Christmas! The time of joy and festivity, peace and goodwill to all men. Of seeing the wonder in children’s eyes, decorating trees, giving and receiving gifts. Christmas and the seasonal festivities can be wonderful – for those with young children excited by the magic of visits from Santa, nativity plays and trips to the ice rink. For others – carol concerts, frosty winter walks and Christmas lights. It can be a time of happy family reunions, appreciation of good food and wine, and time to toast your toes, and indeed marshmallows, in front of the fire and enjoy some time off work.
But for some of us the thought of all that preparation – Christmas shopping, food shopping, making the house ready for guests (who you may only see once a year) and keeping it tidy in spite of excited children running around, can create other feelings – of being overwhelmed by the amount of work involved, as well as the cost, the endless planning lists and wondering how many hours you will be spending in the kitchen, and if the results will live up to expectations.
I’m sure you get the picture…. and have you noticed where that picture is? How big is it? What are the colours like? Close your eyes for a moment and take a look.
If it’s close to your face, right in front of you and in stark colours that you find disagreeable shrink it down to a size you’re more comfortable with, mute or change the colours and move the whole picture away from you until it’s in a position that allows you a sense space.
If there are specific tasks that you can see in the picture, take each task in turn and put it in a different position – may be at arm’s length and off to one side but within reach so you can take hold of it and action it when you’re ready to. When you’ve finished placing each task where you want it notice how the feelings you now have about the time of preparation ahead have changed.
For some of us it’s a voice gabbling away in one ear or the other, listing off a string of things that need to be done…. Slow it down, imagine it’s a radio or TV set and turn the volume down – or off! Now become aware of how your feelings about the tasks ahead have changed.
You may well feel calmer and find that it all feels more manageable. Breathe in and out deeply and enjoy this new feeling.
Of course there are also some common sense tips for reducing the stresses of the festive season:
- Plan ahead, and get ahead of the game. Shop online and write the Christmas cards early so you have more space later.
- Know when to stop. If you have forgotten some minor detail, it really doesn’t matter. Aim to enjoy Christmas Eve with no remaining urgent preparations.
- Resolve to keep calm; take some time out on busy days to go for a 20 minute walk or do some breathing and meditation. Just breathing in for ten seconds, holding for ten, and breathing out for ten a few times relaxes both mind and body.
- Turkey is a good choice for the mind as well as a festive favourite as it contains tryptophan, which boosts our serotonin levels which helps promote feelings of well-being and happiness.
- Pace the alcohol and avoid too much caffeine.
- Have an escape plan – a phone call to make or a neighbour to pop in on – just ten minutes out of the hustle and bustle will clear the mind.
Having put all that into practice if you’re still feeling overwhelmed and anxious by any aspect of the festivities, NLP and hypnotherapy can help, and usually very quickly. For an informal chat, do give me a call on 0117 907 7722 or send an email to email@example.com. I’d be delighted to talk it through and help you to really enjoy this time of festivities and peace on earth.
Spring forward, fall back. The way most of us remember which way the clocks go when they change from British Summer Time to GMT and back again. The very concept of time ‘falling back’ can feel negative, and for many the idea of several months of gloomy afternoons and short days can be depressing, and only marginally improved by slightly lighter mornings.
Why the clock change?
Contrary to popular belief, the clock change wasn’t about giving farmers more light on winter mornings – rather, British Summer Time was first established by the Summer Time Act in 1916, after a campaign by a builder called William Willett. He was reportedly irritated with the “waste” of daylight in the early mornings of summer, and when the Act became law it enabled making better use of lighter evenings – hence the term ‘daylight saving’. In the UK, British Summer Time (BST) ends at 2am on the last Sunday of October, and heralds a period many people tolerate at best.
Seize new opportunities
But it need not be all doom and gloom. Just as in our previous article on the end of the summer, in NLP terms, it’s all about how we position things to ourselves, and when we view the season in a positive way, we are far more likely to enjoy it and make the most of it. Here are my top five strategies for seeing your way through the winter months:
- Look forward to the winter milestones – be it the fun of Halloween, fireworks in November, the message of Christmas with all the lights and decorations that accompany it, and then only a couple of weeks later the days get lighter again!
