Jingle bells, jingle bells, oh no!
A time of connection with loved-ones, presents, good cheer all round…except when it’s not!
Holiday anxiety around the last minute dash for presents, spending blow-outs, fuel price hikes, family politics, office party regrets, or the festive meal looking like Gordon Ramsey’s trash! Yes indeed! A most wonderful time of the year! For many, the Christmas and New Year holidays can prove to be stressful, anxiety-riddled experiences. Want more cheers than tears?Getting through the holidays
Of course, any survival plan requires strategy. Getting completely plastered until it’s all over is one. However, for every action there is re-action, and consequences may not justify that particular action. Fortunately, there are more options.
Holiday anxiety as choice
A moment’s pause can open up a range of possible reframes. More about these later. But what do we mean by; “holiday anxiety”? What do we mean by anxiety? Anxiety is a label given to a group of experiences. Experiences are the results of doing stuff. We do stuff in response to stimulation. Particular forms of stimulation lie in the meanings we attach to events in life (or even non-events, which might stimulate feelings labeled; “disappointment”).
Just imagine the following scene.
Returning home, I notice a couple of bags of bar-b-que fuel at the door to a friend’s place. This ‘event’ leads me to make meaning. I may engage in a little self-talk, e.g.; “Great! Fun weekend ahead! Awesome! great music, great food, perhaps a chance to meet new people.” I enjoy feelings close to elation. All because I saw a couple of bags of coals!
Alternatively, on noticing the fuel,for I make this ‘mean’; “Oh no! There’s going to be a party and I’m not invited! This is awful. And I thought he was a mate. You can’t rely on anybody .” After this I could run a series of unhelpful ruminations which add to my misery.
Further, on noticing the fuel, I make the meaning; “Someone’s likely having a party soon. Good for them! If invited, I don’t think I’ll go. Other things are more interesting to me like spending quality time with my kids at the beach.” I experience feelings of calm neutrality.
Just three possible meanings (of many) attributed to a neutral event; seeing some coals. These three wise meanings stimulate feeling experiences which can influence how I act. Feelings can facilitate a range of further thoughts, further feelings, which influence additional actions. All because I noticed some coals!
Anxiety is conventionally regarded as an over-estimation of threat, coupled with under-estimation of personal resourcefulness. Put simply, we expect the worst and forget our problem-solving skills.
Just as any outcome involves some precedent, anxiety requires preparation. It is necessary to imagine, even expect, disaster. Sometimes we imagine disaster but hope for success. Sometimes we fear disaster and consider how to avoid it. We avoid, we disappear, we get plastered, we become ambiguously “unwell” and leave it to others to take charge and problem-solve. In order for anxiety function well, certain processes must be operating:
■. Expect the worst. When considering an upcoming holiday, we are considering the future. This means it has not happened yet. Because it has not happened yet, whatever we do is a hallucination! We are hallucinating awfulness when we expect the worst to happen. It may happen, it may not, but expectation can be more supportive of realisation! We could choose alternative hallucinations. Even if these are not realised, present time is not robbed of happiness by fear.
■. Disconnect from personal power to problem-solve. When we expect the worst, we usually see the challenge out of all proportion to our ability to defeat it. We exclude access to our personal power and resourcefulness.
■. Cope by not coping (this just refers to e.g. getting plastered again). We may not “feel” concerned about the problem, but the problem remains.
Enjoy the holidays?
A few simple steps can make a difference to the holiday experience. Consider these:
■. Imagine what a great holiday experience (or set of experiences) would look like? Go for detail in positive speculation about how you would be if you were to have a truly great time. Optimists have more fun!
■. Consider choices you could make in circumstances you regard as obligatory (such as visiting your least preferred relatives).
■. Prepare yourself for the predictable habitual droning reminiscences (e.g. when Uncle Arthur suddenly breaks into tearful remembrance of war time shortages coupled with blissful happiness). You could practice expanding your field of vision to see how much you can see in your periphery. Practice expanding your field of vision as much as possible. Curiously, the structure of our eyes assists with processing time!
■. Notice where you focus your attention. When acting in ways that produce the results we label; “anxiety” our attention has to have a very particular focus. Without such focus it is impossible to produce anxiety.
People diagnosed with anxiety disorders usually have; negative future expectations (where “future” can be a very brief timespan, such as; imminent), poor skills, feeling of relative powerlessness to cope well and problem-solve. There are many more elements to what may be described as an “anxiety strategy”. Just as success in any endeavour (excluding lotteries) requires adequate planning, anxiety requires planning, a correct sequence of actions. Equally, having a wonderful holiday where you not only tolerate your own version of Uncle Arthur, but enjoy the total experience, also requires adequate planning. As the festive fever builds in the days ahead you could cultivate:
■. Positive future expectations. People who are optimistic, who expect nice things to happen, cannot possibly be doing Yuletide anxiety. It simply can’t be done!
■. Connection to personal power. Build the trust that you will have the resourcefulness to respond effectively to holiday surprises of an unpleasant kind. Remember you have been through many experiences and challenges before now and are still standing. Your capacity to problem-solve is in tact.
■. Good compartmentalisation skills. Sometimes things go wrong. Even in the face of positive expectation. Just because one thing went awry, it does not mean the whole holiday is ruined. One dry turkey does not a stuffed Christmas make!
■. Well-formed excuses. This simply refers to having some leeway in reserve for points in the holiday where you’ve been allocated some responsibility that is just not on. For example, your dearest love may have included you in their response to an invitation to hell. Hell in this instance might, e.g. be a weekend with your least preferred in-law. Engaging your loved one in conspiracy is a useful option. They can explain your regrettable absence while you enjoy your time in your own way. We can spare some people’s discomfort with well-formed excuses.
Overall, holiday anxiety, is regarded here as a result of a process or series of processes. “Anxiety” is a name given to results of activities. If we change our activities, our processes, we change our outcomes to something worthy of a different name perhaps? Like, say; a merry Christmas!
The more general arena of anxiety as process is considered in my book: ‘No Worries: Defeat anxiety in 7 short days’ You may explore here: http://bondihypnotherapyclinic.com.au/new-resources/ Alternatively you can look it over on Kindle or Smashwords Premium:
Amazon Kindle: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B01N751D7S https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B01N63R626 Smashwords Premium: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/681868 https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/681880