How to Have a Stress Free Christmas Break

Christmas can be a very stressful time of year. So let us help keep you calm! We want you to be able to relax and enjoy yourself.

Plan Ahead

Make a list! Try to prioritise the items on your list: can they be done now, and are they essential? Do not over estimate how much you can achieve on ChristmasEve and Christmas Day. Delegate the responsibility for certain tasks to other family members since this will reduce your workload. Keep your list for next year; it’ll need tweaking and updating but will give you reminders of the sorts of things you need to think about.

Shop Online

As much as possible, shop online from the comfort of your own home! You’ll not only save time and be less stressed but will probably save money too. Always make sure you buy from reputable online retailers and check that they can deliver before the big day. If you haven’t already tried it, you can do your food shopping online too and have it delivered directly to your door.

Kknow When to Stop

Decide when you will stop your Christmas preparations and start to relax and enjoy the holiday. Work towards and try to stick to this goal, even if it is in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve. Remember that Christmas is your holiday too.

Keep Calm

Play some relaxing music, perhaps seasonal carols, and burn some scented candles or aromatherapy oil. Take a relaxing hot batch to unwind. Come in to Tiaki for a yoga class!

Practise Breathing

When we’re stressed our heart beat increases and our breathing shallows. Work on reversing this process and take time to breathe deeply. Breathe in deeply through your nose, hold for 15 or 20 seconds and then breathe slowly out through your mouth, repeat for a few minutes to instantly help reduce stressful feelings.

Have an Escape Plan

It’s a good idea to have some pre-planned excuses to escape from proceedings if they get too stressful. Be imaginative and use things such as leaving the room to make a phone call to a friend or perhaps checking on a neighbour. Just by having planned a couple of escape routes you’ll probably feel less stressed anyway but actually leaving the situation, even for 10 minutes, will help clear your mind and relax you. of course, we think the best escape is a class at Tiaki!

Make Time for Exercise

Christmas can be a time of excessive eating and drinking, and exercise can be easily overlooked. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress as it burns off hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and helps produce mood-enhancing endorphins. Try going for a walk after your Christmas meal, as the fresh air and exercise will lift your mood and make you feel better. Tiaki will be running at least 2 classes every day during the Christmas break – we’re only closed on the stat days!

Avoid Excessive Alcohol

Most de-stressing articles will tell you to avoid alcohol altogether but, let’s be realistic, it is Christmas! However, do avoid excessive alcohol as it dehydrates your body and makes your liver work overtime to process it. Drink as much water or juice as alcohol as this will help you to stay hydrated, feel better and therefore cope better with stressful situations. You’ll also feel better on Boxing Day!

Have Fun!

Remember it’s your Christmas too so try to relax and have fun, laugh and be merry.

Have a great, stress-free, Christmas break

Cortisol and Stress

 How to Stay Healthy and Avoid Stress this Winter

What is Cortisol? Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands and is released in response to stressful situations (physical, mental or emotional). It increases the flow of glucose (as well as protein and fat) out of your tissues and in to the bloodstream in order to increase energy and physical readiness to handle the stressful situation. Ideally cortisol is meant to come on immediately, get used and then switch off! It is not meant to get stored and stick around. While it is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, it is important that the body’s relaxation response be activated so the body’s functions can return to normal after a stressful event. Unfortunately in our high stress lifestyles, the body’s stress response is activated so often that the body doesn’t always have a chance to return to normal, causing damage to the body. Ideally your cortisol level should be neither consistently high nor low but fluctuating in a rhythmic pattern, responding to both stress and relaxation. Persistently high cortisol levels seen in people, who are suffering from prolonged or chronic stress, are associated with:      
  •  Obesity
  • Increased fat storage around the abdomen even in lean women
  • Heart disease
  •  Depression/anxiety
  •  Chronic fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  •  Diabetes
If you have a hectic lifestyle, family or money issues, deadlines, rushing here and there, eating fast food, lack of sleep or exercise, you are a prime candidate for elevated cortisol levels. To keep your body healthy and your cortisol secretion under control, the body’s relaxation response should be activated after each stress response. The following have been found to be helpful in relaxing mind and body and stimulating the relaxation response:
  • Meditation
  • Listening to music
  • Yoga
  • Exercise
  • Breathing Exercises
  • Sleep between 7 and 9 hours a night

Mindfulness vs Emotional Intelligence

Modern Science meets Ancient Wisdom or something more??

