Christmas - A time to take care of yourself.
Taken from The Saanich News:
LETS TALK December, 2006
Paul Beckow M.Sc. R.P.C.
Individual, couple, and Family Counsellor
A few days ago, a friend of mine said to me, “Christmas is such an exciting time of year but the whole holiday exhausts me. The trick, if there is a trick, is to enjoy it.”
Now, isn’t that strange? If there ever was a time of year to really relax and enjoy - this is it. Christmas is the shared spirit of community and celebration, the gathering of family, gifts for all, fine food, bright colourful lights, beautiful music, days off, and excitement in the air. One must wonder with all the wonderful activities and traditions of Christmas just how can we possibly mess it up?
Simple. We can mess it up exactly the same way we mess up things in our everyday life. In all the “doing” we lose touch with ourselves. We lose ourselves in our worries, plans, obligations, excesses, needs to please, heightened expectations. Often seriously so.
This is not uncommon. The Canadian Mental Health Association reports that millions of people suffer, often quietly, from overwhelming stress through the Christmas Holidays.
Want a few simple tips and reminders for looking after our holiday stress?
Okay, then let's begin right now. Right now, ( the only time you have ) remind yourself, this year while you will become busy, Christmas is a time when you WILL TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.
Now write that on the top of your Christmas list.
Certainly, there is a lot to take care of in your “outer world” to have Christmas happen: Shopping, gifts, budget, the Christmas dinner, cards, tree, decorations, family visiting, etc. These specific tasks make a family Christmas.
If you want practical advice along these lines, Google “Christmas” and “stress”. There is a lot for you to read.
But what about your “inner world”? What are some skills for looking after your own well-being? Here are some tips to support you in care of yourself.
1. Don’t ignore stress. It is a useful signal.
Don’t just “white knuckle” it through Christmas. Use moments when you become aware of stress as a signal to stop and ask yourself, “What am I attached to that is making this difficult? “What do I believe to be true here that is causing my stressful feeling?”
When you stop and inquire, answers will appear. Answers such as, “I must believe I have to do everything.” or “I’m responsible for everyone being happy.” or “I have a belief everything has to be perfect to be a good Xmas.”
When you see the troubling belief, rule, or expectation, challenge it, then – give it the boot.
2. Being present.
If we lose ourselves during Christmas, how do we recover ourselves again?
Answer? By being present. Simply "letting go" and being present.
“Being present” is doing what you are doing - and only that - carefully, consciously. Being fully attentive will ground you in the present moment. Each time we do this, it lifts us off the “doing” treadmill.
If it is standing in line-up at the bank, just - be in the line up. Choose what is happening. Take a breath, relax, and take in the sounds and the sights. Talk with your neighbour.
If it is decorating the Christmas tree, or buying that gift, give yourself to that moment.
In fact do this now. Simply let go to this moment. There is nowhere to go. There is nowhere else to be.
There is a freedom in simply doing what you are doing when you are doing it. When we surrender to the moment we recall the present is what is real, pointed - and enough.
3. Reconnecting with personal meaning
Through Christmas people lose themselves in “doing things.” Yet there is a powerful spirit at Christmas time wanting to touch us all. This spirit is not found in “doing” or in “things”.
You find this spirit through the personal meaning you bring to your actions.
So there is real power in connecting yourself to your personal vision, your dream for Christmas. Here is a way to do that.
Because of our personal experiences and memories, each of us has our own special “meaning” for Christmas. What does Christmas touch in you? This sense of possibility or vision can be found in a word.
What is your word? Is it Love, Family, Gratitude, Celebration, Giving, Helping, Peace, Your faith? Choose the word that inspires you. Write it on a piece of paper and tape it on your mirror.
Now live the holidays from your word. Do not try to get it out of Christmas. Bring it to Christmas. Bring the expression of your word to all the things that you do.
Bring your word to the family Christmas tree trip. Bring it to your gift wrapping. Bring it to the bank line up. Bring it to the parking ticket you just got. Bring it to your husband, to your children, to your family.
With some simple care and attention to your well-being, Christmas can be an easy and memorable time. So remember, Christmas is a time to also take care of yourself.
I wish for you and yours the peace and joy that the holiday invites.
Paul Beckow is a certified individual, marriage, and family therapist. If you have a relationship, personal issue or concern, he can be reached by phoning the Victoria Family Institute at 721 2477 or contacted through his web site at www.paulbeckow.com
For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.