Stress Less

“Merry Christmas!” and other stress-inducing phrases


Preventing chronic stress during the time of joy and giving.

Personally, I love Christmas. I find it creatively liberating as I decorate cookies, practice generosity by choosing the perfect gifts and feel immensely grateful for my family and friends in my life.

But I still find it overwhelming.

I hate walking into a shopping mall in December (or November or October in some cases – Christmas trees before Halloween? Come on, guys.) the expectation and consumerism in overdrive. I dread the last minute workplace Secret Santa (what can I get Tim on a $10 budget that’s meaningful?)

The holidays are meant to be all about joy, generosity and gratitude but it can feel like super-charged guilt, no free time, and a week-long hangover. If we don’t take preventative action that is.

As Christmas approaches, it’s important to be intentional about how you’re going to approach it to side-step the stress and maximise the community atmosphere. This fun, crafty advent calendar can help you set some intentions upfront – it’s like a little self-worth gift every day.

Chronic stress doesn’t just happen during the holidays, it can happen at any time of year. Feel free to adapt this strategy and plan some self-care months throughout the year.

So what is Chronic Stress anyway?

Stress is a natural part of our biology and can be really useful. It’s the juice that gets us to take necessary action. For example, if we are being chased by a tiger, stress helps our body prioritise functions for running away like increased blood flow to the limbs and some adrenaline to really get us racing. It also reprioritises other functions required for digestion, reproduction and deep thinking.

Most of this is fairly sensible and can happen later. But in today’s modern world, we’re hardly ever chased by tigers. The stimulus has changed. Now, our stress response is triggered by traffic, being late for a meeting, the public speech you have to give tomorrow, not being able to think of the perfect gift in time, financial pressure, over-stimulation of screens and lights… the list is constant and endless. That’s where our useful and occasional stress response is starting to spin into overdrive, becoming chronic stress.

Remember what happened when we experienced stress? We deprioritised our deep thinking!

In our information age, when we need it most, chronic stress is reducing our ability to solve problems, process our emotions, practice empathy and see our current circumstances clearly. These are exactly the functions we need to handle our life right now.

Managing stress is a huge necessity, but how?

Chronic Stress has predictable characteristic ‘triggers’ including situations where we:

  • Feel we have no control
  • Have little or no predictive information (we don’t know how they’re going to go because we haven’t experienced them before)
  • Have no outlet for the stress
  • Feel like they’re escalating or getting worse

Many Stress Management Strategies look at decreasing these characteristics.

For example; where we feel we have no control, we can look for elements of the situation where we have choice. We can also provide an outlet for the stress, like breathing or practicing some creativity. It is solutions like this that I have planned in my Stress Less Advent Calendar.

As always, let me know what you come up with. I’d love to cheer you on!

Be brave and curious,
Hannah

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