Wednesday 17 October 2018

Tis the season to be stressful: Five tips and tricks to calm the mind over Christmas

Turning over a new leaf: Reading a book is a good way to de-stress
Turning over a new leaf: Reading a book is a good way to de-stress
Karl Henry

Karl Henry

Ho ho ho, just six days to go! Are you tired of the parties yet or just warming up? Speaking of warm, as you read this column, I am now on my holidays in Abu Dhabi, getting some vitamin D and escaping the Christmas mayhem and stress.

That got me thinking - it is incredibly stressful, isn't it? Between being out more than normal, trying to juggle work and friend commitments, buying presents, sitting beside that one person at the party you can't stand, not to mention the annual Christmas row that always happens on the big day - its a seriously stressful time.

So while I'm de-stressing by the pool, I thought I would give you the five best de-stressers I can think of to keep you calm when the going gets tough.

1. Exercise

Okay, so you knew I was going to say that! But how could I not - exercise is the ultimate de-stresser. Giving you time to clear your mind, release some positive hormones into the blood stream and time away from the stressful situation itself. It's a no-brainer. Though to really get the benefits, ensure it is vigorous. Make sure you are getting at least slightly out of breath, even for just a few minutes, and you really will push the body to deliver the benefits.

2. Breathe

The reality is that we don't actually breathe enough. Breathing is a simple way to help the body unwind, relax and de-stress. It's just a matter of breathing deeply enough and also allowing your mind to focus on the breath, to distract yourself from what is actually causing the stress itself. Take yourself into the bathroom and close the door. Now stand against the door with your shoulders pressed against it. Close your eyes. Focus on breathing from the pit of your stomach and inhaling for 10 seconds, now hold the breath for 10 seconds and then exhale for 10. Give five repeats.

3. Be the bigger person

I think this is probably the hardest one of all. With or without a few drinks on board, once you get into a row it can be hard to step back, reflect and realise that being the bigger person and diffusing the situation is the best thing to do. So why not give it a try? Kill the tension with kindness and you will be amazed at what it can do. Just rise above it and don't engage in the row and you will be much better off.

4. Bring a small present

If you are heading into a situation that is causing you stress or worry due to the fact there is someone there you don't want to talk to for some reason, pick up a small present along the way and give it to them on the day. You will be surprised at the effect this can have, diffusing a lot of the expected tension and moving things on from that awkward moment.

5. Pick a calming activity

With all the mayhem of Christmas, it can be hard to let the mind relax, so pick an activity that draws you into the moment and helps you focus on the task at hand, such as reading a good book, or my own personal favourite, a jigsaw. No technology required, just good old-fashioned downtime that will unravel even the busiest of minds. It can be a sports activity too such as walking, hillwalking, surfing, mountain biking - anything really that takes you away from things for a few hours, that brings your attention to the moment, focusing on what you are doing when you are actually doing it.

Irish Independent

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