7 tips on how to survive Christmas
Separated from family, I had such a lonely time last Christmas that I vowed never to be apart from family again at this time of year. But for some of you, being around family is actually the stressor. Whether you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, angry, anxious, lonely or even suicidal, here are my top 7 tips on how to survive Christmas:
1. Feeling anxious? Put your head down towards the ground
Is the thought of having to peel 100 brussel sprouts is raising your anxiety level to warp factor 9.99? Perhaps the mere thought of those visitors is making your heart beat furiously in your chest and your breathing is fast and shallow. Not ideal…
Changing your posture will have an almost immediate effect on your nervous system state.
Your nervous system will be thinking “Just wait… I thought we were going to be escaping from a herd of obnoxious relatives? How are we going to do that if you’re bent over? Ohhhhhh wait .. I get it now. You don’t want to run away.. You want to slow down.”
It’s really hard to have anxious thoughts when your head is upside down. Give it a whirl.
Let’s pull the handbrake. This pose is a simple forward bend. We call it the Waterfall in Somatic Psychotherapy but it’s called Uttanasana in Yoga.
- Find a quiet space and hang the top half of your body down towards the ground.
- Bend from your hips (not your waist). Bend your knees as much as you need to. This isn’t a competition to see how stretchy you are. This is about resting.
- If you can’t reach the floor with ease, put something under your hands (like books or pillows), so that your hands can rest on something.
- Let your head and neck really hang loose. Let gravity take over and gently traction your spine.
- Breathe in through your nose and sigh out slowly through your mouth. Repeat at least 3 times. More is better.
- When you decide to come up, do so slowly so you don’t get a head rush (blood pressure). Pull your belly button towards your spine, push your feet into the floor and use the big muscles of your legs to push as you slowly unfurl your spine (like a NZ fern).
- Stand upright with your feet planted, knees soft, spine long (crown of your head reaching towards the sky) and simply breathe.
2. Overwhelmed? Lie down & let yourself melt into gravity
Probably not in the middle of the kitchen. You don’t want to p*ss off the cook. Find a nice quiet corner and something soft to lie on – a rug, yoga mat, the lawn.
Again, this posture change is really going to pump the brakes on your fight or flight response. You’re telling your nervous system that you want to relax not fight/flee.
- Find a lying position that really feels comfortable to your body. Knees bent or legs straight. Maybe use the dog as a pillow. (I do not recommend cats.)
- Let your body sink down into the ground. Feel the ground coming up to meet your body. Let gravity hold you.
- (If this feels good to you) place a hand on your body (chest or belly) and observe the gentle rise and fall of your body as you breathe.
- Notice the length of your inhale.
- Then switch to observing the length of your exhale (without criticism or judgement).
- You could even gently sigh out through your mouth as you exhale. As if fogging up a mirror. Soft jaw.
- Gaze up at the ceiling and notice the cobwebs that you STILL haven’t swept away. It’s OK, spiders eat mosquitos. They are our friends. (Just not the big ones).
3. Feeling Angry? Have a dummy spit on your bed
I swear if I get asked one more time “Are you dating anyone?” I’m going to absolutely loose my sh*t and go on an hour-long diatribe about how I have spent the last year narrowly avoiding psychopaths on dating apps. Obviously I’m kidding. They’re not all psychopaths. There’s some absolutely delightful narcissists on there.
However, if you would like to preserve relationships with that particular relative, here are some other suggestions for releasing that inner volcano out of their presence:
- Go to your bedroom and have a dummy spit (toddler tantrum for non-Aussies) on your bed. Flail those arms and legs whilst possibly silently swearing about the aforementioned relative.
- Let that pent up tension out in a soft, cushioned environment where you won’t hurt yourself, scare the dog, or say something you’ll later regret.
- When you’ve finished, lie there for a while to let your heart rate come down and your muscles relax again. Focus on your breathing, particularly a long exhale.
Alternatively, offer to go on an emergency run to the servo for ice/more brussel sprouts. Accidentally-on-purpose take the exit into one of the cross-river tunnels and scream as loud as you can in the tunnels. Bonus: it’s entertaining for the traffic tunnel people working on Christmas Day.
