December, the darkest month in the northern hemisphere is a time considered holy by many religious traditions, especially Christians with the celebration of spiritual light through Christ’s birth. In a predominantly secular society however, Christmas has become more of a cultural than religious event and consequently spiritual peace on earth has been hijacked by consumerism to become one of the most stressful times of year as people allow culture to dictate their idea of happiness and status.
We are programmed by media into “celebrating-by-spending-money” earlier each year as chiming church bells are usurped by demented clockwork Santa’s and the din of discoing snowmen against a backdrop of rammed car parks and stressed out shoppers queueing for IPads and turkeys.
Long before trolley-rage, the first Christmas was celebrated in Rome in AD 336 as an alternative option to the excesses of Saturnalia; though little changed as pagan feasting was simply repackaged with a Christian veneer.
Aside from a few interruptions by the Puritans in the 17th century when the boozing and partying went incognito for a couple of years, the celebrations have continued apace, lighting up like a giant snowball pricked with cocktail sticks; pigs in blankets; fake snow and tangled fairy lights, thundering towards us before even the last Halloween pumpkin flickers out.
This is the cycle we expect, and yes, most of us genuinely look forward to, because winter without Christmas lights, themed jumpers, “Strictly”, mince pies and Prosecco would be pretty grim; however, there is something strangely sad and disappointing about the occasion itself. The anti-climax reminds us every year that the lead up to Christmas was more appealing than the actual event.
Like ordering “loaded-skins” for a starter, only to be presented with greasy, grey potato wedges and a bowl of recycled mayonnaise; Christmas rarely lives up to the “loaded expectations” Bing Crosby promised us.
Christmas Day downer
Do you feel it too? As Christmas dinner finishes, a sadness creeps over the house as the sun sets and Boxing Day eve begins; a heaviness descends, not entirely due to the volume of sprouts and stuffing consumed. The mood pendulum has swung from the bright and twinkling optimism of Christmas Eve to a gut-swelling cold-turkey of melancholy and Ferrero-Rocher wrappers.
The high hopes drummed up by media, songs on the radio and those half-remembered childhood memories rarely live up to expectations and before we know it we are anxiously counting the days left before going back to work as we consider how soon to take the tree down or check the balance on the credit card.
Meanwhile, an unrelenting cycle of global news with its tragedy, environmental chaos and political turmoil depresses us further, as Christmas themed adverts rapidly switch to summer holiday mode, and if you can’t afford the sunshine, cheer up, there’s some cheap oak furniture in the sales.
Work or unemployment anxiety?
The stress of work pressures may also take the shine off the season. Perhaps you are finding your job challenging and have little resilience to changes happening out of your control. Some of us fear a new year may bring redundancy and financial uncertainty.
Change the programming with hypno-coaching
So what can you do? As a qualified hypnotherapist and business leadership and management coach for Carol Barwick Learning and Development, I can help you meet life with a new dynamic perspective through effective leadership coaching and hypno-coaching programmes.
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Whether it’s a specific business goal or a personal challenge, working with a coach can bring clarity of thought, better self-awareness and development and a clearer sense of direction; it is a transformational experience and I provide all the tools you need for success.
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Coaching is a way to gain forward momentum towards business and personal objectives in order to realise your full potential. I am passionate about the value it brings to both private individuals and corporate teams building resilience to stress, transforming difficult relationships, and promoting good health and wellbeing in the workplace and at home. See my full range of bespoke coaching and training packages here.
In the meantime, here are my 7 tips to enjoy a happy Christmas rather than being moulded by programmed expectations.
- Turn off the TV and put down your phone. Give yourself a break from the news and barrage of social media / digital feeds and instantly feel your tension decrease.
- Re-programme and refresh. Relax with inspiring music, candles, a hot bath and don’t feel guilty enjoying time out from shopping, partying and forced social occasions. Quite simply, it’s okay to walk away from the hype and enjoy the holiday differently and quietly.
- Booze less. Care for your health and the health of those around you. The acute and chronic effects of alcohol (and drugs) over the holidays can ruin a Christmas for families. Alcohol abuse and the common side effects of aggression and depression are endemic issues during the holiday season.
- Eat sensibly. Being mindful about what and how much you’re eating can help you to enjoy your food more. It can also stop you from overeating, which can benefit your overall health and you don’t need to worry about shedding all those pounds in January.
- Spend responsibly. Don’t follow the herd. If you can’t afford presents, don’t buy them. People will understand. Tell friends and family if you are having a tough time. The gift of friendship does not rely on how much you spend.
- Exercise. Get out into the fresh air, in the local park or further afield. Walking and cycling are easy ways to see more of the world on your doorstep. Be conscious of your surroundings and let your senses enjoy the touch, taste and smell of the season. Winter is a beautiful time of year if you take time to appreciate the beauty around you even in the greyness of a cold day.
- Be neighbourly and check on lonely people. Charles Dickens thought the focus of Christmas should be a family-centred festival of generosity. This Christmas you could open your doors to lonely folk in your local community and see what joy you bring to their (and your own) life.
Please contact me to discuss all the options available to start 2020 with a spring in your step and new goals in focus.