Christmas is just one month away, and with all the planning, preparation, shopping, wrapping and deadlines that will fly by.
We are supposed to love Christmas right? Good will to all men yes? Cosy family gatherings filled with love and warmth?…..
Hang on – reality check. Fact: Christmas is the most stressful time of year for many, and often leads to a toxic festive cocktail of fears, fatigue, guilt, comparison and self criticism…An emotional hangover. Not to mention the need for a harsh New Year regime to remedy all those perceived wrongs, shortfalls and excesses.
So here is my guide, or to be more accurate, here is my suggested approach with 5 Top Tips to help you cultivate the best inner environment to make space for some festive joy and Christmas sparkle.
We focus so much of our thinking, time and energy on to what / who we DON’T like, what we DON’T want, what we DON’T have and what we CAN’T do – Negative mental activity. And this is a major cause of stress, dissatisfaction and a busy mind which just will not slow down or switch off.
So SWITCH your focus, RE-DIRECT your attention to what you are grateful for, and appreciative of. Instead of comparing yourself and your circumstances unfavourably, CHOOSE to nurture and cherish what is good. There is always something to be grateful for. Wake up each morning and fairly early in your routine write 3 things that you are grateful for that day….A car which gets you from A to B – A friend who listens – A warm cardi on a cold day – A smile from a family member – 2 legs which carry you around – A hot shower – A beautifully wrapped pressie – A hot meal on the table……..Anything, large or small.
For centuries we thought our brain was the body’s command centre, but recent research suggests that the heart has much more influence than we thought. For example, did you know that your heart connects and communicates with other organs not only through blood circulation but also through an electromagnetic field? The heart’s electromagnetic field is 60 times more powerful than the brain’s.
The Institute of Heartmath are a group of dedicated scientists who are researching the heart, and it’s role in emotional and physical wellbeing. Their research has shown that our hearts can help us overcome depression, anxiety, insomnia and many other physical and mental illnesses. And interestingly, we can connect to other human beings by the frequencies sent through our hearts!
- Direct your attention in to your heart centre ( just like if I asked you to direct your attention to your right foot, you would suddenly be more aware of your right foot, even though it had been there all along )
- From here, imagine someone you love or who is dear to you, it could be a pet or a person ( just get a sense of them, you don’t have to actually fully visualize them, as some people are not so visual – it is the INTENTION of imagining the person which is the most important. It might help to close your eyes )
- Allow yourself to notice your sense of connection to that person whilst keeping your attention in your heart centre. Almost like you are observing them from your heart
- Send your loving intention to them, imagine you can radiate your love for them outwards from your heart
- Envelop them in this love, and as you do this, notice if this love has a colour
- Notice what you can be aware of in the other person as they absorb all the love. How do they look?
This tip can help us to produce the feel good hormone Oxytocin, which makes us feel connected and calm and is a great antidote to stress. Oxytocin also opens up our blood capillaries, which reduces blood pressure and inflammation in the body, and in turn boosts the immune system ( ref: David Hamilton PhD’s book ‘Why Kindness is Good For You’ ). Do this daily.
You can also do this with eyes open when you are actually with a person, it can help to strengthen bonds and a mutual sense of connection. It can also help us to accept and be less judgemental if there is something that person does or says which annoys us. In fact, over the festive period, if you anticipate someone will stress you out, you can practice this exercise in advance and it will subtly but powerfully adjust your energetic communication towards them for the better.
Spend 5-10 minutes twice a day practicing this simple meditation to help you still your mind, master your attention and calm your nervous system
- Direct your attention into your heart centre
- As you breathe imagine that each breath is coming directly in to your heart centre, and out of it as you breathe out
- Breathe in fully and slowly
- Breathe out fully with a long, slow out breath
- Stay focused on your breathing, you can even make a count of one, each time you finish an out breath
- If you lose your focus or your mind drifts off into activity again, simply start over again and return your attention to your heart centre and to your breathing
- Your mind will wander, that’s fine and normal, so there’s no need to berate yourself or get frustrated, just keeping gently returning your focus
- It is like a mini ‘training programme’ for your attention – each time it wanders off and you have realized, you just guide it back. A little like puppy training for your mind. Gentle guidance
Become aware of your self-talk. By being more aware and waking up to our inner dialogue, we can become conscious OF what we used to be unconscious TO! We may discover we talk to ourselves in a way we would be ashamed of talking to someone else!!
“What we are aware of we can control. What we are not yet aware of can control us” – Anthony De Mello
- Take on the role of your own mentor or coach, someone who loves and unconditionally supports you. Maybe a little like how you would be with a younger brother or sister
- Catch yourself talking or commenting in an unsupportive way and STOP
- Direct your attention to your heart centre, practice a little slow breathing into your heart centre
- Allow the coach / mentor / supporter to speak. Be gentle, encouraging and kind
Resolving stress and choosing a calm response is simply about breaking some old patterns, and collapsing down the old neurological pathways which used to run that stress pattern for you unconsciously. With a little intention and commitment this is surprisingly easy, and with regularity and awareness it acts like a re-wiring of the brain, with the new wiring being more supportive and calming.
Be kind to yourself every day as often as you can, when you realize you were about to criticize yourself, compare yourself unfavourably or beat yourself up.
In the same way as we can re-wire old neurological pathways of negative self talk, we can actually learn to have fingertip control of our emotional state. A bit like having a magic remote control, we can change channel and choose which emotional programme we want.
- Immerse yourself in an emotional state from the past, from a memory – let’s say a time when you were calm, or confident or happy. Really take in the moment through your senses as if it’ s happening right now.
- Notice what you can see, hear and feel
- Set an anchor point on your body, maybe squeezing finger and thumb together, or touching your thumb inside the palm of your hand
- Use this anchor point when you are in the calmest, or most powerful parts of the memory, in the sensations in your body – you will know when that is. Don’t try to figure out how to do it right, just allow your imagination to do what it is designed to do
- Your brain will make neural connections, it will learn this state of calm or confidence, it does not differentiate between a real event or an imagined one. Neurons in the brain will fire together, and will then wire together ( re-wire ) regardless of whether this event really happened or not. Clever eh?
- Practice, practice, practice – getting in to these useful imagined states. Practice squeezing your fingers or palm in the same place as you immerse yourself. Within a short space of time, just like Pavlov’s famous dogs who were ‘conditioned’ to salivate at the sound of a bell. You can recreate your useful state just from the squeezing, it sets off a neurological short-cut, just like a button on the remote. Fingertip control!
This will allow you to sail through Christmas, to navigate through New Year with ease. You can choose your emotional state, and any time you need a little boost, a little more calm or confidence, you just get out your remote control, squeeze the buttons and you can simply flood your neurology, and your physiology with more of what you want.
Remember, Christmas is really just your life under the microscope – relationships – deadlines – expectations – money – organization – lifestyle – self talk……
If you adopt my CALM approach for LIFE, not for just for Christmas, who knows what Christmases of the future may hold….?
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