now find you have more time, because you won’t need to spend time on the ‘Not Important’ demands and you can probably defer a large number of the ‘Important but not Urgent’ demands.
Before agreeing to take on additional responsibility in the run up to Xmas, refer to your list of important demands. If the request is unimportant or will result in you experiencing excessive pressure say “No”.
Many people find it hard to say “No” because they want to help and are trying to be nice and to be liked. For others, it is a fear of conflict, rejection or missed opportunities. To avoid excessive pressure you need to be assertive and say ‘No’ when a ‘No’ is called for. You might feel reluctant to respond to a request with a straight “No”, at least at first, so think of some pre-prepared phrases to let other people down more gently. Practice saying phrases such as:
“I am sorry but I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities at the moment.”
“I’d love to do this, but I have no spare capacity at the moment …”
Money: Xmas can be an expensive time of year. Family and friends may have expectations of a ‘wonderful Xmas’ with loads of presents and food. If those expectations are unrealistic (e.g. Santa is expected to deliver an i Phone 10), because you don’t have the money to make them a reality, then you should take early action to manage people's expectations down to something more realistic. This will reduce the demands on you, and also avoid disappointed faces on Xmas day.
If money is a scarce resource, it’s really important to create a budget for Xmas expenditure (presents, food, holidays etc). Setting a budget will give you a greater sense of control. By ensuring you stay within the budget, you’ll avoid spending money you don’t have.
Support: Ask for help when you need it. None of us are superhuman. Use your social support network made up of family and friends. Tell your family and friends when you are feeling overwhelmed and let them know how they can help you.
Wherever possible, delegate demands on your list of important demands, to an appropriate family member(s) e.g. Xmas shopping, putting up the decorations, sending Xmas cards, arranging BBQs for family, planning the summer holiday.
When you put this advice into practice you may be surprised at how quickly your stress level reduces and how much more enjoyable the run up to Xmas becomes.
Next week we'll take a look at three proven techniques for coping with Xmas stress when we've been unable to avoid it.
Asking for Help
We all get stressed from time to time. If you're experiencing stress now, talk to someone such as a family member, trusted friend or colleague. Loneliness is a big ally of stress, so sharing the burden is essential. If you feel like your stress is starting to affect your health, a visit to your GP may be in order.
Important: The signs and symptoms of stress can also be caused by other psychological or medical problems. If you’re experiencing any of the warning signs of stress, it’s important to see a doctor for a full evaluation. Your doctor can help you determine whether or not your symptoms are stress-related.
Helping people to reduce and gain control over their stress and anxiety is a passion of mine. If you'd like to explore how I can help you to achieve freedom from stress, then contact me today on 021 056 8389 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Have a great week,
Tony helps individuals to harness the power of their mind to achieve success and well-being in life, work and business. Tony's particular area of expertise is in helping people perform under pressure and gain freedom from worry, anxiety and stress. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of co-active coaching, hypnosis, positive psychology and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).