Parties, shopping and catching up with friends and family can increase anxiety for many at this time of year.
Editor Jane Garton suggests ways to create some calm in your life and reduce any anxiety as the festive rush takes hold.
At this time of year it’s even more vital than usual to keep a check on anxiety levels. If you don’t you risk ending up a nervous wreck on the big day. The reason? As your stressometer rises, so do levels of stress hormones. And while you need a certain amount to keep you firing on all cylinders, too much can lead to problems such as fatigue and burnout, and if prolonged – high blood pressure, headaches and low immunity.
Here’s how to stay on an even keel and avoid the festive rollercoaster.
THE POWER OF MUSIC
Studies have found that soothing music – especially classical – helps lower your heart rate and calms brain waves. So tune into Classic FM or Radio 3 at every opportunity – on the way to work, sitting at your laptop, doing the Christmas shopping and even in the kitchen while you peel and chop.
The steadier your blood glucose the steadier your mood, say the experts. For Zen-like morning calm plump for a sustaining bowl of porridge with its blood-sugar stabilising GI. Studies also show breakfast cereal eaters report feeling less stressed and anxious.
Singing along to your favourite carols is one of the quickest ways to release tension and lower blood pressure. Research shows that singing in the car on the way to work or Christmas shopping, for example, can make you feel less anxious and stressed. Why? Singing encourages you to take deeper breaths, meaning more oxygen reaches your lungs, which in turn helps you relax and wind down.
Study after study show the relaxing powers of mediation so dedicate 10 minutes to it every day. Find somewhere quiet. Sit on a chair or some cushions on the floor or lie down and close your eyes. Breathe gently in and out and focus on your breath as you breathe deeply into your lungs and exhale slowly, both through your nose.
If anxious thoughts intrude don’t hang onto them, acknowledge them and let them go. Stay like this for five or 10 minutes, then gradually bring yourself back into the here and now by wiggling your fingers and toes, opening your eyes and starting to tune into the world around you.
Follow in the steps of the ancient gurus of the East and massage away your angst with some soothing acupressure. Find the acupressure point in the fleshy web between your thumb and forefinger and press firmly down with the ball of you thumb or fingertips. Hold for around 20 seconds before slowly and gently releasing the pressure. Wait for 10 seconds and repeat up to five times.
The herbal relaxants, such as valerian and passionflower, do just as their name implies – they aid relaxation and calm. They are also good for insomnia and general anxiety problems as well as for helping to reduce the physical effects of stress, such as tense muscles and digestive problems.
Meanwhile if you find yourself tossing and turning into the early hours, lovely camomile with its daisy-like flowers is a well-known natural sleep remedy. Put one teabag or 5-8g of loose camomile leaves into a cup of boiling water. Cover and leave to infuse for a few minutes before sipping slowly before turning in.
5 QUICK CALMERS:
Escape to the park: 10 minutes in a green space works wonders.
Yawn away: It releases jaw tension and oxygenates the blood.
Sip a flower: Add a few drops of Bach Rescue Remedy to some water and sip.
Take a catnap: 10 minutes – no longer – is reviving.
Cover your eyes: Place cupped hands over your eyes for a few minutes.