Blog - Dealing with stress – expected and unexpected

gardening-for-good-health-geraniumsThe end of the year is always a time that induces stress for most of us. Having come from the Northern Hemisphere, where Christmas is a very welcome break in the middle of a bleak winter, I have to admit that Christmas itself has always felt like a very inconvenient hiccup that interrupts planning of holidays, and definitely adds to the stress of the person responsible for preparing/cooking a Christmas dinner.

At work, we may be stressing about completing all those tasks that we had hoped to. I know I still have a few of those which haven’t been finished, with the dangerous promise of getting on to them early next year. But then when the new year comes, I can be swept up on a wave of forward planning for the year and lose sight of those “need to be finished off” tasks! Taking a reality check about whether they really do need to be done right now, is always a good leveller and helps to take the stress off. If I’m going to do that, I most definitely need to mark in my next year’s diary, a time when I’m going to get that job done. (That at least makes me feel I’ve taken some action!)

But for some people the stress may also be caused by thinking “do we have enough money to buy Christmas presents, or food for a Christmas meal?”  Do I have someone I can share my Christmas Day with? These are at a far more basic needs level, and in reality, even more important than the work task stresses, but both can affect us in similar ways.

Christmas has become a commercial nightmare, with more and more pressure on to buy presents, many of which we don’t really need, with expectations to put on a lavish meal, to host lots of people and generally to eat and drink too much.

And, of course, we can sometimes get the unexpected stresses such as additional people turning up, people falling sick or injuring themselves, the even the occasional shaky event.

Here are my thoughts on how we can simplify things around the expected stresses that we have some control over:

  • At work, prioritise what really needs to be done before Christmas and start your new year plan with those items you’d like ticked off the list to get the year off to a positive start.
  • If you are looking for a present for the person who has everything, why not send a gift via Oxfam or one of the other charities, where you buy a chicken for a family, or a goat, or help towards a clean water supply. That’s a win win for everyone.
  • Look at making something as a present. This can be as simple as potting up some lettuces so they have fresh veges in the new year, taking some geranium cuttings (very easy but needs some earlier preparation) and pot these up as a cheery pot for the door step or balcony, forage for wild berries such as blackberries, and give these.
  • Keep the Christmas meal simple – fresh, easy to cook, maybe even a barbecue, and encourage everyone to bring a dish to share out the enjoyment of cook and take the pressure off one person.

Christmas is about sharing time with people, taking time to catch up, smell the roses, and enjoy the lovely opportunities that a Southern Hemisphere Christmas allows. Maybe invite a neighbour around who is on their own.

On Christmas Day, take yourself for a walk by the river or on the beach, to enjoy nature – it’s free.

And maybe next year, think about doing some other activities which help to de-stress. Personally, I love gardening as a way to take the stress levels down, but if you don’t have a garden, then maybe join a community garden, meet other people in your community, learn some new skills in an area you’ve always want to try out and have fun. Paddle boarding is my new year challenge – what’s yours?

Keep life simple, take some time for yourself and enjoy some fresh air, fresh food and good company!