5 top tips to help you stay calm this Christmas

Christmas. Love it or loathe it, it is coming - loud, sparkly and insistent.

It can cause so many stresses, from financial to familial. And if you are up to your ears at work trying to finish things off before the festivities begin in earnest, while also shopping, wrapping, planning, and attending school performances and work Christmas parties (of varying degrees of entertainment value), it can all feel a bit overwhelming.

So, this week, nothing too career-specific, but instead five top tips on how you can survive the Christmas pressure.

1. Breathe: always my number one tip on anything to do with stress. So simple to do, but so easy to do badly. All too often, we are shallow breathers, only using the top part of our chest. And we are more likely to do this when we are stressed, which only makes things worse. If you feel like things are getting on top of you, take three deep, slow breaths in and out. Or for an even better effect, breathe in slowly for a count of 3-5, then hold your breath for the same count, breathe out for the same count, then pause for the same count of 3-5 before breathing in again. Do that three times, and you will be amazed how much better you feel.

2. Remember stress is a choice. This might sound all very well when you have 100 things to get done before you can leave the office to finish off the present buying - but it is true. Feeling stressed never helps you get things done better, or more quickly. So if you can, catch those stressful feelings as they are building and instead say to yourself, “I am calm and in control”. Consciously choose to let go of those feelings, as they are not helpful to you. Instead, choose “calm”, and you will feel it.

3. Don't be a hero or a martyr - ask for help. This is also a choice. We are not always good at asking for help - I know I'm not. But actually, most people WANT to help - they like being involved. And where family is concerned, it is good for them to help - you are not setting a positive example to anyone by taking on too much and running yourself ragged. For me, Christmas is about community - people coming together. Allow that community to develop in the preparations as well as the celebrations.

4. Avoid perfectionism. The pressure to have the “perfect Christmas” can be crushing. It is important to remember, there is no such thing! Everyone has different traditions, and different expectations. Prioritise - what are the things that really matter to you and your family? Do them well, and forgive yourself for the rest (for us, we love a fabulous tree, but we are a bit rubbish at Christmas lights on the house). One of the most powerful phrases there is: “it is good enough”. That’s what you're aiming for. And the shop-bought mince pies or untidy wrapping will not matter.

5. Be kind to yourself. Finally, and most importantly, remember that you are responsible for your own wellbeing. Treat yourself as you would treat your best friend. Choose three activities that restore you, from a long bath to a wintry walk to a quiet coffee, and make sure you do them all at least once a week. Go to bed a bit early every now and then. Try to eat the good stuff as well as the chocolate. If you are exhausted and squeezed dry, it will be a lot harder to make the other positive choices I suggest. And as they say, you deserve it…

14 days to go. Enjoy them!

If transforming your career in 2019 is one of your New Year's Resolutions, I have ONE space left on my "Strategy For Success" Career Retreat on 19th January in London - see here.

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