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Holidays are supposed to be a time for joy and celebration. But for many people, the holidays can also be stressful and anxiety-inducing. The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to manage your holiday stress and anxiety, so it doesn't prevent you from enjoying yourself with family and friends!
1. Keep Your Regular Routine
Holiday stress can take over your life pretty easily, and if you're not careful, it can send you into an anxiety spin as we set aside all the good habits and things we know are good for us, while making time for the increased work and social commitments.
Don't let the “busy” of the holidays season send you off-course though, your habits are what will keep you GROUNDED in the chaos. Keep up with your regular routine as much as possible.
If you're used to going for a walk or exercising a few times a week, find a way to protect that “you time” at all costs. We always have to say no to something, don’t let it be the things you fill your energy cup with.
And if you want to know how to stay feeling calm and more relaxed - on Christmas morning while everyone else sleeps in, get up early and go for a walk or run outside to clear your mind before the big day!
2. Practice Self-Care
When it comes to self-care, there's no one size fits all approach. Be kind to yourself and listen to your body. If your calendar looks manic with events, block at least 1 or 2 nights at home with NO plans so you can pre-plan some downtime (you’ll thank me for it later!).
Take time for yourself, eat well, and prioritise getting enough sleep—these things will help you feel more rested and energised during these hectic weeks leading up to end of year.
Self-care is also being aware of mentally what you are consuming. If you find yourself staying up late watching TV to “zone out” just do yourself a favour and GO TO BED. Sleep is so much better for you than Netflix.
Or if scrolling social media seeing everyone else’s perfectly curated Christmas tree’s and happy family snaps is making you anxious (or just plain sad and overwhelmed), consider taking a break socials.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to hit the finish line well rested and some mental capacity to enjoy the festivities?
3. Make a Plan and Stay Flexible
If you are a natural planner and organiser that’s great, my suggestion then is to stay flexible. Rigid black and white thinking and “only one way to do this” mentality has caused many a family argument during the holidays.
If you can be flexible in your approach to everything, then you will be less likely to get stressed out by the things that come up.
Aunty Janice could be right, she could well have the stuffing recipe out there – it doesn’t mean yours is any less - you of course could be right too. There are always multiple ways of doing a single thing.
The person with the most flexibility in this situation is going to be the master of their own emotions and have the most fun. Who wants to be held back in judgement about something a simple as a stuffing recipe?! Not me. Janice – do your thing.
4. Don't Be Afraid to Say "No"
You probably like to get involved in everything; you may even have FOMO at times when you don’t have a finger in every pie. But setting healthy boundaries for your time is VERY important at this time of year.
We do not want to take any held resentments into the new year! So, don't let others pressure you into doing things you don't want to do. It is not your job to be everywhere at once and make everyone happy. Saying no is necessary and healthy!
If you're feeling overwhelmed by all the holiday activities on your plate, then ask for help or simply decline an invitation altogether. It's okay, people can respect your decisions just as much as they expect others will respect theirs.
5. Delegate Like a Boss
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then it’s time to delegate. You do not have to do it all. Remember the saying “Many hands make light work”. People also actually like to help and feel needed, so delegate. Get everyone involved so you don’t feel overburdened by the work that needs to get done.
Everyone knows you can do it all, but you may kill every last bit of energy you have in the process!
6. Let it Be
If you find yourself stuck worrying and pre-empting about all the WHAT IFs of Christmas Day or holiday parties - who’s coming, whether everyone will get along, who will drink to much, or say too much, or start a difficult conversation. This thought process will only ever bring you stress and anxiety, as you cannot control the outcomes of other people.
Let it be. What is going to happen will happen, no matter whether you spend 25 days worrying about what will happen.
Instead, perhaps think about why you are spending time with the people who are important to you and what the highlights of this holiday season are going to be.
And make a game plan, if something does go pear shaped at any event you can take some time out for yourself—go for a walk or listen to some music to regroup.
7. Focus on Gratitude
One of the most effective ways to manage holiday anxiety is to focus on gratitude. By being grateful for what you already have, it helps your mind stay in the present moment instead of way out to far in the future stuck on worry.