- Set yourself a target – and do some exercise. It can feel a lot harder to get out and about when it’s cold and dark, so join a gym (it will combat the extra Christmas pounds!), or start a new course, and devise a plan to make sure you stick to it. One of my clients has set herself the target of knocking ten minutes off last year’s triathlon time, with a training schedule to see her through the winter before triathlons start up again in spring. Exercise in particular will release endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine, which combine to lift both mood and energy.
- Get out in the sunshine – really make the most of cold, bright, fresh days when you can, and get some sun when it shines. We need vitamin D, which we get from the sun, to help the body absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet. These minerals are important for healthy bones, teeth and muscles.
- Book a holiday – it’s fantastic to have something warm and bright to look forward to!
- Use a UV lamp/light box if affected by Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD). If you experience SAD, you may need some extra UV light to see you through, and some people find a light box which simulates natural sunlight, helpful. Symptoms of SAD include low mood, lethargy and a sense of despair, causing those affected to find it hard to get up and feel motivated in the depth of winter, as well as craving carbohydrates and putting on weight. The causes of SAD are not entirely clear but the theory is that a lack of sunlight affects the efficiency of the hypothalamus, reducing the production of ‘happy hormones’ such as serotonin, while increasing production of melatonin, causing drowsiness . We know from research into the placebo affect that the way we think, powerfully affects our neurophysiology, influencing the production of these hormones. NLP and hypnotherapy can give you the tools to help you to influence your neurophysiology and produce those hormones which boost mood, energy and the immune system.
September is a funny month. The shops have been screaming ‘Back to School’ since before the end of the summer term in July, and meanwhile most of the country has had some time off in August (it’s been your month of Sundays), perhaps with a holiday abroad, and more time to relax. Traffic on the daily commute has generally been a lot less; the chances are your workplace was running on reduced staff and with a reduced sense of urgency, and you have had a chance to enjoy the longer evenings (it may even have been warm enough to sit outside without grabbing your coat).
Suddenly, September kicks in and that’s all thrown out of the window. While many – parents of school-age children in particular – relish the chance for a new start, more routine and the chance to actually get things done, for others it can signal the start of a slow decline into winter, shorter hours of daylight and inclement weather, punctuated only by Christmas on the horizon…
However, you can change those perceptions. How would it feel if despite the evenings drawing in and the weather changing, the next few months looked bright, warm and exciting? In NLP terms, it’s all about how you train your brain to see, hear and feel in such a way that you’re always living the life you love whatever the weather! It’s amazing how, as your brain makes these changes your energy levels improve, you become more confident and even more creative.
Here are three simple first steps to kick start your autumn energy:
- September is the start of the academic year when lots of courses begin – both daytime and evening. Find out what’s going on locally – learn a new skill or take up a new hobby. How would it feel to learn a new language, sing in a choir (there are a great variety in Bristol and a knowledge of music often not required) or explore your inner creativity with some form of art or literature. All known to be great for the brain and memory. Taking up a new sport or hobby now, will become a habit by the time the clocks change, and make it much easier to keep it up as the nights draw in! Doing something with other people is really helpful too both in terms of fun and motivation.
- Go out for a walk in the fresh air, and look forward to being able to throw armfuls of falling leaves in the air once they start to fall. If your walking is limited, even going for a short distance filling your lungs with fresh air, enjoying the autumn smells and colours can be amazingly exhilarating.
- Book a treat for a couple of months’ time – it may be as simple as a special meal out or beauty treatment, or a long weekend away; or simply arranging to spend time with people who are important to you. It’s always good to have a glow on the horizon to look forward to. Here are a few avenues to explore – Local leisure centres, Bristol City Council, University of the 3rd Age (No minimum or maximum age limit), local magazines even your local newsagents window where many local activities are advertised.
Remember to enjoy the now and give yourself a few moments every day to focus on the people and things you appreciate in life. Set some new goals and plan something to look forward to, and notice how an awesome autumn is beginning to unfold in front of you.
If you’re struggling to kick start the process yourself and would like some assistance give me a ring or e-mail (details below) and I’ll be delighted to help you to achieve the life you love!