Christmas can be a wonderful time of year but it can be an incredibly stressful time too.
If you have had a bit of a rough year like so many others have had making it through the intense social dynamics of the festive season can be a minefield of emotions.
The carefree exuberance of others while we are sloughing through our own internal challenges has a way of highlighting the disparity between what we would like to be and what is actually showing up.
I tend to find those mostly affected at this time of year are facing
- Being single….and watching other couples celebrating happily together
- Serious illness..and having to pretend that they are OK whilst managing intense pain
- Battling an addiction…and being swamped with triggers
- The loss of a loved one….the first Christmas or perhaps one of many without them
- Infertility…and surviving the over exposure to other happy families whilst yearning for your own
- Being made redundant…and wondering how you will make it through Christmas let alone next year without financial security
- An ongoing battle with anxiety or depression…and watching countless people celebrate wondering why you can’t feel the same joy
- Or simply feeling utterly exhausted from being chewed up and spat out by a demanding job…and trying to find the energy to celebrate
If you recognise yourself in the above or are dealing with some other kind of life crisis rest assured that you are not alone.
If you are finding yourself overwhelmed and overwrought so it’s even more important to make time for some deliberate and consistent self-nurturing.
Here are a few of my own favourites
Find some alone time
When we spend a great deal of time with other people it’s natural that we end up focusing on them and their needs. Slow things down and give yourself some breathing space. Good quality alone time allows us to integrate our experiences rather than ending up feeling exhausted because we haven’t had time to process such a busy time.
Spend less, love more
In this day and age most of us have enough stuff, I think of all the packaging and wrapping that ends up in landfill and gifts given that are all too often tucked away in a cupboard because we really are already so fortunate. The best gifts that I have ever given or received are experiences. Creating a voucher for a movie date or organizing tickets to a show is something that can be shared and remembered well beyond Christmas.
The difficulties of life rarely stop at Christmas time and if anything they can make them even more complicated. Disconnection or friction with family members, living with an illness, grieving a loved one or being alone is even more painful during the holiday season. For people who are silently struggling we rarely wish to burden others with our troubles but I usually find that when people do share how they are feeling there are so many that are ready and willing to offer their support.
We all know the importance of physical movement for a healthy body however there is an increasing body of research that provides insight into the power that the body and gut have over our neural and therefore emotional states (stay tuned for more on this next year). Getting your body moving even for short periods allows for the discharge of excess emotional energy as well as countering the extra calorie intake.
Leave your work at work
We rarely slow down during the year and while it gives us a sense of completion to clear our decks (pardon the Christmas pun!) let’s face there is always more to do. Be assertive or use those negotiation skills to clarify whether deadlines are set by the project or by the person. If it’s the latter re-negotiate delivery dates to your benefit.
Give yourself a break
Birthdays and Christmas seem to be the two periods in which we take stock of our goals and ambitions. If we haven’t lived up to our own expectations (or sometimes the expectations that we think others have of us) we get that well-worn judgement stick out and start beating ourselves up. The ability to let go, accept and find a new path forward creates far more momentum towards achieving our dreams that criticism ever has. Sometimes life gets in the way, plans need to be re-jigged or extra steps need to be considered. So give yourself a break. If all that you achieved this year was to get through it(trust me plenty of people have had a rough ride this year) then that in itself is a huge achievement and you deserve to acknowledge yourself for that.
Take time to “Bask in the Good”
This is my favourite technique, I developed it earlier during the year and would love to share it with you as my small Christmas gift to you
If you are anything like me gratitude lists just don’t seem to leave me feeling warm and fuzzy as they are supposed to. Maybe it’s because I to whip one out when I am furious or miserable or as an antidote to stress. Anyway what does work for me is finding something I love that I can physically connect to. For me it’s cuddling my 3 year old, for other clients it’s sitting on the beach or spending time with their pets. Whatever it is allow yourself to focus intently on that which makes you feel good and make sure you engage as many senses as possible.
So if yours is sitting on the beach then physically get yourself to the beach. Wriggle your toes in the sand feeling its coolness or warmth against your skin, literally feel yourself drinking in the sensation. Listen to the waves lapping gently or people laughing around you. Smell the salty fresh air. Gaze into the water and appreciate its colour, depth and movement. Allow yourself to be completely immersed in the orchestra of phenomena and basking in its deliciousness for as long as possible.
If you can’t get yourself to the beach find a park, borrow your neighbours dog or go and get a really good massage. The key here is to engage as many senses as possible and drink in the goodness of each
Sometimes this can take a bit of practice so take a moments break and then go back to noticing. For me this practice is like my reset button. It gets me grounded back into a reality that I want to be in.
Wishing you a safe and happy Christmas …. Emiline