Remember when you were young, how exciting and wonderful Christmas was? The anticipation of presents, the stockings, the magical lights on the tree, or the adventure of staying up late to go to midnight mass?
Once you grow up though Christmas becomes all about stress. The media hype of a season of loving and giving, and the saturation of imagery of happy families, combined with the pressure to have a good time, to get the right presents for everyone, turn up to every Christmas party and keep everyone happy, can get totally overwhelming.
In fact, what I hear from the majority of my clients at this time of year, is how much they hate Christmas. But people don’t hate Christmas, they hate the stress of expectation and obligations. I reckon its time to reclaim loving Christmas. Life is mundane enough, we do need to have some special festivities. But thinking of Christmas as the ‘silly season’ doesn’t help with making it special.
A while back I started wondering why a time of year that could or should be serene and spiritual became silly. According to google the term ‘silly season’ emerged in Britain in the 1800s and was subsequently used to describe the northern hemisphere summer journalistic coverage of frivolous news events and activities. In Australia it became applied to a summer Christmas, and stress-releasing activities like overeating and drinking copious amounts of alcohol.
Maybe it’s time to decrease the stress by adding some serenity and spirituality, not only to the season but to our daily life. This will prevent the stress juggernaut from picking up momentum. The only way to do this is internally. You can’t change the media hype or the external pressure and seasonal expectations of family, but you can use internal chi practices to counter stress and create calm.
This reduces the dependence on external factors, on what other people do or say, or on having to rely on food and alcohol to make things feel special. Overindulging in sugar, refined processed foods and excess alcohol to get a celebratory buzz, can easily create the opposite. It leads to chi stagnation, and the environment where that relative picks a fight (anger moves chi stagnation), and another relative reacts.
Festive feasting is important and sweetness is definitely a sensory pleasure of Christmas. Luckily the healthy food revolution has gained such momentum that there is now plenty of festive food that tastes delicious but is also nurturing and satisfying. To help keep chi-flowing start the day with some yoga, tai-chi or meditative breathing and have a wholesome breakfast, and mix in some of these nutritious treats with the traditional ones.
However, prioritising your spiritual health all year round is the best way to change the season from silly to serene. For many people the stress doesn’t end after Christmas. Counsellors and therapists are seeing a major increase in both pre and post-Christmas stress and anxiety. By January, people start to realise that the pressure of meeting expectations to cook spectacular meals and give everyone great presents had a serious impact on their finances.
This is often associated with a lack of satisfaction, or even disappointment after such an intense effort. January also sees an increase in relationship breakdowns. These factors are all interconnected with external expectation and not enough ‘reward’.
Forward plan for the next ‘silly’ season now by starting each day (or as many as possible in 2017) with some yoga, tai-chi, meditative breathing. This slowly delivers a internal sense of reward and of being in control of your life. As this internal treasure builds you’re no longer relying purely on external factors for satisfaction at Christmas, family gatherings or in relationships, so the risk of disappointment reduces.
Finding your well of inner calmness will naturally benefit others too, because you’ll be more accepting of everything and everyone. You will make deeper connections to friends and family. This is the greatest gift you can give anyone in any season.
Opting out is always an option. If mixing with relatives or others at Christmas creates too much stress, just say ‘no’. Not literally, You don’t have to upset your relatives by boycotting events, or sit at home by yourself ignoring Christmas, create other options.
Plan ahead for something that you’ve always wanted to do that nurtures your real self instead. Take yourself, or your family, off on an adventure somewhere. Visit a country where they don’t have Christmas (this is a fantastic experience to get perspective) or go on a trek to commune with nature.
Use January 2017 to launch a new spiritual journey instead of looking back on any disappointments of the 2016 silly season. Prepare the ground to be thinking about Christmas 2017 as the birth of the Christ consciousness, which I see as symbolising the birth of your higher self.