Christmas is often a time of extremes
The season of good will is here. It is a happy time for most of us. It is a lonely and sad time for others. It is a time of extremes-a time of spending, relaxing, celebration,connection and reflection. It means different things to different people.
It is a time for family, friends and remembering those we love and that have done good for us. It is also a time of increased stress, heightened emotions and busyness.
A recent study in Sweden in which, researchers compared the dates and times of 280,000 heart attacks over 16 years found they peaked at 10pm on Christmas eve. Traditionally Christmas is celebrated on the eve in Sweden so that would be the equivalent of it happening on Christmas day in Ireland with a 37 percent higher risk (Karolinska Institute in Stockholm) compared to other times.
The researchers believe anxiety and emotional stress increase the risk of heart attack-especially among the over 75s or those suffering with diabetes or heart disease. They recommend strategies are developed to protect people from stress in the run-up to Christmas.
They concluded: 'Acute experience of anger, anxiety, sadness, grief, and stress increases the risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) and thus possibly explains the higher risk observed in our study'.
We have four basic emotions-fear, anger, happiness and sadness. They are all amplified over Christmas. We are all vulnerable to extremes in emotions during the season. Here are 5 strategies to help you minimize your stress and be more understanding of the stress on those around you during the festive season.
1. If you are one of those that does not like Christmas because of feelings of loss or trauma, take extra care of yourself to minimise unhealthy stress during the season. Stay connected to your feelings and do not let things escalate.
2. Be aware of how triggers affect you. The shorter days (less than 7.5 hours of daylight) and cooler weather are shown to have a negative effect on our mood. Another study suggests that environments with the extremes of being 'too dark' and or 'too bright' cause negative moods and tax our brains maximum. These lighting extremes are everywhere around Christmas. Christmas songs are also triggers for both happiness and sadness.
3. For most us of us, Christmas creates additional workload. Try and balance this and not over do it. Workload and stress are linked. Santa doesn't do it all by himself. The normal routine of household jobs still need to be done on top of all the extra Christmas tasks (cards, presents, invitations, parties, decorating, cooking, organising, travelling and shopping to name a few) and for most there is a significant additional workload at work to meet end of year deadlines and or address client and staff etc needs and get ready for 2019.
Because of the shorter days, most of us have less natural vitality at this time of year. It is easy to put too much pressure on yourself when your body expects to be doing less not more. Take inspiration from animals that hibernate and slow down when you need to.
4. Christmas can create financial stress. Minimize the burden on yourself. The biggest gift you can give anyone is your time and attention. Money is one of the things couples argue about most and it is a major source of worry for many people. Be careful not to put undue pressure on yourself or others.
5. Plan and enjoy a Christmas that brings happiness (and minimum stress) to you and your near and dear.
Wishing you a very happy, healthy Christmas.