Embracing the Lead-up to Christmas.

How do we deal with the pre-Christmas rush?

I first wrote this blog a few years ago. Re-reading it, I realised it is probably even more relevant today when there are many anxiety inducing factors around. Unstable political parties, global warming, over-stretched health systems…I could go on…. More than ever, we need to stay grounded, to remember that most of us just want to do our best; to be peaceful, calm and happy, and go with the flow. Peace is high on my list for sure. I am determined to switch off regularly, to step out into the frosty clear night and look up at the stars. Somewhere out there in our amazing universe lies the answer to all our questions and fears if only we could trust in that….

It’s the time of year when there is a lot to think about. Perhaps more than usual. If you are prone to anxiety, the thought of coping with Christmas plans can add to your anxious feelings or to the feelings of someone you love. While for many, Christmas is nothing but exciting, this is not always the case for those who suffer from anxiety, depression and conditions such as OCD.

Do you find yourself caught up with the stress of the pre – Christmas rush? The build up seems to start earlier each year and before we know it we are bombarded with all sorts of smart advertising containing supposedly endearing stories and mini films with the ‘ahhh’ factor, that are really there to entice us into spending money in the big, well- known stores.  The media paints a picture of wonderment and happiness; we would all love this of course, but for some people this is not how Christmas is for them. The world is not perfect all of the time and we need to hold on to that thought and remember we are not the only ones who get anxious this time of year. For some, loneliness can be a real problem, perhaps because of the loss of a loved one, and the sadness of loss can certainly feel desperately raw at this time of year.

Christmas parties, whether it is with colleagues or old friends can be hard to cope with at the best of times, but add anxiety to this and before you know it you may dread the social scene. You can be out of your comfort zone having to speak to people you don’t know well and worried about having to impress – maybe a new boss or confident looking colleagues. With parties closer to home, it may be a case of meeting new neighbours or friends you haven’t seen in a while.

Food shopping is something else to negotiate – for some reason we feel the need to buy massive amounts of extra food this time of year; ok we may have people coming to stay or extra mouths to feed at Christmas Day, but even if not we tend to buy stuff we wouldn’t normally buy – think big tins of biscuits, the Turkish delight, the boxes of dates and the mountains of Yule logs and mince pies. I know it is good to have a treat this time of the year, but perhaps we do get tempted to buy too much. Then there is the alcohol too – would we dream of drinking chocolate liqueurs and mulled wine (often not even worth drinking) or egg nog any other time of year?

Apart from the fact we end up spending a lot more money on food and wine this time of the year resulting in a negative effect on our bank balance; eating and drinking extra calories and rich food this time of year can make anxiety levels worse and again have a negative effect on us, this time on our health.

Buying presents is something most of us get concerned about. Of course, we want our loved ones to have something they like to open on Christmas Day , especially the children, but for an anxious person, the results of spending a lot of money in a short space of time can seem very scary and worrying. Money aside, the crowds, loud jarring music and queues can make Christmas shopping seem unbearable.

So okay, the above situations are those which most of us have encountered at sometime in our lives and I am painting quite a grim picture of what should and can be a magical and completely enjoyable time of year. Because it really doesn’t have to be such a stressful time of year. Who makes it that way? And why?

Going back to the advertising, we are taught from quite an early age what we can expect Christmas to be like. But it cannot apply to us all. We are not all the same. And we are all coping with our own personal situations. What may be wonderful for one person may not be right for another. What do most of us remember when we look back down the years? Piles of presents around the tree, huge amounts of food and big parties? Or do we remember the excitement of hanging the stockings at the end of the bed and the thrill of opening the small gifts in the early hours, so lovingly and haphazardly wrapped by a caring parent.  Or sadly, there may be memories that are not quite as happy, and that may be another reason Christmas evokes pain and stress.

