Christmas Message – Coping with holiday stress

It’s less than a week away from Christmas Day, a much anticipated and joyful time for many. I certainly hope that is so for you and your family and friends. 

However, sometimes gathering with family can be stressful too in the heightened atmosphere of the season. Being around family members you are in close proximity with, especially for an extend period, can cause friction. You may find yourself triggered by behaviour or words of a family member. Without knowing why a wave of unpleasant feelings takes over.

You may have the experience of not being heard and dismissed, or feeling out of place, or treated somehow like a child again. In these situations be aware that being triggered means there is some unfinished business from your past surfacing and giving you an opportunity to reflect on it and clear it. 

If you find yourself triggered, here are 3 steps to defuse the discomfort of the moment, calm yourself, and get present.

1) When you notice you are feeling uncomfortable or irritated, avoid reacting and put yourself on pause. Step away from the situation.

2) Take a minute or two to calm yourself with a few slow breaths. Breathing with a short inhale and a longer exhale is especially soothing.  Take a moment to identify the feelings. If it is anger or irritation, check if there is a deeper layer of feeling – for example feeling hurt or lack of respect or not belonging. Be willing to accept that these feelings are far more related to past experiences than the present one. 

Whether you can identify the feelings or not, make a note of the trigger and check in with yourself later when you have more time to reflect on it, bring understanding to your reaction, and progress to clear it.   

3) Bring yourself into the present. Accept that the feelings are arising from you and are not caused by another. In other words how you are feeling has nothing to do with the other or the situation and everything to do with your response. You determine how you respond and how you want to feel. Ask yourself – how do I want to feel in this moment? what do I want my experience to be? – and then choose that.  

Throughout these steps, hold yourself and others with kindness and compassion.  

Frost crystals on grass stubble poking up through a frozen pool of surface water.

Frost crystals on grass stubble poking up through a frozen pool of surface water.

Wishing you and your family the beauty, peace and joy of Christmas and good health and happiness throughout the New Year.