7 ways to thrive through Christmas
Dr Chloe Mitchell, Chartered Counselling Psychologist
Millions of us are currently in the throws of doing everything we possibly can to plan and deliver a perfect Christmas for our families and children.
We plan, we make lists, we go to great lengths to learn about what our kids and family want, we host parties, we attend dinners, we set our differences aside and invite family we may find tricky, we accommodate our mothers, fathers, siblings, in laws, our partners and we shop, we cook, we just make it all happen.
We are an army of resourced, creative, dynamic Santa’s perfect awesome helpers and many of us find this time incredibly stressful, anxiety provoking and depleting.
Christmas happens because of us but we do need to make sure that we also look after ourselves through this extra demanding time.With 1 in 4 of us already coping with a Mental Health difficulty it is absolutely essential that we have some tips up our sleeves to help us cope and reduce our stress levels.
I have written this for niix’s wonderful following to help you stay sane through Christmas:
- Mindset is everything.
What we think becomes who we are and we need to think good and positive things about ourselves to help us keep those cortisol stress levels down. If we perceive ourselves as failing, or useless, or inadequate that is no good. It is a big deal to be compassionate to ourselves and think good thoughts about us. To help you do this, write down a positive affirmation in your phone and have it coming up as your daily reminder. I personally like – “Don’t sweat the little things Chloe. You are perfectly good enough just as you are!” If you don’t like the idea of a digital reminder, go write something down on a lovely note piece and stick it on your mirror or in your diary. Speak it out loud and let it land within you. You matter and the first person to put that into action is you. If you like you, it doesn’t matter so much what toxic or difficult family members say or do to you, because you got you.
- Recognize that having boundaries is everything.
So when you have to sit through Christmas day next to a family member who irritates the hell out of you, or bores you or just makes you feel excluded and ignored practice mindfully keeping them outside your boundary. You don’t have to let the energy of other people ruin your inner state. You can do this with a very quick visualization exercise. Super quick in fact. So picture yourself in a pyramid of protective white light, impenetrable and totally protective and positive for you. You are in your white light pyramid and they can’t spoil your vibe. Do this as often as you like. I find it works wonders. If this sort of thing doesn’t work for you, imagine the person who is tricky for you in your mind’s eye and mentally make them very small. So small in fact you can barely hear them or see them. Imagine flicking them out of your way. This is a superpower you have and nobody need know. If things become too tense or demanding for you, make sure you have a moment or two for time out and withdraw. This is ok. If you are overwhelmed with difficult emotions, take yourself to a happy place and spend 2 minutes connecting with that place and affirm to yourself that you will get through this with your integrity intact. Deep breaths, and positive self-loving perspective. I find that if you can’t forgive how people are behaving then you can forgive their lack of insight, or their psychological confusion. Many people are not emotionally intelligent and you don’t have to take that on. Boundaries and a self-protective mindset are your priority.
- Stay physically healthy by being careful about what you feed yourself.
What you eat affects what you feel and with sugar loaded food everywhere at the moment try and set a good nutrition plan for each day. It is tough to do, I know and you probably think I will eat as much chocolate as I like to get through this but this is not you practicing compassion. This is you in self-sabotage mode. Sugar makes every negative feeling much bigger and it is so bad for your Mental Health I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep it to a minimum. Sadly the same goes with alcohol, so be mindful of this. If you are going to indulge in what you eat, drink lots of water and don’t be recriminating about it. It happens. Not the end of the world. Go back to your plan and moderate it. You can do this.
- Exercise is the most important and healthy thing you can do to boost
your mental health and help yourself thrive through Christmas.
Doesn’t have to be for long sessions in the gym. Doing your niix app for 10-15 minutes a day will keep you energized, boosted and sane. It is such an important aspect of your wellness and taking long periods off exercise is more self-sabotage. Speak to your partners, friends and make sure they understand that at some point each day through the holidays you will need some support to take time for you to exercise and reduce your stress levels. Exercise is just as effective as any other treatment choice in reducing Depression, Anxiety and Stress so long as you practice it with a positive mindset so make it a priority through Christmas.
- Get outside.
No such thing as bad weather. Only bad clothes! So get outside everyday and enjoy nature. Nature really boosts your mental health and has been found to reduce your stress levels significantly. Everyday a 15 minutes walk will help you cope.
- If you are coping with grief and loss of some kind – remember to
allow yourself to be real with your emotions.
You may be worried about upsetting your children, or burdening your family and friends. This is a tricky time and probably needs another blog for more guidance. But a headline tip for you through this time of loss is to speak to your children about sadness being ok, a normal emotion to have, include the person who has died in the festivities. So make time around the Christmas break to light a candle for them, or speak about them on Christmas day, or do something to help others in their name. You can’t put your grief or loss on hold because of Christmas so the best you can do is be authentic about this and kind to yourself. You will get through this. The worst thing you can do for your mental health is to bottle it all up. This is detrimental and nothing ever stays bottled for long. It starts taking hold of your body and your mind and eventually becomes illness either physical or mental. It is a really big thing to find your way of honouring your emotions and allowing yourself to be guided by them. If you feel concerned for how you do this, speak to a professional or get some counseling to help you find your way. Facing your difficulties is not weakness it is power. As a Psychologist I am very open and happy to answer any questions you may have around this. Feel free to get in touch @drchloe_mitchell
- Don’t try and control what you can’t control.
Recognize that there are limits that are beyond your control and make it your priority to focus on the values you have, do what feels meaningful and important to you and accept that this is more than good enough. A bit of time to reflect on this helps you to recognize. If you find that journaling helps, write down your debrief of the day and reflect on what you are learning through this that is helpful for you. Conclude your journaling with a gratitude list. This will help you recognize the gifts of your life and shift your mindset to one of love. This matters just as you matter.
I hope these tips help. Remember, expecting the perfect Christmas day is a high risk strategy. I say invite guests in and enjoy a “good enough” Christmas day and take the credit when it is due.
Have a happy Christmas
Dr Chloe Paidoussis-Mitchell is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist, with 22 years experience helping people recover from Mental Health illness. She is a Grief and Trauma expert and regularly blogs, speaks and writes to raise awareness around Mental Health and break the stigma. To follow her sign up at www.dr-chloe.com