Self-care for Sensitive Souls
Reconnect with your inner resources
Many of us approach Christmas with a mixture of pleasure and apprehension. It can seem to us that we can barely enjoy it because it feels so loaded with demands and the weight of expectation.
We’re meant to be having a great time, yet everything that habitually stresses us out gets magnified, and there seems to be lots more if it, all focused into this short period of time.
So how can we cope with the strain and make the most of the positive experiences?
The good news is that what works at this time of year is the same as the rest of the year, except that we may need to be more conscious and deliberate about it …
What works, in a nutshell, is to take a deep breath and reconnect with our centre. Our centre is our place of power, and our place of peace. From there we can look at what’s going on for us, as a kindly, conscious observer.
We can’t always change a stressful situation, but we can relate to it differently. No matter how mad it gets, there’s always room for meeting our experiences with a calm and compassionate awareness.
I love this advice from Martha Beck:
‘During the next few weeks, observe yourself compassionately, like a professional chess player watching a three-year-old learn the moves. Notice when you become stressed, manic, demanding, anxious, or seized by any of the other emotions that fly around with such vigour during the holiday season. The moment you take the observer’s stance, you will already feel the beginning of peace.’
Taking the observer’s stance just means reconnecting with the calm place within, that sees the world in a very different way from the way our stressed-out mind experiences it.
Practise calm beforehand
In order to call on this quiet centre when we need it, it needs to be a familiar place, which means we have to practise going there.
There’s a Zen saying that goes:
You should sit in meditation for an hour every day unless you’re too busy. In that case meditate for two hours.
The same principle applies to finding our peace at Christmas: we need to take more down-time and inner time than we would normally, rather than less. Try aiming for at least three small breaks of 5 to 20 minutes a day where you can be alone, quiet, and centred.
So here’s what you need to be unruffled this Christmas. No top-ten-tips. Just this:
Wake up your compassionate observer
Sit or lie comfortably, somewhere where you won't be disturbed. Follow your breath for a few moments. Bring your attention to your heart area, maybe put your hand there, feeling its warmth, to remind yourself to bring compassion to your experience. Imagine dropping into your peaceful centre, as you breathe. Trust that your breath will take you there.
Enjoy the experience ...
From here, if you have more time, you can practise being a compassionate observer.
Most Christmas stresses are predictable. You’ve been through them loads of times. So you can use this to your advantage.
As you continue to breathe quietly and peacefully, start to visualise a typical Christmas situation or predicament for you.
See it vividly in your mind's eye, and from your place of calm and compassionate witnessing, watch the scene play out. Maybe you’re picturing a crowded supermarket with long queues, a dash around town with a daunting list of presents to buy, a controversial topic (oh no ... ) at the dinner table, or anything else that makes you feel tense just thinking about it.
As you visualise, breathe deeply and let the scene unfold while you remain centred. Remember you’re just observing, with a kindly curiosity, without getting involved.
Stay with this until you feel less sensitised and stressed by what you see in your mind's eye.
Make this a gift to yourself
How we respond to stress matters. It profoundly affects our own body and heart, and the people in our lives. Just a few minutes a day dedicated to what is after all a worthy cause, brings a dividend of peacefulness that only grows with time.
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