You will start feeling less stressed about things that don't matter. Gratitude helps you appreciate the good things in your life, so it's a great way of getting into a more positive mindset.
Once you make it a habit, it'll become second nature and help you feel less stressed through any situation—even if something stressful does happen!
8. Know the Things You Can Control
You can control your energy level, how much sleep you get, what you are eating and drinking, your mindset, your time and your own personal happiness.
You cannot control anyone else, and you are also not 100% responsible for everyone else’s happiness.
When things seem out of control, reassess and reassure yourself that you are doing your best and that this is enough. If it turns out that something did not go perfectly, then accept it and release it!
9. Remember to Have Fun
Let the stress go and remember the holidays are for you to have fun too. Everything will get done that needs to get done. Connect, be present in the little moments and enjoy it. You deserve it, its been a big few years. What is it all for, if it’s not for having fun with the people we love?
10. Ask for Help
Finally, don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. If it’s not fun and everything is too much then please know you don’t have to go through this stress alone. Reach out to a friend, a family member or a professional for support. You deserve much love, peace and joy this time of year :)
Wishing you all the best
About the Author: Janel Briggs is a NLP and Timeline Therapy Practitioner on a mission to support women across Australia and Singapore in healing their professional anxieties, insecurities and imposter syndrome to build unwavering confidence and self-belief. The goal is to level up your life and career by learning how to to live fearless and anxiety free! Connect with Janel on social media via Linkedin or Instagram.
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How often do you listen to the voice of your inner critic? Does the sound of this voice propel you forward in your work and life? OR does it hold you back?
What if I told you we have two voices within our mind available to us for counsel at any time. Your inner critic doesn’t have to be at the forefront running the show 24/7. You can learn to dial down that self-criticism and tap into the much quieter, more gentle voice.
The voice that often goes unnoticed, the voice of self-compassion.
Your inner critic is that annoying voice of negative criticism, that’s often playing on repeat.
If you are new to exploring your mind an how it operates, your inner critic is that voice that tells you (on loud speakers) that everything you do is wrong. It’s typically fuelled by fear and self-doubt, speaking in a berating and belittling tone of resounding “you are not good enough” dialogue.
It may tell you that other people are doing better than you, and that you can’t cope in difficult situations. It may bring up flash backs of painful memories of the past, and send warning bells of anxiety or blame you for things going wrong.
It may even tell you that you will never succeed, or that you are not worthy of the job, role or relationship that you are in. The inner critic can be very convincing and sometimes even convinces the most successful person to doubt themselves.
When you listen to this tone of negative commentary, you’re likely to beat yourself up over little mistakes and imperfections.
I have a client who is very successful in her career, but also highly critical of herself. Achievement’s do not come without excess stress as a perfectionist who is anxious about making mistakes and failing. Her inner critic says things like: "You better not mess this up, then people will know you're not good enough” and “what if you fail? People will think you don’t have the experience”. In reality, and on paper NONE of this is true. But when the inner critic is on loudspeaker the worry and angst causes sleepless nights and health concerns.
It's fuelled by fear and speaks in a berating and belittling tone of self-doubt.
Your inner critic main purpose is to keep you safe and help you understand what can be improved in the future. It is part of your mind’s self-protection system, fuelled at its core by fear and unresolved limiting beliefs. It may even be holding onto memories of moments in your life or childhood where you’ve experienced criticism or taken risks that perhaps didn’t pay off. The mind never forgets and as it takes everything personally it continues pre-empt events that may happen in the future that could be similar.
The inner critic says: “Don’t put yourself out there, remember what happened last time? That’s right, you were X (rejected/teased/laughed at/didn’t belong there)”.
Sometimes this self-protection can be helpful - it might be useful to have an internal dialogue of caution or offer suggestions for ways we could improve our work, decisions and/or mistakes. But where the inner critic becomes a problem is when it takes up most of our conscious thoughts and drives us to self-sabotaging behaviours where we avoid taking action altogether.
Your inner critic may be motivated by a fear of failure, rejection, or being judged.
