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So the midwinter festivities are upon us. We’ve shopped until we’ve dropped. We’ve searched out all the online bargains and prepared in detail for the big day. We always expect and hope for the best and yet we all know from experience that not every moment with family (especially those, how shall I put this tactfully, REALLY ANNOYING RELATIVES) will be stress free. I remember seeing the spiritual teacher and author Ram Dass giving a talk many years ago in which he said – So you’ve done your therapy and meditation practice, you’ve realigned your chakras and burnt your incense but then you go home to see your parents and it all falls apart.

So, if that sounds familiar or you can envisage some stress over the holidays, here are some tips and strategies that I recommend, and sometimes utilise myself, to keep sane over Xmas.

Prepare for the Known Stress Factors in Advance.

I’m hoping that you relate well with most of your family and friends but no matter how laid-back you might be, there will probably be those members of your family who really know, and perhaps aim, to press your buttons. If you expect an unrealistic and glowing Marks and Spencer’s type Xmas perfection then I’m not suggesting you lower your standards or expect the worst, just prepare psychologically for some difficult moments. In terms of preparation – make a list of the things or people that are likely to stress you out and then write down what actions you could take to reduce the possible conflict or how you will deal with any negative feelings arising.

Anticipate Some Stress

Although we love to relax over the Xmas period, we are quite often kept busy with preparations or last minute panics but if you remind yourself beforehand of the likelihood of such chaos, then when they occur you will have a reservoir of strength to draw from and be able to savour the good moments even more.

Plan for Alone Time and Do What You Need to Create A Sense of Peace

We can often get stressed if we are drawn into other people’s agendas too often and then we can build up a resistance or resentment which leads to those stressful moments or outbursts. So take some time out for yourself. Go for a jog, meditate or do anything that you usually do to unwind.

Remember that even though some moments can be stressful, focus on the positive and if you do get easily stressed or anxious, then too much alcohol, sugar and caffeine can have a negative effect. If you keep your expectations to a realistic level, look after yourself physically and emotionally and take things easy then the stress is less likely to overwhelm you. Here’s wishing you a stress reduced Xmas and a laid-back New Year.

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