Why you feel stressed at Christmas time

Stress. I have it in droves at the moment. Far from being the most wonderful time of the year – often I find myself so stressed out I cannot think clearly or function well. Even though I am technically going on a break from work, I will continue with some freelancing and I have to keep in contact with a few people and colleagues for various reasons – there is simply no “checking out” these days anymore. I already have a short appointment booked for Monday. I am tired just thinking about it!

Time is running out to Christmas!

And of course there are the million other things I have to do! I have to renew my driver’s license (it’s expired!) and finish some Christmas craft projects (oh hot glue gun – you are the bane of my life!) and stupidly, I have decided to pay an enormously hefty tax bill which I was given this week which runs into the thousands of dollars.

Yuh. Uh huh. I am STRESSED out of my skull.

Everywhere I turn in my life there is a massive project that needs to be done. From the 200 page document I have agreed to edit for a freelancing client to the mountains of socks without pairs that are cluttering up my drawers to the manuscript that needs work and is gathering dust and resentment. HELP! What can I do?

Stress in my dreams at night

Last night I had a dream that I was on my hands and knees in the middle of a room, screaming my heart out! It wasn’t even a human scream, more like a high-pitched dog whistle. I just kept screaming, “I am so stressed, I am so stressed!” to a room full of people while The Boyf patted my head (like a puppy!) and told me to calm down. This was a dream, but were it real life, he would hopefully have done the same.

Stress can cause me to have a meltdown

The dreams shocked me a little, because really I am quite happy at the moment, just over tired, I think. I am a stress head by nature, in fact, I could say that I come from a family of stress heads. Stress can be a positive thing, it can drive us to achieve great outcomes and give us energy and chutzpah. It can also be a negative thing which can cripple us and place our closest relationships in jeopardy. If I am spinning too many plates, when one little thing goes wrong I can ‘snap’ and have a meltdown. What happens to me when I have a meltdown? I have written a post on my meltdowns here. See for yourself.

What is stress?

According to helpguide.org:  ‘Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. When you sense danger—whether it’s real or imagined—the body’s defences kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight-or-freeze” reaction, or the stress response.’

The ways we display stress

Psychologist Connie Lillas has developed a theory (source) about how people display stress.

  1. Foot on the gas: An angry, agitated, or “fight” stress response. You’re heated, keyed up, overly emotional, and unable to sit still.
  2. Foot on the brake: A withdrawn, depressed, or “flight” stress response. You shut down, pull away, space out, and show very little energy or emotion.
  3. Foot on both: A tense or “freeze” stress response. You become frozen under pressure and can’t do anything. You look paralysed, but under the surface you’re extremely agitated.

I can say that at times I display all three, but by far and away the type of stress I usually show is the first kind.

Stressful jobs

There are lots of job roles where people report higher levels of stress during this period. For example, nurses and doctors. According to nursingtimes.net: “The festive season often brings many detrimental health effects, which nurses may encounter when coming into contact with patients over the coming weeks.”

About 5 years ago, a Medical News Today article warned that Christmas pressures could lead to anxiety, sleep disturbances, headaches, loss of appetite and poor concentration. It went on to mention that these are all identifiers of stress.  It also said that over time, stress can contribute to heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Stress: it’s a serious thing, apparently and it really could kill you. If you are a stress bunny like me – take a deep breath with me now. It will be OK!

“Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life.” Marilu Henner

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Why You Need to Commit to Making Mistakes, Today!

I’m always making mistakes. Messing up and getting things wrong. I can make mistakes all day: on the road, at work, in documents, with punctuation, spelling, in life, when I argue, when I cancel plans with people, when I make insensitive comments.

Mistakes stress me out. I am a natural stress-head and I come from a family of stress junkies. My family will stress over things that need not be stressed about, and if we can’t find anything to stress about, we simply start stressing about anything.

So can stressing out cause you to make more mistakes?

When I am stressed, I often make mistakes, and apparently I am not alone. Heidi Grant Halvorson recently wrote a book called Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals. She believes that when the pressure to not make mistakes is removed, we make fewer of them, naturally. She says,’ Anxiety and frustration disrupt the many cognitive processes we rely on for creative and analytical thinking.”

What about perfectionism?

There is a book which gave birth to a now-famous quote: Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.”

I think that perfectionism can be a very negative trait, and I see this trait in many high-achievers around me, and it can be damaging. Initially, these people can put so much pressure on themselves, they can actually crash and burn before the task is completed to their satisfaction. It is effectively self-sabotage.

The fear of making mistakes

mistake

There is a great post I found about overcoming the fear of making mistakes. Margarita Tartakovsky interviews Martin Antony, co-author of When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough. He says, “The constant pressure to improve performance can have the effect of triggering fears of underperforming and of making mistakes,” Antony said. He added that constant criticism has a similar impact.

There is nothing wrong with making mistakes, in fact, this is inevitable. The issue comes when your fear of making mistakes (perfectionism) causses you stress and anxiety. We all experience this to a certain degree, but some people have such a fear of mistakes, and feel such a drive to be perfect, that it ruins their jobs, relationships and ultimately lives.

So how to you learn not to fear making mistakes?

Antony says that you need to give yourself an alternative reality to the voices in your head. (I am totally paraphrasing him here, but if you’d like to read his original post, here it is.) He gives an example of a man who makes a bad joke at a party and worries that all his friends think of him as awkward and boring.

The exercise he is given is to provide himself with an alternate picture of what the reality of the situation is. Maybe he could tell himself that everyone makes bad jokes sometimes, or that maybe his friends like him anyway. Maybe he could remind himself that he does get invited out to functions, so that indicates that his friends find him interesting.

With two options of a reality, he picks this more helpful perspective: “Perhaps I need to give myself permission to make mistakes when I am talking to other people. I don’t judge other people when they say something unusual or awkward. Perhaps they are not judging me when I make mistakes.”

I am too afraid to commit to making mistakes!

So I am not taking my own advice here, but I need to do something to loosen up this fear I have of doing the wrong thing. Purpose Fairy has written a post on this topic and I love this idea: “Believe it or not, if you play it safe you will have more and more regrets about the things you did not do rather than the things you did do, you will regret not making more mistakes.”

I’ll end with a lovely little quote from the Fairy: Mistakes are the stepping stones to happiness.