Christmas can be both magical AND an incredibly stressful time of year.
There is a constant pull between the magic in the air from being around kids who believe in Santa and the expectations of others to host, or mingle, or perform certain family obligations. We often feel forced to be around people we would not otherwise be around and any unresolved feelings we have tend to come up. As always, there are a lot of mixed feelings. Pile onto that expectations for gifts and extra food purchases, often contributing to financial strain and you have a recipe for stress.
GOOD NEWS: It is actually much more simple than all of that.
We all actually just want to be SEEN, HEARD and feel like we MATTER. That’s it.
Acting in a way that allows us to feel seen, heard and like we matter is biologically the best gift we can give ourselves (assuming we have safety, food and shelter), AND the other people in our lives. When we do this, our relaxation response switches on (the fancy language is the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), the opposite of the fight or flight response). The relaxation response promotes digestion, increases immunity, promotes wound healing, promotes attachment and presence, reduces pain, depression and anxiety scores and increases our quality of life scores. So HOW do we do this?
How to help YOURSELF feel SEEN, HEARD & like you MATTER
- Pay attention to how you feel – take a moment to reflect on whether what you are doing or how you are thinking about something is making you feel STRONGER or WEAKER
- Give yourself permission– to ACT on what makes you feel stronger, and set BOUNDARIES when something makes you feel weaker. Even if not doing it is not an option, state your needs and ask to problem solve where possible
- For example you can use an I Message: WHEN (insert specific event), I FELT / IT MADE ME (insert emotion), BECAUSE (explain your interpretation of the situation) AND IN THE FUTURE/ NEXT TIME please (insert what you would like done differently next time) or/ AND I WAS HOPING WE COULD TALK ABOUT HOW TO PREVENT THE SAME THING NEXT TIME (click here for the Building Solutions worksheet)
- Here is a real example: “When you aren’t ready in time to go, I get really mad because you know it is important to me to be on time since it seems disrespectful to me and the people we are meeting to be late. In the future I would really appreciate if you made more efforts to be on time, and for us to have a plan for me to still be on time even when you are not.”
- Acknowledge yourself, even when no else does – we often wait to have others acknowledge our successes, our efforts or ask about our difficulties (the elephant in the room). It is natural to WANT our tribe to do this for us, however they are not always able to because of their own “stuff”. So don’t let their stuff stop you. If something is important to you, bring it up! Talk about it, share that you are proud of yourself for something or that you are struggling and could use some help. As much as possible, be specific about what you are hoping to get as support from people. It will increase the odds you will get it.
How to help OTHERS feel SEEN, HEARD & like they MATTER
- Accommodate preferences – this can be through providing alternative food options for people with dietary preferences or restrictions or the timing of a family dinner or meeting arrangements
- Acknowledge the elephant in the room – Ask about the difficult/ big thing you know people have been facing lately. We all know the feeling of an elephant being in the room and no one acknowledging it. Nothing makes us feel more invisible. If someone is getting divorced, was just diagnosed with cancer, has a child with an addiction etc, they are thinking about it anyway, AND they are probably wondering what you are thinking about it, so just ask them. It will settle both of you because you won’t feel like you are tip toeing and they won’t feel like they are invisible or like no one cares or that their presence is making people uncomfortable.
- Don’t assume, ask and include – one of the things with family is that we assume we know them…even when we haven’t seen them in months or maybe even years. People change- ALL the time! We even make those assumptions with our kids. Quite often the stories we have about people get in the way of our being able to SEE them. So be CURIOUS, ask friends, family, kids about themselves, their passions, their hopes and dreams. And be open to getting an different answer than what you might have expected. Include them in conversations.
- Validate – this one is huge! This can make such a BIG difference, even in the midst of a really heated argument or debate. Validating means you acknowledge the FEELING and EXPERIENCE. It does not mean you agree, it just shows understanding.
- For example, in response to the I message above, a validating response is ” I can see why you would feel disrespected given your interpretation. I am sorry. It is not my intent to be disrespectful. I find it difficult to be on time because I am the one left to get the kids ready and then I have no time to prepare myself. Let’s figure out a way we can both get what we want.”
See you next week! And see some of you at the Community Potluck in a few hours!
(Community Potluck details: Dec 12th, 2015; 10.30-12.30 am; at the Inspired Living Medical Clinic; Bring a waffle topping or alternative breakfast food or beverage; All are welcome!)
Also the meditations from the past few weeks are up! Sorry for the delay! :0)