Article by Mita Mistry 21.12.15
“We all know the complaints: family grievances, stressful shopping, never enough time to get everything done, fatigue and collapse. Therapists brace themselves for the holidays as depressed patients become more depressed, addictive patients become more addicted and winter grayness casts its pall.” Sound familiar? Sadly it’s a global phenomenon not unique to us folk in the UK and it’s not anyone’s fault, but for many it can be the most stressful time of the year.
The festive period is meant to be “the season to be jolly” and perhaps the most inspiring time of the year. BUT that is not the case for many people. For some it’s a very lonely time for missing loved ones that have departed or grieving the absence of family and friends. On the other end of the spectrum those blessed with large or small families may feel just as low and dread spending time with them.
Whatever your situation, here are some tips to help you manage festive stress mindfully and feel the spirit of the season;
1. Look after YOU
Emotionally, many people enter the holiday period like time bombs of suppressed emotions. They have been operating on “autopilot” busy “doing things” and don’t even realise they are stressed and can’t help themselves but to blurt out pent up feelings they have been hiding since last year. No matter how much you feel entitled to payback criticism or resentment to family or friends, don’t aim them at another person. Instead take a step back and keep your emotions in check by releasing them in private.
The simplest way to avoid an emotional outburst is to check in with you. Do something that helps you to feel content and calm. Try walking, having a relaxing bath, reading, meditating, writing, cooking, exercising or anything that works. If you’re still struggling to keep your emotions in check, try this mindfulness program.
If you are unsure if you are stressed or carrying pent up emotions, symptoms such as poor sleep patterns, headaches, palpitations, anxiety, low mood, irritability, shoulder pain, and back pain may be tell tale signs. You see, in Chinese Medicine stress and negative emotions block free flowing energy of the “Five Elements” Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood that can manifest as some of the signs above.
2. Presence or Presents?
Presents do not have to be huge, expensive, state-of-the-art, bells and whistles stuff to show affection and appreciation. Surely the thought someone puts into a gift, however small, is worth a lot more? It maybe worth taking a step back and asking yourself if you are getting caught up in the commercial madness?
There is much truth in the sentiment “it’s the thought that counts”. In fact most people want simple things your presence, appreciation, gratitude, affection, someone who will listen. When you consciously provide any of those things, magic flows (it really does J).
Traditionally, presents were not the main focus of this celebration; it is a day of presence – love, family, friends, fun, magic, Santa, Rudolph and Santa’s little helpers.
3. Let go of “perfection”. It doesn’t exist.
We are bombarded with the perfect picture of Christmas, TV adverts, films, and magazines are all guilty of portraying the perfect decorations, perfectly wrapped presents under the perfect Christmas tree with the perfect family meal being enjoyed by the perfect guests. In reality things are not always perfect. In fact, nothing is perfect because imperfection is the norm. BUT it’s knowing this and learning to live with perfect imperfections which influences fulfilling experiences.
The key is to be realistic and let go of expectations of YOU and others to deliver the “perfect” Christmas. Surely your friends and family will be more interested in spending time with you than seeing your perfect Christmas tree, unwrapping your prefect present and drinking your perfect cocktails? If not, then maybe take a step back and check that expectations are realistic. Remember, life is full of challenges and people are probably trying to do the best they can but sadly, sometimes our best is not good enough. As much as we may want to, we can’t please everyone, accept that – it’s human nature. Don’t take it personally, let it go and move forward gracefully. YOU are good enough.
4. Kindness, Acceptance & Gratitude
We are all unique individuals with our own ideas and values, our life experiences shape our thoughts and in the here and now they can be very different to those of your family’s even though you share a biological history and grew up together. Life moves on, people move on we all change. Try to embrace the differences with family members and be grateful for their efforts, however big or small. Accept and respect them for who they are and have become regardless of your shared family connection. Be mindful if you have been put in a box or have put people in a box they no longer fit in.
Sadly, some people are difficult, and it can be hard to get around it. One useful tip is to manage that is to try and focus on their good qualities as it can help to tolerate their flaws whether that is the bad temper, cutting remarks, self absorbed nature etc. Don’t react or argue with them just let them be. Why not be the bigger person and show that awkward relative some kindness? After all, do you really know the full picture of what is going on in their life or what their issues are? Notice how much better you feel about yourself when you infuse kindness into a tense situation.
5. Share & Prepare
This is obvious but sometimes we need a gentle reminder to be mindful of not taking on everything. Keep things simple and share the organisation of festive celebrations with your nearest and dearest. Communicate openly, people are generally reasonable and are probably happy to help out if not, be more assertive and delegate. It makes everyone’s life easier and more fun when there is a spirit of sharing.
I hope you manage to have a stress free happy Christmas. Remember it IS a time for celebration, peace, goodwill, love, charity and lightheartedness. Try and keep a perspective on life, it’s too short to be miserable, try and be grateful for all that you have and spare a thought for the less fortunate.