Self-Help: Keep your cool at Christmas


The holiday season is here – the days are getting shorter and darker and we look forward to the festivities, to the laughter and visits to friends and family or, perhaps, a well-deserved holiday. For some, however, the Christmas period is not so cheerful since it is the time when one looks back at another year gone by. Perhaps you have lost someone dear or have become estranged from family and friends due to changes in your personal life. And you feel very lonely.

Regardless how you get by during this period, the festive season always comes with an unwelcome guest: stress. All that extra pressure and expense can be at a cost, not just to your wallet but also your health.

Stress over the holiday period and the effect on our health is very often neglected or not recognised at all but it is very real. This end-of year stress shouldn’t come as a surprise as this period brings along a huge number of changes, challenges, pressures and obligations over a very short period of time, such as parties, shopping, finding that last-minute present, cooking, organizing visits to friends and family, to name but a few obvious stressful activities one encounters. Other stressors are the need to deal with expectations, family tensions and trying to find suitable arrangements when faced with new family situations.

The period is also for many an opportunity to take a well-deserved holiday, a chance to unwind and relax. However for those people with stressful jobs, or heavy workloads or who’ve been working overtime to meet deadlines, when at last they have time to relax, they simply fall ill. This is a medical condition that is on the rise and can be experienced during the year too, at weekends or on your annual summer holiday – it has been coined ‘leisure sickness’ and is associated with colds or flu-like complaints, nausea, fatigue and muscular aches and pains.

Do you want stay on top of Christmas this year? Beat the feeling of being on edge all the time, don’t worry about presents, people’s expectations or what to make for dinner. Avoid spending Christmas and New Year in bed nursing that cold or that back problem that seems to emerge on the first day of your holiday. Stay free from stress and depression and maybe enjoy yourself for a change this holiday season. Here are some tips you might like to consider.

• Build resilience by allocating several times each day time for breathing exercises, meditation or other relaxation techniques

• Don’t abandon healthy habits

• Eat and drink in moderation

• Get enough sleep

• Learn to say no, plan less and enjoy more

• Budget your Christmas expenses

• Suggest a change to your family and friends as regards to giving presents this year

• With blended families plan ahead and set aside your differences in favour of the children

• Don’t expect to be stress and hassle free – have realistic expectations
• Acknowledge your feelings
• Be prepared, plan ahead, make a list of gifts and shop early

Keep your cool for Christmas this year by implementing some of the practical tips described above. Minimize your stress by recognizing your stressors and by starting to practice regular health promoting behaviour to reduce their impact. With a little planning, preparation and a positive frame of mind you too can enjoy this Season of Light.

For more information on how to beat stress during the holidays go to or listen to Health Matters on

Photo: Brussels Winter Wonders,