Use your mind for a change.
Do you experience a niggle of anxiety or sadness every time you hear a Christmas carol?
This is the niggle that nips at you throughout December while you’re down at the mall. It intensifies as you lock eyes with shop assistants wearing reindeer antlers. It cuffs you on the side of the head as you glimpse that fat bearded bloke in red and white, ho-ho-ing and ringing a bell to remind you that the big day is nigh.
Christmas is a bittersweet reminder of connection – or lack of it. It’s a reminder of innocence and its loss. It’s a time to either re-connect with loved ones or remember passed ones.
The media portrays Christmas as a time of joy and peace, but not everyone feels it. And even if, like me, you bravely announce that “Christmas is cancelled this year” (how surly can you get?), you can’t cancel it. The media won’t let you. The shopping mall won’t let you. Your family won’t let you. You’re stuck with it. The niggling anxiety sticks to you like a soggy old bandaid.
Here are some tips that may help you stay sane on Christmas Day and emerge unscathed.
I’m not near family anymore, so my Christmas Day is just me and the cats. But, there have been years when I did have a family of sorts, and I would see them only once a year at Christmas. As we exchanged gifts, we would look at each other thinking, “Really?”
If your Christmas has become an out-of-control merry-go-round to nowhere, remind yourself in the lead-up to the day that you are a caring, generous human being. (Okay, you may hear faint voice saying, “No, you’re not”. Ignore it and get therapy later.) It’s all about practice, practice, practice. Tell yourself something often enough and you might just believe it.
Smile and rehearse your cheery Christmas greeting. See yourself relaxed, well, happy, and calm in the presence of one and all. Hear everyone comment on how well you look. (“My word, it seems you’ve somehow lost that rotten temper you had last year”).
As you engross yourself in the activities of Christmas Day, let go of those depressing thoughts about so-and-so or that bigoted old sod who just has to have the final word. Let him/her have it – the final word, that is. Feel yourself growing in stature, strong, calm in their presence.
If, despite your best efforts, someone continues to press your buttons as they speak to you, here’s what you do: Stare at a spot between their eyebrows. You will look attentive yet curious. Don’t worry if they think you’re drunk or drugged. Does it matter what they think?
It’s boring, I know, to be told to breathe. It happened to me recently when a well-meaning friend told me to take some deep breaths and I nearly decked him. (By the way, If you’re with someone who is upset, let them vent. Don’t speak. They will eventually calm down, and when they do, take a deep breath yourself. Chances are, they will mirror you and take a deep breath as well.)
We should all practise deep breathing regularly. The correct way to breathe is into your abdomen, which hopefully won’t grow any bigger over Christmas. Don’t worry about its size or if anyone notices as you push it out with an in-breath. Keep your chest still and just keep breathing deeply into your abdomen, then slowly release the breath. The more you practise this, the more quickly it will become your normal way of breathing, and the more calm you will begin to feel most of the time.
No, not a cigarette. When you feel upset, overwhelmed, anxious, imagine washing light through your body, as if you’re standing under a shower. For a few moments, your will feel lighter. It’s like washing away the negativity that collects around you like grey blobs that attract other grey blobs into your energy field, until you’re one big grey blob of murk. Imagining the light coming through the top of your head, moving through your body, and out into the earth will dissolve and remove the negativity.
Are you stressing about the temptation to eat mountains of food like a voracious, out-of-control Christmas zombie? If you can’t or won’t practise moderation, at least eat a big salad at some stage during the day. This will ensure that you absorb some much-needed nutrients, because cooked, nuked food doesn’t always nourish you. Raw veggies are one of the best ways to boost your immune system.
We give ourselves such a hard time that we forget we’re human. Being human means we don’t feel good all the time. We are surrounded by all sorts of people – some kind, some not so kind. When that niggle of anxiety nips at you, your first reaction is to deny it. Instead, acknowledge it (“I feel like crap right now”). Let it be. And if you feel so inclined, thank it. Don’t try and change it. Don’t analyse it. Believe it or not, it will pass. It has to. That’s the nature of emotions and feelings.
Being nice to yourself means allowing your feelings to flow through you like a stream. Sometimes the stream moves fast and furious; at other times it’s still and steady. By owning your feelings, you integrate and transform them. Remind yourself that you are not your feelings, you are not your thoughts. The real you is the one who watches and witnesses those thoughts and feelings.