Stress-busting tips

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It’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year, but for many the Christmas and school holiday period can be overwhelming. The key to managing stress is simple though: it essentially comes down to understanding that you have more control than you might think. It’s time to take charge! Let’s talk about how.

When it comes to coping with stress better, you’ve basically got two options: either change the situation (avoid or alter), or change your reaction (adapt or accept). Now obviously, some situations (such as Christmas) are hard to avoid. But there are still some things you can do to eliminate stressful aspects or alter the situation, thus reducing the stress you experience:

• Make a plan, then cut it in half! Potentially even cut it in half again. Focus on the must-haves and forget about the rest. For me, this meant giving up on Christmas cards a few years ago. At first I felt really slack, but you know what? No-one really minds. Remember, (and this is a maxim that is hard for all high-achieving people to get their heads around) the more you do, the more people expect you to do. Which leads me to . . . .

• Assign jobs to each person attending. Don’t let the more ‘relaxed’ members of the group get away with sitting on their butts whilst you run around catering to their every whim. Everyone should take responsibility for at least one contribution to the table; and make it a rule that everyone gets involved in the dishes/clean-up; tidying up the wrapping paper etc. Food coma is not an acceptable excuse – unless you all agree to have a siesta and then clean up together. Yes, men – this means YOU!

• Don’t over-spend or feel compelled to spend too much. You may feel great when the pressies are being opened but even then you will already be beginning to stress about how you’re going to pay for it later.

• Don’t drink too much; or encourage others to. A few wines is a go-to strategy for many of us at this time of year, but too many can make people moody and argumentative; hangovers are horrible and leave you irritable; and alcohol messes with your body’s ability to get quality REM sleep.

• Avoid ‘hot’ or controversial topics.

The second set of strategies (adapt, accept) focuses on how you react to the situation. Basically, this approach reminds us that if you can’t change the situation, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude. Here are some tips for reducing stress by adjusting your attitude:

• Focus on the now, and enjoy it for what it is: an opportunity to spend time/have fun with family and loved ones.

• Adjust your standards. Perfectionism is a major source of anxiety and discontent. Remember: the perfect is the enemy of the good!

• Think, ‘big picture’. Will this messy kitchen/that rude comment matter in a few weeks time?

• Let go/forgive. Accept that people are not perfect and people make mistakes.

• Laugh! (including at yourself)

• Take time out. It is okay to take five, and sit down with a cup of tea, go for a walk, or have a cuddle with your kids.

Remember: you are in charge of your thoughts, emotions, schedule and behaviours. Once you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining stress, you can begin to put in place strategies to reduce it. You can Stay Cool this Christmas!

Dr. Tracey *

* Tracey has joined our team as our very own online health advisor. Just email your burning health-related questions to Tracey via or leave them in the comments area below. You may want to drop a few kilos, learn how to tame the beast within or simply lead a calmer lifestyle. Tracey will answer your questions and share some of her top tips and tricks to leading a healthier, happier life here. The person with the best question each week will win a 12-pack of Ti Tonics to enjoy. What a great way to start the new year! Find out more about Tracey here.