4. Comforting yourself with food? Look to your ‘Lemon Day List’
If that backhanded compliment about your lumpy gravy is causing your bile to rise, rather than power your way through a plate of minced pies, perhaps there other ways to comfort yourself?
A Lemon Day list is a simple list of things you can do to comfort yourself instead of reaching for the ice-cream. There’s even a template for your to make one yourself.
Have your Lemon Day list stuck on your fridge door to potentially stop you instantly reaching for the cheese/minced pies.
But then again, it’s Christmas … maybe a couple of mince pies isn’t too bad. (Just stay away from the clotted cream).
5. Stressed? Earth yourself: get grounded and breathe
Are you running around at a million miles an hour to get everything done? Is your house in a state of upheaval because of visitors?
STOP for a minute.
- Take off your shoes.
- Walk outside and focus on the sensation of the ground beneath your feet. (Even if your lawn is less ‘deliciously springy Sir Walter’, and more ‘Bindi-Cobblers Pegs scrub’ – find somewhere pleasant to stand and focus on the sensations beneath your feet. I particularly like warm concrete in the early evening for example.)
- Now breathe…. If you can, do a big sigh on your out-breath.
- Let all that stuff go for a minute.
- Focus on what you can feel under the soles of your feet.
- It’s just you and the ground. Everything else is irrelevant for a moment.
Focusing on the physical contact with the ground will bring your awareness out of your head and down into your body, using your sensory nerves. It is grounding you. It brings you right into the present moment and makes you feel 100% less stressed.
6. Lonely? Reach out
The last few Christmasses were monumentally sh*t for me thanks to the pandemic and border closures. And I imagine they might have been for a fair few of you too.
Whether you’re single or in a relationship, loneliness can strike hard at this time of year. Reaching out to anyone is good, but reaching out to people that you have a close emotional relationship with is preferable because they understand you/get you/speak your language.
So please reach out to your close friend(s). And if the first person you call doesn’t pick up, leave a message and then call the next person on your friend list. Keep going till you get a real live person. Tell them how you’re feeling and ask if they want to hang out.
Right about here is where your inner depresso may spark up and say “But they’re busy with their family. They won’t want to talk to me”. Don’t listen to that voice. These people are your close friends. They know you. They LIKE you. Do you think they’d want you to be all on your own feeling bad? Call them up. You never know, they could be feeling exactly the same way as you.
If you really don’t want to tell a friend how you’re feeling, call a helpline. They’re not just for people who are feeling suicidal. They’re also there to help people who are struggling. The numbers are listed below.
And if you know that one of your friends is stranded/going to be on their own at Christmas, reach out to them. They might profess to being OK, but the action of you reaching out saying “Hey I care about you and wonder if you’re doing ok?” might make their heart warm just a little bit. And might make their loneliness a little bit less sh*t.
7. Suicidal? Call a helpline (no matter what time of day or night)
This is where I’m going to be a little firm with you. Some part of you wants to live because you’re reading this message. So I need you to reach out and tell someone how you’re feeling.
Tell your friend, a family member, your GP. Call a helpline. The people on the end of the phone at these helplines want to help you. They want to hear your story (no matter how boring you might think it is). They’re trained professionals.
Your life is too important. CALL THEM NOW.
|Beyond Blue||1300 22 4636|
|Lifeline||13 11 14|
|Diverse Voices (LGBTQIA+)|
3pm to midnight daily
|1800 184 527|
|Kids Helpline||1800 55 1800|
|Parent Line||1300 30 1300|
|SANE helpline||1800 187 263|
|Men’s Line||1300 78 99 78|
|DV Connect – womensline 24×7||1800 811 811|
|DV connect – mensline||1800 600 636|
|MARS – men affected by rape and sexual assault||07 3857 1222|
|Sexual Assault helpline 7am-11.30pm||1800 010 120|
|Blue Knot Foundation (for survivors of childhood trauma 9am-5pm||1300 657 380|
Wishing you a restful, low-stress mid-summer break
Ps. You might also like to read How to make a Lemon Day List.