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Lower Your Christmas Expectations

Monday, December 22nd, 2008 Lower Your Christmas Expectations

Stress can be an insidious build up of many pressures and challenges. Most people are now aware that the big issues in life can be exciting for some and too demanding for others, resulting in stress - redundancy and moving home are just two examples.

So now you are wondering how to have a stress free Christmas, this is achievable. Firstly, families should be realistic by setting low expectations to ensure a stress-free Christmas, according to a leading charity.

The International Stress Management Association (ISMA) issued the advice ahead of the festive season, when tiredness, financial pressure and family tensions can snowball.

Ann McCracken, chairman of ISMA UK, said families put too much pressure on themselves by having high hopes for the holidays.

‘They have such huge, high expectations of Christmas - and when you have high expectations there’s usually one outcome,’ she said.

In addition she adds “They want it to be wonderful, they want it to be living and caring, and expectations are set high.

“Really, you have to have realistic expectations to make sure your Christmas is stress free.”

Furthermore it is also crucial to encourage children to be realistic in their expectations McCracken states “You need to help them understand that it’s not worth getting into debt for presents.

“You need to be innovative, but again set expectations much lower.”

Charity Heart Research UK said stress levels can shoot up at Christmas, raising blood pressure and putting a strain on health.

The charity recommends spreading out Christmas shopping, rather than getting done in one day.

It also suggests shopping online - to beat “frustrating” queues on the High Street.

Heart Research UK recommended cutting back on alcohol for health and to ease dealing with family and relatives.

Katharine Greathead, lifestyle officer for Heart Research UK, said: “Christmas can be a lot less stressful if we take some time to look after ourselves.

“Simple things like stepping out for a brisk walk, having some relaxing ‘me time’, catching up on sleep and enjoying a good laugh with friends will help to manage the stress and take care of our heart’s health.”

Research conducted by the University of East London in partnership with moneysupermarket Shopping found Christmas shopping can increase blood pressure to potentially dangerous levels.

Half of the shoppers who took part in the study were deemed to have ‘at risk’ blood pressure readings post just 75 minutes of Saturday Christmas shopping on a busy high street.

Heart rate also increased by an average of ten per cent during the act of Christmas shopping, the study found.

Dr John Turner, PhD, University of East London said: “What this study shows is that a ‘harmless’ activity like Christmas shopping can have a damaging effect on both our physiological and psychological well-being.

“For anyone already experiencing higher than normal blood pressure or any stress-related condition, the stressful surroundings of a busy high street at Christmas could prove very dangerous indeed.”

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), professional health and safety body said those working in shops, pubs and restaurants are likely to find themselves under greater pressure than normal during the Christmas period.

Nattasha Freeman, IOSH’s president, said: “The last few weeks before Christmas are traditionally busy times as people go out to buy last minute presents.

“This rush places extra demands on employees who are already likely to be working at capacity, so employers need to watch out for signs that their employees are unable to cope.

“This extra pressure, coupled with fears over their personal finances and, in some cases, job security, could leave some people more susceptible to excessive pressure and the illnesses that can result from this.”

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