Managing your stress at Christmas
It's still a month to go before Christmas, yet the shops are already full of seasonal goodies, and pubs and restaurants alike are urging us to book our parties ASAP. But in the UK, we're still enjoying the end of autumn and the glorious autumn colours, while all the way in Sydney, even the terrible bush fires can't overpower the gorgeous fragrance of the Jaqueranda trees, jasmine, and a pink bush I don't know the name of!
I know that unless we get our act together, Christmas will soon be upon us and, with that, the stress that comes from our desire as parents to get everything right for our families. When I think back to Christmases as a child, I remember the burnt carrots. I laugh about the inappropriate gifts, friends who gave us what we gave them the previous year, and the dog eating all the chocolate decorations off the tree and being sick on the new carpet! So, with so many good memories of less-than-perfect Christmases as a child, why as adults, do we set ourselves such absurd goals? Who says we have to be perfect? It is us, of course!
To help you manage this desire, I’d like you to try with me an NLP-parts integration exercise (the NLP technique for internal conflict).
Hold out both hands in front of you. Imagine in one hand is the desire to have a happy family Christmas. It doesn’t matter which hand that is in. Look at this hand with that goal or desire in it and give it form, shape, and colour. What would a good Christmas look, sound, and feel like? Are there snapshots there? Images that you can imagine? Sounds or words - laughter? What are the feelings?
They may be feelings of being full, feeling the family love, feeling that you’ve done a good job? These all need to be positive because in this hand you hold what you desire. Get a sense of how it feels. Is it light, and full of good intent, great plans, and intentions?
Now look at the other hand; in that hand you hold those fears you have about things not working out; children arguing, husband not helping, or having too much to drink and getting frustrated with the kids, your mother in law giving you 'that look', running out of roast potatoes, getting it wrong with a present... these are the stresses.
We are projecting into the future all our imaginings about what could go wrong based partly on the past, perhaps, but also in what getting it wrong means to you. When we feel failure, it goes back to our childhood - when we’d got something wrong which meant we were 'useless', 'dumb', 'not good enough', 'careless', and so on. We added meaning to what happened and then throughout life, we attract examples of that thing because it’s been embedded into our subconscious. Become aware of how heavy this hand is.
Now close your eyes, feel in both hands, and let them come to a place that feels right. Open your eyes - is one heavier than the other?
The heavier hand is likely to be the one that needs attention first. Look at that hand and ask it what it wants. I do it like this, "Thank you for sharing what you hold, how can I help you? What do you need from me to let go of some of this?".
Close your eyes and imagine what that might be. When we guess, we access our subconscious mind where we hold all the random, illogical, emotional fears, thoughts and beliefs. We don’t want to face our fears of 'not being good enough', or whatever yours is - we hide away behind our hands, mentally making to-do lists and panic buying 'just in case'.
What you may find is that these fears, the stress of what could happen and the worries are all there to protect you, to keep you focused, perhaps. There is always a positive intention behind our stress. It is part of us, and it wants to help, but like the smoke alarm going off when all we’ve done is burn the toast, it can over-protect.
So, we need to step in and reassure it that all will be well. What do you need to say to your hand holding all the worries? Say it now.
Now close your eyes again and feel how each hand feels. Which is heavier now?
There may be more work to do to reassure the heavier hand that it can release some of the stress. You will know when this happens, and when it does, bring both hands to your heart and breathe in a colour, that for you, represents what you desire; peace, harmony, love - whatever it is that you desire.
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