Welcome to the silly season!
If you’re anything like us, this time of year can leave you feeling just a tad unhinged – there’s so much on your to-do list before Santa comes barrelling down the chimney and you take a well-earned break.
So, we thought we’d wrap up the year with a timely look at how to hold it together despite the added stress.
Even if ‘disaster’ has struck and your best laid plans go awry… even if your endless end-of-year ‘must do’ list isn’t going to happen… even if the kids have gone completely feral, your turkey burns or there are no more prawns to be had anywhere – stop, take a breath right now, read these tips and know… you’re going to be just fine.
Remember: Emotional reactions may vary.
Emotional wellbeing is the extent to which we feel (and others experience us as) ‘well adjusted’ and ‘balanced.’
Rationally dominant people naturally tend to be “in their head.” At this time of year, you might risk being seen by others as a bah-humbug. You struggle to enter wholeheartedly into the festive spirit. You’re the one at the work party cringing at the shallowness of it all, resisting the saccharine nostalgia of holly, carols and Secret Santa and bemoaning the general pointlessness of Christmas.
But if you’re more emotionally dominant, you’ll be much more reactionary and “in your heart.” Stress can make you even more impulsive and likely to make decisions that aren’t in your best interests. And that means this time of year may see you hit stratospheric levels on the emotional Richter scale – impulse buying, reacting to relatively small mishaps disproportionately, dissolving into tears, wistfully reminiscing, getting sentimental about years gone by or just having more heated arguments and maybe a touch too much to drink!
What to do about it.
If you want to stay in a good place these holidays, your goal is to maintain a balance between emotionality and rationality. The best rule of thumb for emotionally and rationally dominant people alike is to be as over-controlled as necessary and as under-controlled as possible.
Tips for the rationally dominant:
Turn off the judgement and open your mind and heart over the break. Try something new that challenges your beliefs.
- Smile, laugh, tell your family how much you love them and show your colleagues how much you appreciate them.
- Find your inner child, do something joyous and fun, be a bit goofy, get silly.
- Throw caution to the wind, let your hair down, fly by the seat of your pants, throw your schedule out the window and be spontaneous.
- Look for the positives, talk about them, show enthusiasm.
- Take some time out to connect with your feelings and those of the people around you.
Tips for the emotionally dominant:
If you go through the festive season in overdrive, you’ll end up creating a heap of unpleasant experiences for yourself, including feeling emotionally ‘all over the shop,’ wound up, tense, anxious, unable to switch off, tending towards poor decision making, impaired memory and low mood.
Here’s our crash course on how to use your central nervous system to combat stress:
- Remember your old friend – the ‘Flight or Fight’ response?
- Your Sympathetic state gets its name because your body sympathises with your brain telling you to get upset about what it assumes is a risk to your survival. But it’s a bit of a misnomer really – there’s nothing that feels kind or compassionate about this baby!
- That’s why every little bump in the festive road that comes your way runs the risk of activating your Sympathetic state, i.e. automatically releasing a huge surge of adrenalin guaranteed to raise your heart rate, make you sweat and stress you out.
- So, here’s what you need to do – activate your Parasympathetic state (your lesser talked about but extremely useful, energy conserving, rest, repair and recuperation response). Think of it as your brain’s CEO.
- This reinstates your ability to respond in a balanced manner proportionate to the size of the bump in the road. No brussels? It’s not life or death. In fact, some people will thank you. ?
- You are not your thoughts. And you’re not your feelings either. Rather, thoughts trigger feelings and feelings trigger thoughts. Both are impermanent and that means your stress can be impermanent, too.
- When you can separate out a stress-inducing event from your emotional reactions and thoughts about that event, your stress state immediately lowers. The flow of neurotoxins to your brain is curtailed. Perspective is regained.
4 of the best stress-busting activities.
- Focus on the breath – practice breathing consciously for a few minutes a day, every day (download Breathe2Relax). Breathing is the bridge between your body and mind. Belly breathing is the name of the game.
- Use the S.T.O.P acronym to get you back on track:
- Stop (being on autopilot/reacting out of habit)
- Take a breath
- Open your mind, observe what is happening
- Relax your body by taking a big exhalation, forcing some yawns, fiddling with your lips, consciously relaxing your tongue. Then try to check in with your body (i.e. do a mental body scan). Notice any tension shifts in your body.
- If these don’t work – take any icy cold shower, jump into a cold pool or go for a swim in the ocean. There’s science behind this, but we’ll save that for another time.
Crisis over – you can now get back to enjoying your Christmas break.
Whatever your plans, we want to wish you a fabulous break – fun, thrills and adventure with people you love, making great memories and having some luxurious idle downtime without overdoing the (alcoholic) festive spirit.