Christmas can be an incredibly stressful time for many people.
If you struggle with anxiety or overwhelm during family Christmas, here are 8 effective ways to take care of yourself.
1. Check in with yourself.
Periodically throughout the day, stop for a minute or two.
• Sit quietly and notice your breathing. What quality does it have? Is it short, fast and shallow, or long, slow and deep?
• Experiment with deepening and slowing your breath. Do you feel the same or different after doing this?
• Feel the floor beneath your feet.
• Then say something like this to yourself: “Hi. How are you?”
• Spend a moment checking out exactly how you do feel right now.
• For example, you might be stressed, overwhelmed, busy, sad, agitated, angry, tense, confused, happy, satisfied, or resentful.
• Now ask yourself what you need.
• For example, maybe you need to communicate something, or go for a walk around the block, or delegate some tasks, or make some tea. Maybe what you need is to carve out some time for yourself later, by deciding to it now.
• Check with yourself. What feels true and right for you?
2. Clarify your boundaries
Checking in with yourself can also help you to get clear on your boundaries – what feels okay for you and what doesn’t feel okay for you.
• Once you have a sense of what your boundary is, it makes it easier to know what you would like to communicate to others.
• For example, you may feel okay about going to the family Christmas lunch for a couple of hours, but you’re not willing to stay all day.
• For more information on healthy boundaries, go here.
3. Communicate your needs
What do you need?
• And what do you need to communicate about that need?
• For example, “I’m happy to bring the Pavlova, but can you please do the cheese platter?”
• Or, “Uncle Barry, I need you to stop commenting on my body and on how much I eat.”
• If it feels scary to communicate your needs, maybe try supporting yourself with one of the following suggestions first.
4. Talk to someone you trust
If you are feeling alone, overwhelmed, stressed, or generally not okay, who can you talk to?
• Often reaching out and connecting with someone who listens and understands can make a huge difference to our sense of feeling supported.
• Who would that person be for you?
• If you can’t think of anyone you know, there are also helplines available.
5. Orientate yourself to get calm
Sit comfortably (standing is okay too).
• Take some time to slowly look around you.
• When you do this, move your head, your neck and your eyes.
• Sloooow down.
• Look all around you.
• Notice what you see and notice where your attention wants to go.
• Is there anything in your surroundings that surprises you? Comforts you? Interests you?
• After a few minutes, stop and take notice of how you feel.
• Do you feel the same or different?
• If you feel different, in what ways?
6. Ground yourself to feel solid and centred
Grounding can be as simple as lying on the floor and feeling the sensation of the floor supporting your body at the contact points.
• Or sit in a chair and feel the floor beneath your feet, the chair beneath your legs and the back of the chair supporting your back. Notice your breath, in and out. Repeat 3-5 times.
• Another good one is to put one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly. Notice any sensations you can feel under your hands – maybe you notice warmth, pressure or tingling. If it feels okay, take three long, slow, deep breaths, in and out.
7. Experiment with your posture
Your posture informs how you feel, and how you feel informs your posture.
This means that through changing your posture, you can change how you feel! I don’t know about you, but I find that pretty amazing.
• Without moving, notice how you’re sitting right now.
• How are your shoulders positioned?
• What are your legs doing?
• How does your back feel?
• Can you take in a full breath, or do you feel restricted?
• Now, if your body allows, deliberately fold over and hunch into yourself.
• Tuck your head down and bring your shoulders in.
• Notice how you feel physically and emotionally in this position.
• Are there any thoughts that accompany this position for you?
• Now, slowly, bring yourself to an upright position.
• Straighten your spine and plant your feet on the ground.
• Roll your shoulders back and down and open your chest.
• Look straight ahead.
• Notice how you feel physically and emotionally.
• Are there any thoughts that accompany this position?
• Take some time to consider the differences in how you felt in the two postures.
• Which one serves you more?
• Consider experimenting with your posture whenever you are in a situation in which you feel a little unsure of yourself.
8. Be self-compassionate
Essentially, self-compassion is about treating yourself with the same good will and kindness you would show a beloved friend.
• Whenever you feel overwhelmed, self-critical or stressed, ask yourself what you would say to a friend in your shoes.
• Chances are, you would be supportive, encouraging and loving toward your friend.
• Consider telling yourself the same things you would a friend.
• For example, “I know this is hard for you right now. You’re doing your best and that’s enough.”
I highly recommend trying out some of the above strategies when you’re feeling okay. Choose the ones that resonate best with you and put a few minutes aside each day to practice. Not only will this promote wellbeing in the moment, but having a regular wellness practice has an accumulative effect.
Practicing these strategies also means you are more likely to remember to turn to them in moments of stress.
I wish you well.
Do you need support with Anxiety, Depression, or Self-Worth in Perth, Western Australia or online?
If you need support with anxiety, depression or self-worth, please contact Toni Jackson for enquiries and appointments via the contact form below.
For a free 15 minute phone consultation, to discuss your situation and see how Toni can support you, please phone 0439 995 302.
Toni Jackson is a Psychotherapist, specialising in trauma, body image and eating disorders. She is a Gestalt Therapist, body-centred psychotherapist, creative (art) therapist and HAES practitioner. Toni works in Fremantle and Mundaring, Perth, Western Australia, and also provides online counselling.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash