Taking the stress out of Christmas


By Alison Sweeting, CIPFA Training Delivery Manager

It's December – winter is finally here and the seasonal spirit is setting in. Exams are finished and it's time to take a break from our busy and often stressful lives. Even though it may be tempting to keep checking emails and thinking about work during days off – it's important to disconnect and take a few days to fully relax body and mind.

There is a time for work and a time for play. It's crucial to set aside time for the latter and recharge so you're ready for what the New Year will bring.

Try these 10 helpful tips to make the most of the festive season:

  1. If you don't celebrate Christmas, don't feel pressured into feeling you have to send cards, buy presents or put up a tree. Respect your own beliefs and those of others.
  2. Don't break the bank buying gifts and then worrying about paying for them. Friends and family appreciate that you thought of them at this special time, not how much you spend.
  3. Don't compare your seasonal celebrations to anyone else's. If you don't want to light up your house like your neighbour has, then don't. Create the celebration you want.
  4. Make sure you have some time to relax amongst all the mad preparations and activities. Say 'No' if you don't want to go out for the third night in a row. If you want to snuggle down at home with a hot chocolate and a favourite film, then do it. It's okay to make time for yourself and getting enough sleep and rest is important.
  5. With so much food (and drink) around, it's easy to overindulge. Remember to try and include some healthy food (vegetables, fruit and nuts – luckily all part of what we eat over the festive period) in your diet. Stay hydrated with lots of water as well.
  6. Try to get fresh air and exercise. Wrap up warmly and take a winter walk. Give yourself a break from the shopping, cooking, eating, drinking and socialising that tends to dominate the holiday.
  7. If you're waiting for exam results, you can't change anything about how you performed in the exam. Enjoy the time off work and come back refreshed and ready to tackle your next set of opportunities and challenges, whether academic or work-related.
  8. Why not go off the grid? Try a technology detox. In this day and age, social media and the crowded news cycle can cause additional stress and self-doubt. Focus on your own self-care and don't compare yourself to anyone else;
  9. Enjoy the little things: frost sparkling on the pavement or robins in the holly bushes. Appreciating nature can do a lot to keep us grounded and help us relax.
  10. Remember what's important. We often reflect at this time of year on what's happened to us over the past 12 months. For me, what's important is whether I managed to spend time with those who matter to me, whether I did my best, whether I have learned from those occasions when I got it wrong and what would I do differently in the future.

The end of the year is a good time to make changes to your life or behaviour that will help you and others. Take time to reflect on what you've done, how you've done it and whether there are things in your life that you would like to change.

At CIPFA, we're dedicated to helping improve student wellbeing. In the near future, we will be providing webinars on the topic to help our students adjust to the demands of a busy workload with the assistance of CIPFA South East Student Network.

Season's greetings! Don't hesitate to get in touch if you need advice or support or would like to provide suggestions for how CIPFA could better support student health and wellbeing: Alison Sweeting, Training Delivery Manager, alison.sweeting@cipfa.org.

This article first appeared in PQ Magazine.

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