Maybe this year  – with still some time ahead before Christmas is really upon us, we can decide to take a different view and look at what is really important. One thing that always strikes me every year, and I always comment on to my husband without fail every year, is that the build up to Christmas is huge; we all rush around trying to get things done, caught up in the whole rush and excitement and then suddenly we arrive at Boxing Day and hear murmurs and mutterings of: ‘well that’s that for another year’, and: ‘where are you going for your holiday this year?’ It seems to be indicative of the society we have become: always looking for the next thrill, the next celebration or occasion before we have had time to enjoy and digest what has just occurred. So this year how about making a decision not to get too ‘wrapped up in Christmas’? Have a year where you do not make too many commitments. Be honest with people and say no in the nicest possible way if you don’t want to do something. Do most of your present shopping online and do it in your own time. Book an online food shop well in advance if it suits you, and apart from the convenience you won’t be so tempted to buy lots of unnecessary goodies (which aren’t really goodies at all). Also, explain to everyone that your Christmas this year may be a little more low key and that includes your present giving. Offer loved ones time instead. Time is the most valuable gift of all.

Decide a few things in advance to help keep your anxiety at bay. Plan to eat healthily and avoid too many stimulants like caffeine and alcohol. Have plenty of rest and not too many late nights. Cortisol is the body’s most powerful stress hormone. It causes a number of changes in the body, including increasing stimulation and the perception of fright. Getting regular good rest and sleep can keep cortisol production to a minimum and reduce the feelings of dread.

If you reduce your expectations about the holidays you will not be disappointed when things don’t always go according to plan; likewise if you are feeling calm you will be more able to enjoy things and ‘go with the flow’. Good things that do occur can be received with joy and thankfulness. Do things you like to do too, like walks in the clear, crisp night when the stars are out and the world is peaceful. Spending time doing the things you love and want to do is a great way to celebrate the Christmas season and you will feel better for it. This isn’t being selfish but just being your true self. Having healthy boundaries is essential when you are prone to anxiety.

A good tip is to think and act a bit more like a child at Christmas – have you noticed how children don’t run around getting stressed about Christmas? Far from it! They just enjoy the time while it is there.

So now that the lead up to Christmas has started remember that every day is special and also has it’s own challenges and delights. When the events of the holiday season threaten to overwhelm you, breathe deeply, take time out until you feel calmer, and look forward. Look forward to celebrating in your own way and until then remind yourself there are no rules to follow for a good Christmas break!

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Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Trusting In The Universe and Releasing Anxiety …

What better way is there to lift your anxiety than to trust in the universe?

I keep a small perpetual calendar of daily religious sayings in my kitchen. I had given it to my dad for Christmas not long before he sadly died. He had enjoyed reading the short daily scriptures so I have taken over from him – pondering the profound and thought provoking words each morning. Yesterday I read this:

    So spacious is Christ, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe – people and things, animals and atoms – get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies.

Colossians 1 : 19 – 20

Whether we are religious or not I think the above passage from Colossians is wonderful and can give us a different way of thinking about the ‘bigger picture’.  We all know anxiety well. Life comes with trials and heartache and anxiety rises when opportunities fall through and when we are at a loss to find comfort in bad situations. We all have days when an unexpected bill comes through the post or when we turn on the news to witness another heartbreaking story of injustice or tragedy. It is easy to be almost paralysed by realities that unfold in front of us.

When anxiety strikes we can easily resort to thinking inwardly at the expense of the wider view and no one can blame us for that. Anxiety can often blind us to reality.

Trusting the Universe 

Trusting in the universe can be difficult at times of trouble;  however, more often that not, no matter how overwhelming things can be, if we can truly learn to let go, we can then trust that things will eventually work out. We have all been hurt, experienced loss and had difficult times and yet that isn’t because we cannot trust the universe. When you think about it, all good things have to end sometime but when we reach those endings that is the time when new beginnings start. New doors are opened and maybe new love and new successes.

When you learn to trust the universe it becomes easier to accept the things that would once have knocked us back and maybe had us sinking into depression. We can see light at the end of the tunnel. We can learn to let go of the past, knowing this does not serve us now. We can stop saying ‘what if?’ Also, instead of seeing life as past, present and future – never standing still, we can realise that we can just ‘be’ without any explanations. We can live the lives we were born to live.

There Is a Bigger Picture

When we begin to see there is a bigger picture, that the universe has us covered, we have more time for each other and for love and kindness. Our hearts are softened. The universe will give us what we need, not what we think we want. How many times have we looked back at old disappointments and realised that what we had yearned for but did not get, would not have served us well?

When we trust in the universe we connect with our brothers and sisters all around the world and we put out good vibes. People draw near to us because they sense our goodness and lack of negativity.

