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How to have a stress-free Christmas

December 13, 2016



Some hotels, retail outlets and civic centres have had their Christmas trees up for a month or more, the obligatory police anti-drink driving campaign is in full swing and trades people are now giving you dates in January before they'll be able to service your boiler, fix the car or shampoo the dog. Are you one of the many still thinking "There's too much 'to do' list at the end of the week"? Some people and businesses seem determined to use what is really just a couple of back-to-back bank holidays in the calendar to create an unnatural frenzied tailspin of activity, excessive buying and fear of running out. Running out of supplies, of time, of options.


The fear of loss - loss of time particularly, but also the loss of opportunity, of special offers, of shopping days till Christmas - can incite intelligent, rational, sensible people to do crazy things. Think about the last time you 'had' to buy three bottles, tins or packets of something because it was on a three for two offer. We only need to look on the streets at 'rush' hour to see the ill-advised manoeuvres carried out by some drivers (obviously not you or me, dear reader) in order to get to the office (or more likely just as far as the next traffic light) a few seconds sooner. And for what? A few seconds of life gathered and saved for... for what, actually?


If you added up those seconds over a whole year, I'll bet you wouldn't even have saved enough time for an extra cup of coffee (especially if you have to wait for the overfilled corporate kettle to boil first).


Why do we, intelligent human beings who have been given the gift of rational thought, thus differentiating us from the rest of the animal kingdom, feel the fear of missing out so personally and acutely, with its accompanying rush of adrenaline to the head, the increased heart rate and quickening pulse, and the sudden inexplicable competitiveness with the rest of the human race?


Fear creates a series of physiological reactions; first, the sensory organs, usually our eyes and ears, pick up clues from our surroundings and feed them to the brain. The brain's threat centre, the amygdala kicks the fight or flight response into gear. Before we know it, our heart's beating like crazy, we've had a shot of adrenaline to the system, and we find ourselves behaving in the pre-Christmas rush in a way that previously was saved for real danger, such as the threat of being eaten by a predator.


These changes are controlled by the autonomic nervous system and are the human body's automatic response to fear. The greatest fear in this over-stimulated, 24/7 action-packed post-industrial, world of ours, as it nears the end of 2016, is not large hungry animals, but missed opportunity.


So how do we override the automatic response and walk away from the road rage, the sales scrum, the 'buy it now' frenzy? It's a case of making a conscious choice before the assault on our senses begins. Be it the trusty shopping list, the clear set of personal goals and objectives on the wall, or the mantra, 'I need to think about that, I don't make impulse decisions' learnt by heart, the point is, these conscious choices must be decided and put in place before the 'environmental hypnosis' sets in.


We wish you a relaxed, stress-free holiday season.


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