Perhaps you've had experiences in the past where other people have treated you poorly or someone really criticised you which made you feel judged, and your self-belief plummeted.
Or, maybe in your family of origin failure wasn’t an option, winning and achieving was believed to be all that mattered so you thrived on this external validation.
Whatever the reason may be for this fear of being judged or rejected by others, remember that it's only happening inside your mind. Your thoughts and beliefs can be changed.
It might be helpful to ask yourself where this fear is coming from?
Despite what your inner critic may say about other people's opinion about who you are as a person, everyone has their own unique talents and abilities—and you have so much to offer this world!
It’s time to shut out your inner critic and tap into your voice of self-compassion.
When you notice your inner critic begin to ramp up, a really simple technique to practice is to catch the first negative thought you hear without acting on it. Then take a deep breath and quiet that noise by tapping in for a moment to become curious and ask yourself:
“What am I afraid of here? Is this a real fear or a perceived fear? What do I know to be true?”
Then listen for the voice of self-compassion. It will be a quieter voice, speaking softly with words of kindness, and acceptance.
“Compassion brings mental peace and mental comfort”
– HH Dalai Lama
Your voice of self-compassion could sound like:
You’ll then begin to have a completely different experience and a less stress fuelled outcome as higher levels of self-compassion are linked to decreased feelings of anxiety and depression.
Here are some things you can do to silence your inner critic to hear the voice of self-compassion:
So, the next time you hear that voice telling you to give up, or not even try because you’re not good enough or you might fail – remember that you don't have to listen to that critical voice anymore!
Instead, take a moment to pause, breathe and ask yourself which voice is talking? Always choose the voice of self-compassion.
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As a Mindset Coach, who coaches high achieving women on how to release fear, limiting beliefs and anxiety, I frequenstly get this question:
“WHY am I so stressed out, overwhelmed and exhausted ALL THE TIME? I just can’t seem to keep life together like everyone else.”
My immediate answer is this: “
When is the last time you gave yourself time and space for REFLECTION?”
We get into the habit of packing so much into an already filled container, thinking that everything is urgent, so much to do in so little time. We want to:
Not to mention that fear of FOMO is real. I get it.
We get so busy “being busy” that the mind goes into INFORMATION OVERLOAD. It simply cannot process and keep up with the pace we are expecting ourselves to run at.
If we look at what is happening in the mind, we have approximately 2 million bits of information coming at us every day (2 million!). We have external information screaming at us from our technology - phones, laptops, ipads, work emails, phone calls, text messages, social media notifications, reminders. And if you have a child in care or at school… let’s not forget ALL the newsletters and emails and notifications!!
Plus, we have the information that is internally processing our own beliefs, thoughts, internal dialogue feelings, emotions. What you can hear, see and smell. And the brain processing sensory information getting feedback from our organs.
But, the mind can only process 148 bits of information.
Yes, that 2 million bits of information gets filtered down by the mind’s ability to delete, distort and generalise the information. It will in fact only retain the information it believes you need sifting on past experiences, memories and your core belief system to understand what is needed.
If we don’t make time for reflection going into a “REST + PROCESS” mode and we continue to pack information into an already filled container guess what happens??
System overload: overwhelm, stress, anxiety, resentment, decision fatigue and burnout from carrying the mental load.
The mind says “I AM AT CAPACITY!”. And yet, we keep push on expecting to somehow get a different result.
So, if your mind is at full capacity - what can you do this week to reduce the mental load?
Often, we think it’s big things like taking a day off work for self care, or a weekend away which does help. But, sometimes that isn’t feasible.
I am all about starting small with mindfulness habits like:
In order to keep a healthy work-life balance, with less likelihood of overwhelm we need to be mindful of how we fill our brains with information throughout the day. When we give ourselves time in stillness and quiet, we turn on the mind’s “REST + REFLECT” mode.
By packing in fewer tasks in, taking breaks and making sure we schedule some time for mindfulness, we can truly reap the benefits. You might even be surprised by the creative ideas and solutions that filter in more easily and effortlessly.