For many of us, Christmas can be a time of joy, excitement, family connection, and love and kindness; however, despite the joys that Christmas can bring, it is a notoriously difficult time of year for people.
Whether it’s financial pressures, family dynamics, increased alcohol and food consumption, or reminders of lost loved ones, the festive season can lead to increased stress levels. Left unchecked, this stress can negatively impact our mental and physical health.
You can protect your health and wellbeing during Christmas by boosting your resilience. Studies have shown that resilience-building is highly effective in reducing the impacts of stress and protecting general mental health. Therefore, this month, we will focus on why resilience is important, and how to build your resilience in the festive season.
What is Resilience?
Resilience is defined as the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity, stress, threats, or tragedy. If a person is resilient, it does not mean they don’t experience difficult things, or are not affected by the difficulties they face. Being resilient means that even when things go wrong, or even if you struggle with the inevitable impacts of that, you are able to overcome it.
Being resilient is often human beings’ natural state, with many of us bouncing from difficult events without any external help; however, for those that struggle with resilience, you are not without hope. We are able to gain resilience and learn resilience through life experiences and training. Resilience is a skill that constantly can be practiced and improved.
Benefits of Resilience
Coping with stress in a positive and resilient way has been linked in research to many tangible, and wide ranging benefits. High levels of resilience have been linked to:
On the other hand, the lack of resilience can lead to chronic stress. Chronic stress is associated with high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, heartburn, heart disease, and digestive issues. It can also affect your mental health, and can cause insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
Top 10 Resilience-Building Tips
Based on all the benefits of increasing your resilience, here are our top 10 tips on how to boost your resilience and reap the benefits:
1. Invest in your Physical Health
A key way to build resilience is to invest in your physical health, through a healthy and balanced diet and regular exercise. Try scheduling regular exercise into your week, and tracking your food in a diary.
2. Make Time to Relax
Modern life can be fast-paced and hectic. Even when relaxing, people often do multitask, e.g., watching TV while scrolling on their phone. Regular relaxation allows our bodies and minds to reset. Try scheduling regular relaxation activities, such as taking a bath, listening to music, reading, yoga, or swimming.
3. Good Quality Sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential to being able to manage stress. Try to ensure you get between 7-9 hours per night. Try getting up at the same time each day, and reducing your caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon.
4. Have Things to Look Forward to
Life can start to feel monotonous if we don’t have things to get excited about in the future. Try booking a holiday, giving yourself regular treats at the end of the week, or arranging fun things to do on your days off.
Practicing a meditation technique can counter stress by eliciting the relaxation response in our central nervous system, as well as enabling us to detach from our stressful thoughts and feelings and make decisions more effectively. Try yoga, tai chi, meditation apps such as Headspace, or guided imagery.
6. Create a Good Social Support Network
Humans are naturally social beings. Therefore, it is vitally important for our wellbeing and stress management that we feel supported and have people around us that care for us. Try arranging a regular catch up with your friends and family, signing up to a fitness or activity class with someone else, or calling your loved ones after a difficult day.
7. Reframe your Situation
Sometimes we can get stuck in one perspective which can be focused in the negative. Focusing on alternative perspectives can improve our mood and energy levels. Try considering alternative perspectives to your predicament, e.g., instead of focusing on the gift you cannot get for your loved one due to money difficulties, try to focus on other ways you can show your love.
8. Express your Emotions
Allowing space to regularly express our emotions ensures they don’t overwhelm you, and, instead, allows you emotional awareness and control. Try journaling regularly, talking to friends and family about how you feel, using art to express how you feel creatively, or going to counselling.
9. Laugh More
Laughing can significantly reduce stress hormones, boost the immune system, and boost general resilience. Even smiling can improve your stress management. Try smiling and laughing more, watching comedies, or reading a funny book.
10. Get Support
Resilience can be built through effective counselling and psychological therapy. Therapy can give you the space to explore what is stopping your from battling stress and improving your ability to be resilient. Try calling your EAP to arrange a counselling session.
Resilience is an important skill that can improve our ability to manage Christmas stress and protect our physical and mental health over the festive period. Resilience can be built and learnt by simple, regular activities, such as socialising with friends, relaxation, and regular exercise. The benefits can be wide-ranging and surprising, with research linking resilience to improved mental and physical health as well as longer life. Protect yourself from Christmas stress this year with resilience, so you can enjoy the best things that Christmas has to offer.
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