There are plenty of things that can stress people out about Christmas. All of the spending. Or overspending. Or over-super-double-over-spending. And then there can be family ‘trickiness’ to negotiate — you may perhaps be spending a huge amount of hours with people who you find difficult or challenging. Or who find you difficult or challenging! And then of course many of us are travelling all around the country — or the world — to see loved ones, at the very darkest, coldest time of year, when travel in the UK is probably the most difficult (in part of course, because everyone else is heading off somewhere at the same time!).
And then for some people, on top of all of that, Christmas may also represent something very sad, upsetting or even traumatic — the loss of a loved one, recently or a long time ago, can often come up for people at this time of year, regardless of when the person died. And then also of course if you have a very difficult relationship with your family, Christmas can be tough emotionally in a whole other kind of way. Also, if you are struggling with any element of life in a serious way — with your job, your physical health or mental health, or something difficult connected with a child or partner — then the emphasis from others and from society at large on being ‘merry’ and ‘happy’ at Christmas time may seem like an almost unbearable pressure and expectation.
How then can we, whatever our personal situation and experience, go about creating a Christmas that feels genuinely peaceful, joyful and merry for all of the time, or more of the time, or at least sometimes feels that way, or simply in some way feels better than it did last year, or better than we have been expecting this year to feel?
Here are some of my ideas on this:
Lower you expectations of yourself and other people!
For all of the above reasons, and many more besides, Christmas can be a challenging time. Remember this and let yourself off the hook a bit. Allow yourself to not do some or any of the things you usually do, or that you feel are expected to do, particularly if you do not enjoy them or find them stressful. Extend the same generosity to others around you and give family, relatives and friends the maximum possible ‘leeway’ to mess up a bit, or say something less than ideal, or forget something, or not join in with something you’d like them to join in with. Remind yourself of the giant list of potential challenges listed above ^^^^ and allow yourself the relaxing experience of not expecting what is simply too much to manage, either in terms of yourself or other people.
Use a meditation technique to really listen to the other people around you
As a friend or family member is speaking, imagine, vividly, that they are surrounded in a glowing, golden light. This practice will help you to really focus on what they are saying in a generous, warm, and open-hearted way. It will also provide to you, while you are fully engaged and involved in conversation, some of the same benefits of meditating alone — in terms of an overall sense of calm and wellbeing — but without having to be alone to do it (given that for some alone-time can be in short supply at Christmas! — though of course it is possible to make changes here if you would like too — see the points above and below!!).
Raise your expectations of what your overall emotional experience of Christmas will be
Expect that you will thoroughly enjoy Christmas and find it very peaceful and lovely and wonderful. Visualise yourself calmly and happily enjoying whichever parts of Christmas you like best, and give yourself the time to do this frequently and in detail — take yourself through all of the 5 senses and conjure up a pleasant sense of enjoyment. Think also about what you yourself really love doing, and is there a way you could bring that into your experience of Christmas? Could you do something, during the Christmas period, which you don’t normally do at that time of year, but which you know you would find hugely enjoyable, restful or wonderful in some other way? Or is there something you’ve never done, but would like to do, that you could add in to Christmas somehow? Once you’ve worked this out, visualise yourself engaged in this new aspect of your Christmas experience, and let yourself really enjoy this.
Take practical steps to lower your stress levels
If we are busy – busy – busy for too much time in a row, we are releasing a lot of cortisol and adrenaline, and this can make it difficult to relax and to enjoy ourselves. So think about…. what could I not do for Christmas? Simplify things as much as possible. It’s sort of a cliché to say it, but generally the things we all like best about Christmas are things like time with people we love, carols outside in the dark, a silly film watched all together, board games, the look of the blue flame on the Christmas pudding — more great people and great experiences than for example anything to do with presents, the detail of the food we are eating, or complicated trips or activities that are difficult or costly to arrange. Think about what feels good, really genuinely, wholeheartedly good, and be led by that.
Use hypnosis techniques to lower your stress levels
Whenever you feel yourself pulled towards anger, irritation, annoyance, upset, tears, anxiety, worry or stress, take a pause, allow yourself to breathe in slowly and deeply for between two and five minutes, and imagine that your upper body, your belly and your chest, is like a cylindrical balloon, filling up, up, up very slowly with air, and then sinking slowly, gradually, back down into the frame of your body. Decide what colour this balloon is — make it a colour you like! — and really feel it there and visualise it rising up, up, up and sinking in down down, down, down as you breathe in and breathe out. You could also try visualising something simple and pleasant, for example a fountain in the sunlight, and how the light looks on the moving water. Allow this breathing and visualising to calm you, and get you back to yourself, and then allow yourself to respond — or to not respond — to whatever it was that happened just before.
The very best of luck to you in using these ideas and techniques, or whatever ideas and techniques work for you, to have a more genuinely peaceful, joyful and ‘merry’ Christmas, whatever and however that would look for you in particular.
If you would like some help from an expert person in managing your own thoughts, emotions and behaviours, both during the Christmas season and beyond, do book in to see me for a free initial consultation to find out about how your brain functions during anxious, angry or upset emotional states, and how it is possible to use hypnotherapy to experience these kinds of states less frequently, and with less severity, by learning how to use your own brain differently. You can find more information about hypnotherapy on my Facebook page fb.me/orlakirbyhypnotherapy.
If you would like to book in for an initial consultation, or if you would like to speak with me first to find out more about hypnotherapy before booking in, my number is 07984128511 and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.