Muriel Cooper
Psychologist in Mornington

Stress, anxiety and depression

 

xmas reindeerHappy 'Mindful Christmas'!

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, everything seems to be busier and noisier at this time of the year and stress levels can rise as a result.

So I'd like to wish you a mindful Christmas and New Year and this article – 'A Mindful Christmas' - has some hints on how to make your way into 2014 in a less stressful way.

If you do celebrate Christmas - I'd like to wish you a very merry one and a Happy New Year in 2014.

A Mindful Christmas

In my last e-letter, I talked about what mindfulness is and you can visit (re-visit) that here.

My definition is: 'Mindfulness is engaging our "observational self" for the purposes of meditation, self-development and to help with managing uncomfortable thoughts, emotions and sensations”.

The 'observational self' is our ability to be self-aware and watch our thoughts and feelings from a mindful perspective, rather than being so caught up in, and reactive to them.

Sometimes the Holiday season – although it can be joyful and glad – also involves the need to manage uncomfortable thoughts, emotions and sensations as we negotiate long-standing family feuds, misunderstandings and too much food and alcohol.

Back in 1994 I read a small book by Charlotte Davis Kasl called '101 Ways to Joy' and in her 15th 'Way to Joy' she suggests 'Observe your dance: Hmm, that's interesting'.

Charlotte says in her book:

'By watching yourself and saying 'Hmm, that's interesting, you raise your awareness to a reflective stance. Instead of feeling shame you experience fascination as you watch your life unfold'.

This made a big impression on me at the time but I quickly forgot it – only for it to flood back to me while doing some mindfulness training with Dr Craig Hassad from Monash University. In his technique he used this particular phrase and I remembered how very powerful it is in gaining perspective on thoughts and emotions.

This form of mindfulness suggests being present, not judging, not interacting or reacting to our own thoughts and emotions or in fact, to anything at all – but merely noticing that it exists, or is happening for a fraction of a second, and letting it go. Craig also suggested that we use the powerful phrase 'That's interesting', before letting go of the thought or emotion. There was that phrase again!

So how is this going to help with the stress of the festive season?

Rather than react, or get stressed about events or people, or our own thoughts and emotions – from a mindful perspective we can observe our thoughts and emotions just as 'interesting' and let them go. Not react or get caught up in them:

  • 'That's interesting – I'm starting to get stressed'
  • 'That's interesting – I'm starting to react'
  • 'That's interesting – I'm starting to get angry'
  • 'That's interesting – I feel sad'

Being aware of them and letting them go – or a least trying to get some distance from them can be very helpful in getting through what can be a tense or distressing time.

For other tips on coping with Christmas you can also visit my article How to cope with Christmas and the family.

So be merry, bright and happy during the Holidays, take care - and I hope 2014 is a fantastic year for you.

Muriel

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