BE MORE TORTOISE
From board games to avoiding panic buying and a good night’s sleep, here’s seven ways to slow down, de-stress and be worry-free throughout Christmas and New Year
EVER seen a stressed-out tortoise?
Nope, us neither.
This guy doesn’t look worried about wrapping gifts without the kids seeing, making it through Boxing Day without telling his mother-in-law what he really thinks, or poisoning his entire family with undercooked turkey.
The same can’t be said for the 15.5million of us Brits who find the extra festive pressure so overwhelming, we dread both Christmas and New Year.
So this time around we’ve decided to take inspo from the humble tortoise — arming ourselves with a protective stress-free shell, thanks to the latest advice from experts.
Goodbye stress-mas, hello fun times!
1 — Get your game on
Forget Candy Crush, new gaming app Soar: Tree of Life, £2.99 (All4games.co.uk) has been developed by stress-management experts including Dr Gail Steptoe-Warren, occupational psychologist and principal lecturer at Coventry University.
Designed to promote positive feelings thanks to a rhythmic and relaxing soundtrack, it’s made up of seven levels where you restore colour to an island paradise.
“It improves focus and reduces anxiety, lowers blood pressure and heart rate naturally, and even works as a sleep aid for people suffering with insomnia,” explains Gail.
2 — Help your hormones
The latest way to beat stress? Adaptogens – naturally found substances in plants and roots that help the body modify how it responds to stress.
“The herb ashwagandha is an adaptogen that works by supporting your nervous system, calming the adrenal glands, which produce the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin,” says nutritionist Rick Hay.
Try Fushi Ashwagandha Capsules, £10 for 60. These can be taken morning or night and you should see a difference in only a few days. And if you thought vitamin C was just for boosting immunity, think again.
“It also supports adrenal function so will decrease stress,” explains Rick. Aim to get some peppers, red berries, peas and tomatoes into your diet (before hitting that inevitable bucket of Miniature Heroes).
3 — Have a sit-down
When you can’t work out which task to tackle first, taking a seat is an instant way to stop your head spinning.
“Don’t make any rash decisions. Deliberately sit down and create a gap between you and the situation,” advises Carl Vernon, author of The Less-Stress Lifestyle.
“It will give you time and space to come up with a rational and sensible decision. Sitting down is key: it forms part of the relaxation process. When you’re standing, you feel as though you need to act, but sitting down gives you a better chance of calming your mind and body.”
4 — Recharge overnight
December’s parties, disrupted routines and unfamiliar beds can leave you waking frequently during the night.
All that lost kip has such a negative impact on our health that half of us say we’d rather pay for a hotel than stay with friends or relatives.
To dodge that fatigued feeling the next day, try Benenox Overnight Recharge, £9.99 – a before-bed supplement that helps you stay asleep once you’ve got to the land of nod.
“Glycogen stores get depleted during the night and if this energy supply runs out, the liver sends stress signals to the brain in the form of the hormone cortisol, alerting it to wake you up, which is what can result in broken sleep,” says Dr Roger Henderson.
Benenox contains honey, which tops up your glycogen stores, and sustamine, an amino acid to slow the absorption of the sugars so they last throughout the night.
5 — Start clenching
If mindfulness and yoga aren’t for you, there’s a speedier way to chill: Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR).
The technique involves tensing a muscle group as tightly as possible for a few seconds and then relaxing.
Although it’s been around for over a century, it’s recently been incorporated into some cognitive behavioural therapy sessions on the NHS, too.
“Try clenching your fist for a few seconds and then letting go, releasing the tension so your hand is as loose as possible,” explains Carl.
“Your hand should feel relaxed after doing this a few times. You can use the technique anywhere in your body, so if you have a particularly tense area such as your neck, face or shoulders, you can concentrate on that.”
Do this by yourself, or check out longer guided sessions by searching “PMR and NHS” on YouTube.
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6 — Avoid panic buying
Left your gift shopping until today? Oops. But you aren’t alone – one in 10 of us are in the same boat, according to Equifax.
Yet that last-minute Christmas Eve dash could leave you spending more – which probably explains why around £726million flew into UK shopping tills on this day last year.
“If you’re stuck for gift ideas, think about buying experiences rather than more stuff,” says professional organiser Vicky Silverthorn.
“Theme-park tickets, cinema vouchers for the whole family or a trip to a sporting event next summer are all better options than hastily bought tat that ends up at the charity shop come mid-January. What’s more, days-out gifts can usually be found online, avoiding the temptation of the high street, too.”
Facts and figures
- 8% of us hide our clutter in the dishwasher when unexpected guests arrive.
- 33% is the increase in heart rate of the average Brit when Christmas shopping.
- 38% of UK men admit to never having cooked Christmas dinner, according to a survey by Magimix.
7 — De-stress others
Anxiety can be infectious so when someone close to you has got themselves into a stress spiral, try this quick fix.
“Help them put into perspective how big the problem actually is,” says Cat Williams, relationship counsellor and founder of Staycalmandcontent.com.
“Ask them: ‘On a scale of nought to 10, how big is this problem?’ Most of the time the answer is a five and this trick can help them assess what the underlying issue really is. Plus, they get the chance to work out if they’re overreacting to something that can be easily solved without leaning on you.”
Sounds like the perfect way to guarantee a chilled-out Christmas.