It’s Christmas!!! Yay? Or …Nay?
Ah, Christmas, lovely Christmas. Full of joy, full of sparkle, full of giving.
Full of panicked shoppers, full of to-do lists a mile long, full of demands on your time, full of making polite conversation at parties and socials with colleagues and semi-acquaintances and relatives you haven’t seen all year…
If you tend to experience anxiety anyway, then you’ll know that there’s something about December which can really aggravate and intensify the symptoms.
There’s nothing like an impending, immoveable deadline and yet-to-be-done Christmas shopping to get the stress hormones flooding your system!
And if (like me) you have a nervous system which is highly sensitive to external stimuli you’re more likely to experience the symptoms of anxiety.
And this time of year there are so many stimuli bombarding us: bright lights; crazy-busy towns, cities and shopping centres; parties and “dos” to go to; sugary & fatty foods; alcohol; Christmas shopping; the pressure to visit as many family members as possible; and jingly-jangly Christmas music everywhere!!!
It’s all too easy to get overwhelmed and stuck in a vicious cycle of anxiety and feeling bad that you’re not enjoying what “should” be a lovely, festive, family time of year.
Feel like hibernating and waking up in spring?!
Me too, sometimes. But I know you can cope. Yoga has given me the tools and the confidence to know I can deal with anxiety and it can give you that security too.
Plus, realizing that having a highly sensitive nervous system can cause a lot of the symptoms of anxiety is actually empowering – because then you realize there’s nothing wrong with you, it’s just that having to process all of the sensory data is incredibly tiring and sets off your body’s stress response all too easily.
So, here are my tips for surviving the festive season with grace, humour and peace of mind (essential reading for highly sensitive people … and anyone who finds Christmas a tad overwhelming).
Stop “shoulding” & learn to say “no”
Don’t force yourself to go to events, or to do things because you think you “should”. If you feel your nerves jangling, or a tight feeling in your stomach about something, this is your body telling you to say “no”!
Look after yourself. Don’t feel you have to make lots of excuses. If something doesn’t feel like it will bring you joy then firmly, but graciously, say no.
Be gentle with yourself. Eaten one too many mince pies or too many sherries? Don’t beat yourself up. Just acknowledge – with compassion – that perhaps that 5th mince pie wasn’t the best of choices for your health and energy levels.
And make a better choice next time. Or don’t! After all “Everything in moderation, even moderation” said Buddha 😉
Whatever your actions and choices over this festive period – be kind and gentle with yourself.
Prioritise some “me-time” alone
This can be a busy time of year – but if you’re sensitive to your surroundings and pick up easily on other people’s moods then it’s essential that you give yourself quiet-time alone.
But don’t let your me-time be time fretting over the Christmas to-do list!
Give yourself the chance to sit and day-dream; to watch the clouds passing across the sky; to relax; to meditate. Whatever fills you up.
Give yourself some breathing space.
Make friends with your breath
When you feel the anxiety levels rising, anchor yourself to your breath.
Breathe in for a count of four, breathe out for a count of four. Fix your attention to your breath.
And then begin to notice the silent spacious pause between each breath – and bask in that pause of stillness; that moment of tranquillity. Feel safe.
Release the anxious tension from your body and the whirring thoughts from your mind by grounding.
Stand and feel the solid earth beneath your feet. Sit and surrender to the chair supporting you.
Send imaginary roots down from the base of your spine and through the soles of your feet deep, deep into the earth.
Feel connected, feel held, feel safe.
Connect to the light
Lack of daylight in winter means we produce more melatonin, a hormone which makes us feel sleepy. And in winter we produce less serotonin which may contribute to low mood.
So, connect to the light with Tratak (candle-gazing) meditation:
- Sit and watch a candle flame.
- When it feels right close your eyes and visualise the flame in your mind’s eye. When you lose the image of the flame open eyes and gaze again.
- Then introduce this mantra: on the inhale “I am peace” on the exhale “I give peace”.
- Then close your eyes and visualise light flowing into your heart;
- Let the light becomes stronger, brighter and more radiant with each breath;
- Then with each out-breath allow the light to spread out to fill the whole of your body;
- Feel the candle flame lighting you up. Filling you with warmth, healing and stillness;
- Let yourself come home; be filled up; and connected.
Delight in Christmas
Follow these tips and let yourself delight in the present moment.
You don’t have to just survive the festive season – you can enjoy it!