Ease the seasonal stress cycle with 12 simple questions


Marianna Kilburn
Qualified Life Coach
@MariannaKilburn
Ask Marianna


09 December 2015

The seasonal stress cycle

The Seasonal Stress Cycle

Should you wish to avoid peddling furiously this year, take a look at the classic traps we fall into, noticing how one can lead on to the next. You may wish to reflect on the questions posed, as well as the links to ideas and inspirations for happier holidays.

1. Seasonal Tension (Worrying Whirlwind)

This is a time of year when tension runs high, whether in the office, at home, out socially or off on holiday, there just seems to be so much to get through in a short space of time. Our bodies rev up, as we prepare for the frantic fight, flight or freeze mode that comes with the season.

Ask yourself: What do I value most about this time of year and how can I simplify things this year in order to align myself with those values?

Get ideas and inspiration to help with seasonal tension

2. Financial Pressure (Financial Freakouts)

Pressure on the purse strings increases as we ponder the piles of presents to be bought, food to be organised, and expenses to be paid if we are off on holiday or travelling to see friends and family.

Ask yourself: What do I need to change about my festive spending and how can I plan ahead to ensure my costs are covered?

Get ideas and inspiration to help with financial pressure

3. Too Much To Do (Too Many To Do Lists)

The list of tasks is endless: card writing, present buying and wrapping, food shopping, putting up decorations, cooking, preparing for holidays, getting ahead at work etc. Is it any wonder we hit a state of ‘overwhelm’?

Ask yourself: What are the tasks that need to be done and when am I going to do them? Whose support do I need and how can we share the tasks between us?

Get ideas and inspiration to help with you to do lists

4. Communication Breakdown (Fractious Families)

With the multitude of tasks to be done, tension naturally increases –often both at work and home. My apologies to the men out there, but in my experience it is typically the female of the household who is endeavouring to be superwoman. Try as we might to do everything, it is reasonable and sane to ask for, and of course offer, help. Avoid building resentments and tackle feelings and issues as they arise. Take time out to keep communication lines open and give everyone a chance to be honest about how they feel.

Ask yourself: How do we want to spend the holidays and where do we need to make compromises so that all needs are met as far as possible?

Get ideas and inspiration to help with communication breakdowns

5. Compare Despair (Fickle Feelings)

The festive season is classically a time of reflection when we look around to see who is with us, who is missing, how we would like to be spending our time and how far reality is from our ideal. The end of the year can be naturally challenging to those who have lost loved ones and those who are alone.


It can also be stressful to those who are socially over-committed with no time and space to themselves. Whatever our circumstances, the grass may look greener elsewhere; but we always have the choice about whose company we keep and how we want to spend our time. The compare-despair mentality is likely to bring us only suffering.

Ask yourself: What do I need right now that will return me to a state of peace and gratitude? What action could I take?

Get ideas and inspirationwith those fickly feelings

6. Social Pressure (Social Settings)

So where do we go to celebrate the festivities and who do we spend our time with? If we are not careful we can plunge into activity overload as we endeavour to keep up with all of the social obligations (obligations often being the key word here). Whilst for some it can be lovely to be with family, too much time en masse can bring out the worst in certain family members. Big social gatherings make some people feel self-conscious, whilst others prefer a group to spending time alone. Take note of your preferences and don't be afraid to say no.

Ask yourself: How can I best achieve a healthy balance between social activity and time to de-stress and unwind?

Get ideas and inspiration to help with social pressures

7. Time Off (Days Of Boredom Or Bliss)

Whilst time off should ideally be a welcome break, the festive period can be packed to the brim with social activity or include lots of free unstructured time. Neither is ideal, since one can lead to exhaustion and the other to an odd lethargy or low mood.

Ask yourself: Which are the activities I would most like to include in my free time and what can I say no to if I am overcommitted?

Get ideas and inspiration to save you getting bored
Get ideas and inspiration on how to avoid holiday stress/depression

8. Interrupted Sleep (Night Owls Not Napping)

Too many commitments or, oddly, under-commitment can interrupt our sleep patterns. Whether our minds are filled with who we might have forgotten and what's left on our To Do list, or whether we have dropped into the strange land of ‘underwhelm’, both are likely to nibble away at our nap time. There is nothing like lack of sleep to mess with our mood!

Ask yourself: What do I need to do to switch off? How can I get sufficient and restful sleep?

Head over to Amy's sleep blog for great tips and advice

9. Stimulant Overkill (Naughty But Needed)

Stress, lack of sleep, too much to do and what do we reach for? Coffee of course, which seems to have been transformed in the local shops to a winter wonderland of seasonal beverages: from Cookie Latte and Gingerbread & Cream Latte to Black Forest Hot Chocolate! Whether you simply can't resist the novelty or just need a caffeine hit before heading out for evening of Mulled Wine or Winter Pimm’s Punch, be mindful of the blood sugar blinder you will create, which promises to set your mood and stress levels on a roller coaster ride all of its own.

Ask yourself: How can I best look after my body whilst enjoying some of these festive treats?
Hint: drink plenty of water, don't skip meals and don't forget Milk Thistle.

Get ideas and inspiration on how to avoid stimulant overkill

10. Over Indulgence (Tons Of Tasty Treats)

And then there's the food...how are we meant to resist the endless plates of pleasure that tempt us at every turn but most likely do not fit into our usual daily diet? Bear in mind of course that if you are already under stress, your digestive system will be limited in its function and therefore less able to break down the foods you ingest. Be kind to your tum by mindfully choosing your indulgences and using herbal bitters to aid digestion and try a concentrated whey drink to keep your gut bacteria healthy.

Ask yourself: How can I look after my digestive system whilst indulging in some treats?

Head over to Ali's digestion blog for great tips and advice or why not explore A.Vogel Talks Food for healthy treat recipes such as our deliciously moist beetroot cake.

11. Hangover (Horrible Headaches)

Hangovers need not necessarily be of the alcohol-induced kind, they can also result from general over-indulgence in food, people, places or things, and be physical, emotional or mental. The party season is a time they just love to show up. If in doubt, try moderation. Less is more: it certainly beats excess in the aftermath!

Ask yourself: Where would I benefit from remembering less is more?

Get ideas and inspiration on how to cope with hangovers

12. No Exercise (Attempts At Action)

Over indulged, under-active, strung out and hungover...hardly a recipe for wanting to exercise. Yet the lack of exercise that we typically experience over the festive season no doubt exacerbates low mood and low energy. A brisk walk first thing in the morning, a jog round the block, or dancing to festive tunes will make you feel better - every little helps.

Ask yourself: Which form of exercise appeals to me most over the holiday season and when will I do it?

Get ideas and inspiration to help you get fit

That brings us to the end of our stress merry-go-round. Be sure to get off it by considering the questions, checking out the ideas and inspiration if you need more tips, and making yourself accountable to a friend or family member to do it differently this year.

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