Tips for Surviving Christmas!

  • Edinburgh lit up ChristmasRule number one, there are no rules! What ‘rules’ or traditions have you invented over the years and are they still relevant to your Christmases today? It may be that you are giving yourself unnecessary stress and work, so just take a moment to think if you have to do it the way you have always done.
  • Lower your expectations immediately. No one is perfect and your Christmas gathering won’t be either. Almost every magazine on sale during December will have a feature telling you how to have the perfect Christmas. Read them for interest but regard them as works of fiction! Your celebrations are unique and should be what works for you.
  • If you have a house full of relatives expect the worst and plan for it. If Uncle Bernard always gets drunk it’s no use fantasising that he’ll turn teetotal  just while he’s at your house. He won’t. Likewise with family members who usually don’t get on well together. They still won’t so plan for it and expect it. Everyone cramped in one hot room for hours on end is a sure fire way to provoke a few arguments so make sure you have an activity like a walk for those who need to get out for a while.
  • Look after yourself. Think of those instructions cabin crew give you before take off – put your own mask on before trying to help anyone else!
  • Keep a glass of water on hand to stay hydrated and sip at to stop you making that riposte you’ll regret.
  • Have some essential oil of lavender to hand to calm you and anyone else. It helps with feelings of stress, just put a few drops on a tissue, in the bath, or on your pillow.
  • Take the air. Even if it is just a walk into the garden.
  • Delegate and let everyone get involved in preparations.
  • Realise that you are responsible for your thoughts so don’t give yourself a hard time with guilt.
  • Breathe well and walk. Even ten minutes outside can help. There is a breathing exercise below.
  • If you are alone and would like company maybe consider working with a local charity on the 25th.

And finally, Christmas can be especially difficult if we have experienced loss or traumatic events during the year. Don’t try and ignore these (the tension inside you will just build up) but honour or acknowledge them. If it is a loss of someone close, then maybe light a special candle for them during the day; you don’t even have to tell anyone, it can be your special ritual. Or you might like to buy the type of present they would have liked and give it to an appropriate charity in their memory. If it’s a particularly bad time that you have had, recognise that you have survived this far and treat yourself in some small way. Maybe even have your own candle and space for reflection. Being sad is not wrong.

If you can’t get outside and get some fresh air take yourself to a quiet space and try the following breathing exercise but please make sure that you only do what feels comfortable for you. With a little practice the following should only take about three minutes but you will feel the benefits for much longer:

De-focus or close your eyes (it is better if you can actually close your eyes as it slows the brainwaves more).

  1. Take a slow deep, lower lung breath in ensuring that you expand the lower lung first (put your hand there to feel it expanding first, it takes practice).
  2. Hold just for a comfortable moment or two.
  3. Slowly exhale and as you do, consciously relax the muscles around your neck and shoulders.
  4. Breathe normally for a few breaths, continuing to relax the muscles on the outward phase of each breath. (This phase of normal breathing stops you hyperventilating by inhaling too much oxygen too quickly).
  5. Take another slow, deep, lower lung breath in, ensuring that you expand the lower lung first
  6. Hold for a comfortable moment or two.
  7. Slowly exhale and as you do, consciously relax the muscles around your jaw and mouth.
  8. Breathe normally for a few breaths, continuing to relax the muscles on the outward phase of each breath.
  9. Take another slow, deep lower lung breath in, ensuring that you expand the lower lung first.
  10. Hold for a comfortable moment or two.
  11. Slowly exhale and, as you do, consciously relax the muscles around the eyes, eyebrows, cheeks and forehead.
  12. Breathe normally, continuing to relax the muscles around the body on each outward breath.
  13. Return gently to full alertness. (You can count yourself out of this relaxed state by slowly counting from 1 to 5 as you gradually bring yourself back to a state of alertness. Do this slowly, stretching your fingers and toes if you can.

This seems complicated but in essence is just three deep lower lung breaths interspersed with normal breaths done with eyes closed or de-focussed. Practice it often, ideally several times every day. Always start by breathing out first so you don’t take too deep a breath initially and use any techniques you may have been taught specific to your needs.


Posted on December 16th, 2008 by

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