  (When doing some research for this blog around “mindfulness” I came across “Mindfulness in May”! What a wonderful concept. Too late too little however for me for this year but it is definitely on my radar for next year. However – more on that another time.)


When I think of Mindfulness I immediately link it to spirituality/meditation and Yoga. Whilst I practice and teach yoga – meditation is something that is very new and somewhat foreign for me. It doesn’t come naturally to me, and (despite my yoga affiliations) I don’t necessarily see myself as a spiritual person. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there in the same boat. I spend part of my life in a Yoga World and often see myself as the “Misfit” given my lack of meditation and spiritual connection!! I wonder if it really matters and surely practising (and in my case teaching) yoga in any way shape or form is of benefit! I find myself joking that running is my meditation. If I need to clear my mind and get some clarity of thought I go for a run!! Is that in itself practicing mindfulness??  



Mindfulness in Today’s Society
So what is mindfulness and how does it fit in today’s society.?? Over recent years the term mindfulness has become common in mainstream society. It has inspired programs such as Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Programme (MBSR), which has been interpreted and copied many times since. Research is continuing to document the mental and physical benefits of practicing mindfulness. The Greater Good Science Centre, University of California, Berkley

What is Mindfulness??
Mindfulness: “Mindfulness is a form of active mental awareness rooted in Buddhist tradioions; it is achieved by paying total attention to the present moment with a non-judgemental awareness of inner and outer experiences” –   OK so this is where my impression that mindfulness is a spiritual practice comes from. “Mindfulness is a lifetime engagement – not to get somewhere else, but to be where and as we actually are in this very moment, whether the experience is pleasant, unpleasant or neutral” John Kabat-Zinn,  

Why Practice Mindfulness?
There are many documented reasons for practicing Mindfulness. I liked this list taken from The Greater Good Science Centre, University of California, Berkley:  
  • Mindfulness increases positive emotions while decreasing negative emotions and stress
  • Mindfulness changes our brains – research has found that it increases density of gray matter in brain regions linked to learning, memory, emotion and empathy.
  • It helps us focus. It improves memory and attention skills
  • It enhances relationships and fosters compassion, enabling us to be more understanding of the emotions of others

What about Emotional Intelligence (EI)
But what about this more modern concept of Emotional Intelligence?? Being a business owner I spend another part of my life in the business world and this term emotional intelligence gets tossed around with similar terms such as transformational leadership and disuse atrophy. Wikipedia describes Emotional Intelligence as a way to“Use emotional information to guide thinking and Behaviour” This is a more complex definition: “The set of abilities (verbal and non-verbal) that enable a person to generate, recognise, express, understand and evaluate their own and others emotions in order to guide thinking and actions that successfully cope with environmental demands and pressures” Van Rooy From the studies I have read regarding EI, it has been proven that people with higher EI have greater mental health, exemplary job performance and more potent leadership skills. EI is being used as a predictor of leadership, academic performance, job performance, trust work family conflict and stress (Ashkanasy and Daus 2002)


The Link to Leadership
Let me introduce another term: “Transformational Leaders” These are people in the work force who act as mentors to their followers by encouraging learning, achievement, and individual development. They provide meaning, act as role models, provide challenges, evoke emotions and foster a climate of trust – empowering their followers!!   Harms, P.D., Crede, M. (2010) “Emotional Intelligence and Transformational and Transactional Leadership: A Meta-Analysis. Leadership Institute Faculty Publications. Paper14. One of the predictors of a Transformational Leader is someone who possesses Emotional Intelligence.   Surely in order to have EI – you need to have mindfulness??  

What have I learnt??

Do all of these terms mean the same thing??

Are these modern terms just an ancient practice given a more modern name to give it a more scientific spin and make it a more acceptable and less daunting term in the corporate world?

Does one need to practice yoga and meditate in order to achieve this?? It would appear to me that the ancient practice of Mindfulness is now being transformed in to modern science, and it’s being published in such journals as the Journal of Organizational Behaviour.

There now seems a more mainstream reason for being mindful rather than to find “inner peace” It seems to me that possessing Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence in today’s society is a way of giving people an edge!

Call it mindfulness or call it emotional intelligence it seems that the goal here is to be able to relate to your own emotions as well as what other people are feeling, and use those emotions to to get the best out of ourselves and others! Use and understand emotions to facilitate thought and behaviour and you’ll not only reach a state of mindfulness yourself but also help others to reach their full potential!! There’s a lot to learn here and this is just the beginning….   Now where are my running shoes……