Welcome to this 5-part blog series designed to help you thrive not just survive this Christmas – it’s the antidote to a high stress Christmas that many of us find we have to endure or survive. Christmas is traditionally a time of celebration, celebrating the gift of new birth – in the Christian faith of Jesus, ‘Emmanuel – God with us.’ Whether you have a religious faith or not, it is a time when most of us look forward to celebrating and giving one another gifts. If you’re pregnant or have recently given birth, it’s a particularly special Christmas, – maybe it’s your first Christmas together.
Stress at Christmas
Yet the preparation for Christmas and the New Year, in modern living can be a highly stressful time – according to the charity MIND, one in ten people feel unable to cope at this time of year, a figure which rises to a third of people if you are already experiencing problems with your mental health. Added to this is the fact that during pregnancy and new motherhood as many as 1 in 4 mums will be diagnosed with either anxiety or depression. Put these two situations together and it’s easy to understand why Christmas time can be one of the most stressful periods in anybody’s life.
The first 1000 days – we want to support you
It’s also not only about the stress felt by parents – new evidence from neuroscience shows how a stressful environment can be transmitted to the unborn or newly born baby. The first 1000 days of life from conception to a child’s second birthday are incredibly important because the baby’s brain grows by 80% with a million new connections made every second! – no wonder then that studies have shown the effect of stress during this time can have far reaching consequences into adolescent and adult mental health – more information on this here.
Types of Stress
Some stress (type A) is good for us and completely normal – it motivates us, gets neurotransmitters working faster, the heart functioning at a higher level, with our brain and body better able to focus more clearly on a challenge or opportunity. However, bad stress (type B) – when we classically say we are ‘stressed out’ – happens when we perceive significant threats to our wellbeing, dread dealing with problems and these pressures then overwhelm our ability to cope. 1400 neuro-physiological responses happen within our bodies! The real problems occur when this bad stress happens on an ongoing basis – chronic stress (type C) – and we move towards ‘burnout’ or ‘breakdown.’ Apart from causing mental health issues, what is less well known is that recent studies show that such chronic stress has a negative effect on our immune system and can trigger all sorts of auto-immune and other physical diseases.
So this is the first of many tips: When you’re feeling stressed about a particular event that’s coming up – for example, giving birth if you’re pregnant!, or maybe visiting particular relatives, attending a work event, present buying, hosting a party or cooking Christmas dinner, the key tip is to try to re-conceptualise the stressful event. What this means is to try to transform your perception of the event in your mind/body from a type B stress into a more positive type A stress. This makes the stress work for us rather than against us. So, rather than dwelling on the negatives, if you say to yourself ‘Ok this is difficult situation but good, I will try to think about all the possible benefits from the event” Ask yourself these questions:
What will you learn from the event that might help in the future?
Maybe you have something of value to say and share with others?
Or is there an opportunity to share a skill you have?
What aspects of the event can you get excited about?
What are the possible positive outcomes resulting from the event?
Try to visualise in your mind the positive scenario and outcomes. By finding some positive elements your body starts to react differently – heart blood vessels for example dilate rather than constrict, and the physical effects start to balance out and the 1400 neuro-physiological events work for your body rather than against it.
Series of Blogs to support you
The 1000 dreams programme focuses on supporting parents in the UK and several African countries. Recent scientific evidence shows just how important this first 1000 day period is – from conception to age 2 – so this series of blogs aims to help you with the following aspects of stress this Christmas:
Blog 2 – dealing with the different stresses as a new family this Christmas (December week 2)
Blog 3 – reducing stress in wider family relationships (week 3)
Blog 4 – dealing with ‘holiday stress’ and managing conflicts (week 4)
Blog 5 – deciding to make changes in the New Year (week 4)
Each blog comes with some free relevant psychotherapeutic downloads to help you further – see below on free resources on Balanced Thinking and recordings on managing intrusive thoughts, emotions and urges. And if you find you’re getting overwhelmed at any point then consider contacting our confidential counselling service – see details below.
Whilst pregnancy, new motherhood and Christmas are all supposed to be happy times, often they are not, and we’re too ashamed to seek help from family or through the NHS process. At 1000 dreams, we offer an online video counselling service, provided by qualified and registered Counsellors, which is confidential, and currently has a special offer of 50% off the price of an introductory session – it might provide just the sort of help you need.
The start of this week marked World Aids Day, which is a day of commemoration of those who have died from AIDS (770,000 in 2018, 32m since the epidemic began) and of celebration for those living with HIV (38m people). The theme of this years global World Aids Day is empowerment! 1000 dreams empowers Mother Buddies to support mums and dad s in Malawi – where one in three mums supported are living with HIV. Whilst antiretroviral treatment has changed HIV from being a death sentence to a manageable chronic disease, people living with HIV have double the amount of mental health disorders, due to stigma, shame and the effects of the virus on the body. And if you’re pregnant in Malawi you are 60 times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than in the UK. Our Mother Buddy programme, equipping and empowering local volunteer mums in the community, to come alongside vulnerable expectant/new mums, has been shown to indicators of maternal and infant health.
Buy a Gift for a loved one and save a life in Malawi
You can help a mum, baby and her family in Malawi this Christmas by buying a gift for someone you love – family or friend – it’s a gift with a difference – a gift of new life! Not only does it help take the stress out of present buying, at the same time it helps someone in Malawi during pregnancy and childbirth. Its easy – for £44.95 your friend will receive a framed Pregnancy Twinning Certificate, featuring details of a mum and baby who are being helped, and a personalised Christmas letter delivered by first class post. Or you can have it sent to you, and you can give it to them personally at Christmas. And you and your friend will both know you have participated in ‘twinning pregnancies across the world’ – by helping to save a mum and baby’s life in Malawi.
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