There is no crowding in the universe, there is room for all. There is no ticking clock that urges us to complete our loving actions or service to others before sunrise  – time is just an illusion so we do not need to rush headlong into each day.

Thinking As A Child

Do you remember how when you were a child every day held promise? There was excitement, the feeling of good things ahead , but mainly you did things just because they made you happy. When you connect with the universe you can reconnect with that feeling and enjoy the things you love the most.

When We Do Less We Become More.

This is an interesting thought isn’t it? It’s like most things – when you step back and take an objective view often you can see things more clearly. Trusting in the universe means realising that we don’t always have to be busy. If we are doing nothing we aren’t being lazy we are taking breaks when we need to and then being productive when we feel it is right.

Banishing Anxiety

What better way is there to lift your anxiety than to trust  in the universe? Instead of losing yourself in worry and depression, if you can trust that things will work out and feel in your heart that good things are coming, this can be a big step forward and you may feel as though a weight has been lifted from your shoulders.

Many times people have used this line from the lyrics of Leonard Cohen but it never loses its impact to me:

There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.’

Remeber this, especially on anxious days: none of us are perfect  – nothing is ever truly broken. Like the philosophy behind the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi, which repairs smashed pottery by using beautiful seems of gold with a 500 year old technique which  not only restores functionality to broken pots, but gives a useful lesson in life, we can mend and be more beautiful than we ever were before.

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What Can our Past Tell Us?

My blog is reflective this week, but as I write I am thinking about the importance of enjoying the smaller things in life, for they are often the most important….

The past is somewhere we can walk with our memories. Never with our footsteps..

Mimi Novic

This week has been rather strange and unsettling.

I have spent a lot of time over the last ten days sitting at my Father’s bedside as he has struggled with ill health. For most of us, this sort of situation fills us with all sorts of emotions and fears. To see a loved one suffering, especially someone who has been your parent, the one you have looked up to and who, previously was the one to look after you, is hard. Being in a hospital environment for any length of time soon reminds us that life is very tenuous and can change in the blink of an eye. Emerging from a particularly long visit it is hard to readjust to the outside world and it is strange seeing people going about their everyday lives.

It is interesting that last weekend I had a message out of the blue from an old school friend who wanted to contact on Facebook – a new group had been set up for those of us who had attended the school in Somerset back in the late 60’s. Once we had connected we started catching up on news, and messages were going to and fro for an hour or so. This set up a chain of events and more and more old friends joined in with new messages. As with any of these situations, there was news of how well some people had done, how some had drifted away and some had sadly died. Photos were posted and comments made about how well we had aged , (or not, as the case may be!) It was all interesting stuff and good to reconnect with people you hadn’t thought about for years, but it is very strange when one feels the years roll back and you revert back to being a teenager for a while in your mind. This for me, set me thinking about life and the passing of time. How can it be that so many years have passed and so much has happened along the way? How has it happened almost in the blinking of an eye?

             ‘Alice: How long is forever?

             White Rabbit : Sometimes, just one second.’

It is quite fitting in a way that these thoughts and memories from my past have occurred in the same week as my Father’s illness. It is almost as though the Universe is suggesting I look back a bit and perhaps take some comfort from earlier times. But does our personal history determine what happens in our lives now I wonder? I guess we are the writers of our own stories and the directors of our own lives. If we live in the past too much we are replaying the same old scenarios in our minds when we need to move forward from the energy of past events and into the now. Whatever our history, whatever mistakes or failure we have experienced, we are different people now but the good memories hopefully stay forever.

My blog is short and reflective this week – but as I write I am thinking about the importance of enjoying the smaller things in life, for they are often the most important – small everyday kindnesses, catching up with family and telling them you love them, not worrying about trivia and also not worrying about the big, worldwide situations you can’t change, no matter how much you want to.

I’d like to think about continuity too. I can take comfort from the contacts from the past because those long lost friends were responsible for making me the person I am now, even if in a small way. And, most importantly, when I look at my Father’s frail hands as he clasps mine, I feel the connection to my childhood days, and the times he lifted me with those same hands, high into the air to jump the waves on Polzeath beach.

  ‘But somewhere, running through your veins, The fragment of past life remains, And in future children, one day you’ll see, That somewhere, there’s a trace of me.’

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