As the end of the year draws closer, it's easy to start getting stressed, or have your existing levels skyrocket.
Christmas overwhelm is very common, according to Adelaide-based Dr Elizabeth Hargan.
Hailing from rural NSW, Dr Hargan applied to study medicine after seeing the impact that poor health had on her local community.
"First, it was my grandparents having to leave their farm in Mullengandra to move closer to the doctors they needed," she said.
"Later it was the marked effects on the entire community when the leader of our local RFS brigade had to step down to be able to support his wife, who needed to go into Canberra multiple times a week - a 300 kilometre round trip.
"This, combined with the tragic death of a role model I had when growing up in Boro that may have been prevented with increased access to services, made me determined to change the health outcomes of people living rurally."
Dr Hargan has been working in healthcare for a decade, including at Bathurst, Wagga Wagga, Port Macquarie, Goulburn and Katherine in the Northern Territory.
"Whilst I am making a difference, there's only so much you can do when you see one or two people at a time," she said.
"With this in mind, I started Resilient Aid to provide doctor-led training in mental and physical first aid.
"I've already run a bunch of courses, including in Tarago and Wagga Wagga and have had some fabulous feedback about how much more confident people feel to be able to assist their friends and families when they are struggling or need help.
"I'm driven to help spread simple but effective ways to improve everyone's well-being, and I'm hoping some of the tips on how to manage Christmas overwhelm will make this year just a little easier for you.
"You can use all these tips throughout the year as well as the gift that keeps on giving."
Dr Hargan's top tips to manage Christmas overwhelm
Christmas is a busy time for everyone - there are carefully thought-out gift decisions that turn into last-minute panic shopping, juggling multiple social obligations like work parties and seeing relatives, and that's without talking about having the kids on holidays and the end of the school year craziness.
For those farming, you may be cutting hay, doing some late shearing or managing your crops on top of the usual bushfires and keeping an eye on rainfall.
A lot is going on, and Christmas overwhelm is very common.
Some stresses often get greater around Christmas, too.
One of these is that Christmas is a time when people traditionally get together.
For people with limited friends and family, it can be a very lonely time.
Even for those with a lot of social engagements, there can be loneliness surrounded by people.
All of this socialisation can also lead to drained social batteries.
There may be multiple Christmas parties you have to go to, a lot of family members that have to be seen and a relatively short period to do it all in.
Each of these events may have preparation required as well, including finding gifts or managing the set up of decorations and catering.
Christmas also marks the end of the year, and so some people will start reflecting on their New Year resolutions or what they have achieved that year.
For some, this is inspiring and enhances motivation.
For others, this can be a time of self-doubt with a lot of negative self-talk about how we didn't stick to resolutions.
There can also be increased pressures at work with the end of the calendar year, including finalising projects, updating reports, and ensuring things are ready for next year, such as how budgets will be spent for the third and fourth quarters.
You may be experiencing overwhelm if you notice you are more short-tempered than usual, are forgetting things, feeling stressed or "always on the go", making silly mistakes, or are avoiding things.
Your body might be telling you it's a bit much as well with an increase in headaches, feeling tired, changes to sleep or appetite and an increase in bothersome colds and minor ailments.
Sounding familiar? Need some help?
Try one of the seven modern ways to manage Christmas overwhelm.
Review what's causing you stress
Some of the worries and stressors we have are important to us, like those surrounding relationships, work and hobbies. Sometimes though, they can be relatively insignificant to what we actually care about, like making something great for the work morning tea or relationships that we don't treasure as much. Decide which of these stressors are actionable and should stay, and which of them to get rid of entirely or delegate to someone else.
Boundaries are the limits you make between yourself and others that help you focus on your priorities and values - and you are a priority. An example would be someone begging for your help for a volunteer event. You feel obligated to help, but you're already struggling with overwhelm and are dreading the idea of putting another thing on your to-do list. Saying no reinforces your boundary of prioritising yourself and your well-being.
If you have a smart device, give some of the thinking over to them
You can set alarms and reminders to help ensure you get to things on time, tick off your to-do list and get everything you need from the grocery store in one run. This works best with a bit of planning, so sit down for an hour with your to-do list and put everything in the calendar, including reminders to start on projects. You'll be able to see at a glance what you have to do next and know exactly how much time you have free to take on anything else - making it easier to stick to your boundaries.
Use a virtual assistant like Alexa or Google Home
Sync your smart device with them and have them tell you when it's time to start getting ready, review your lists and add things to the calendar with ease. My favourite is Alexa reminding me every hour if I don't do things, which is perfect when procrastinating on big tasks.
Grounding techniques and mindfulness have been around for yonks, but if it ain't broke, don't fix it
Take a moment to focus on right now instead of the could've-would've-should'ves from yesterday or the anxiety of tomorrow. Focus on your breath and engage in some box breathing. Breathe in for the count of three, hold for three, breathe out for the count of three, then hold for three and repeat. You should notice your heart rate settling, your mind slowing down a bit and when you're ready to stop, more focus.
Focus on sleep hygiene
When you don't sleep well, your brain can't work well and so you'll be feeling much more overwhelmed. Try making the room dark and cool, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day and avoiding caffeine after midday - it can still be in your body up to nine hours later.
Connect with others
Spending time with the people you love fills up your cup. Some quality time with your kids, filled with giggles, a good cup of coffee with a friend and some quality TV couch snuggles with your partner can all help you feel more grounded and reminded of the important things in life.
A final word from Dr Hargan
If you're struggling with overwhelm, and it isn't getting better in a few weeks, it may be time to see your doctor.
We're generally a friendly lot and genuinely want to help you, and there are options for those struggling with overwhelm, stress, anxiety or mental health concerns.
They'll be able to work with you to make life a little more manageable right now and longer term.
And if you're looking for a little more information about anxiety and mental health in general, check out one of our upcoming mental health courses at resilientaid.com.au