Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Feeling Like Christmas Stress is Getting On Top Of You? Here’s What to do, Right Now!

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If you’re feeling overwhelmed by Christmas stress right now, you’re VERY much not alone. Things are tough! And they’ve been tough for a while. We chat to someone who is an expert in the field about how to get those cortisol levels down, stat!

In the last few years, Heidi Billington has sat down with a lot of very stressed Kiwis, to try to lower their cortisol levels and bring them some peace – even if just for an hour or two. But, as we get closer and closer to Christmas (oh, all while we have a recession looming, a crazy cost of living AND a resurgence of Covid) she’s seeing those stress levels rise higher and higher with more people than ever needing assistance.

As a Naturopath & Medical Herbalist, she’s developed a few tools and tricks for getting through stressful periods – which she’s shared with Kiwis in the form of Auckland’s Tonic Room, where health and wellness practitioners see clients for integrative medicine, herbal medicine, naturopathy, clinical psychology, plus massages and facials with a difference!

We had a quick chat with Heidi about stress and Christmas, and her advice for turning down that stress dial, RIGHT NOW!

We’ve had a heck of a stressful few years, and now we have a recession looming AND it’s Christmas – aka, the most stressful time of the year. What are you seeing out there on the job? Have people been stressed for quite some time? Is it starting to get on top of people?

People have been under stress for a while now and we’re seeing it turn into chronic stress, which needs to be addressed.  It leads to joint pain, body aches, low energy, sleep and mood issues. We treat every individual with a holistic approach, starting with lifestyle changes and prioritising their self-care. Those that do this feel so much better. 

Broadly speaking, what is this level of ongoing stress doing to us all?

 Chronic stress is just not sustainable and will lead to serious health issues if not dealt with.   Simple lifestyle changes help, such as breathing exercises, meditation, and moving your body daily.  It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. 

Is there anything people reading this right now can do to take the edge off and help their bodies out?

 Sit up straight, pull back your shoulders and breathe.  Close your eyes, be present and try not to overthink what is ahead.  Smile.  Say no to something you really don’t want to do.  Book yourself a massage or your choice of self-care right now. 

As stress ramps up this time of year, a lot of people consider ‘looking after themselves’ as having a few alcohol-free nights a week, or having a healthy green smoothie every now and then – but we often don’t do a lot to help our mental health. I read that you often prescribe cutting back on social media as a tool – can you tell us more about that and how a social media detox could help us at this time of year?

 Social media has opened up the world so we can join in, talk and socialise from just about anywhere.  But it’s also taken away living in the now, and added social pressure of living out of your means and being something you’re not. 

Our spare time is filled up by scrolling, and these moments of pause and rest are crucial to de-stress.

A digital detox can reset your brain to engage with what is happening in your life right now.  Try one day without it and reduce daily use to a 30-minute check in over the holiday time. 

The mind and body are intrinsically linked so this break may ease physical pressure and help reconnect back to life.

Christmas can be such a tough time – every Christmas carol or movie tells us that it’s the most wonderful time of the year, but… it’s actually the most stressful! There’s work deadlines to tidy up, kids finishing up school, so many things on the to-do list, difficult family dynamics to navigate and A LOT of financial stress (particularly as the word recession is being thrown around a lot). What are your top five tips for getting through this period?

  1. Prioritise time for yourself.  Don’t pour from an empty cup.  Reach out to friends and family for help if you need it.
  2. If there are financial woes, take time out with a walk in nature, it’s free and more therapeutic than most people think.  We are lucky on this side of the world that ‘stressful christmas’ comes along with sunshine and summer.  Soak it up.
  3. Be grateful and make note every day of positive things. Life seems to be speeding up in all the stress and chaos.  Slow down everything (breath, eating, moving, your thoughts) it will make you feel more in control, relaxed and connected.  Make time for rituals.

What do you typically do to look after yourself over the Christmas period?

  • I walk – a lot.  It helps me feel better both physically and mentally. 
  • Don’t over-commit myself.  Only do what is feasible, if not, it can wait.
  • Take a good calming herbal tonic – withania, lemonbalm, licorice (and rhodiola if I’m lacking energy).  Always magnesium at night.
  • Switching off is hard to do when you own a business, but I spend as much time outdoors, on the beach or in the bush as I can once we close up on 24th December. 

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? Are they a helpful tool?

I find resolutions are just another thing to accomplish with an already big list to get through.  Goals, intentions or inspirations should be things we set year-round but with no pressure or d-day to start or finish.  I prefer reflection rather than resolutions.  Looking back at what you could do better or did well can bring a positive attitude into the new year.  

They may be helpful for some. If you make resolutions, make them small and accomplishable. 

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