Coping with the festive season using Mindfulness/Presence

posted in: Relationships | 0

Wishing you all a peaceful festive season!

I see many clients for psychotherapy who really struggle at this time of year.


There are some who have no family or friends here and have sadness or loneliness around this. All we can do with any emotion is accept it, just fully acknowledge and make peace with it.If we are not comfortable with being alone and there is the possibility of changing that by facing a little fear and reaching out to someone or to one of Perth’s free events (such as Christmas in the park) then those things are an option. If there is no possibility of changing our aloneness either because we are so anxious it is impossible or because we are actually more comfortable facing aloneness than choosing a situation where there is too many people, then we can aim as much as we can just for acceptance of what is. In the end we are all responsible for our own happiness and not resisting our current situation will help that.

We can aim to slowly work on aloneness over time. To start by loving and accepting ourselves in this moment with whatever social anxieties we may have. Then to truly face that we are responsible for building our relationships and facing our fear in tiny baby steps. Never in a rushed overwhelming kind of way, but by accepting our fears  and slowly working on dealing with them (perhaps at times with the help of a therapist or a social anxiety group).For example reaching out to individuals we may feel  the most comfortable with first, very slowly working on that relationship, then later working on others.

The truth is that it is not being alone over the festive season in itself that is the major issue it is our minds non acceptance of that situation or our minds judgment of ourselves that creates the distress. Spend some time surrounded by something beautiful in nature or in a beautiful church or building. Be as present as you can , be aware of and fully accept any emotion then just become aware of awareness or consciousness itself.In this way the peace of the festive season will not bypass you, rather you can find a peace that is not dependant on any outside circumstances.There is a sense of connectedness and deep acceptance when we are present that is very healing. Really we are learning how to deeply love and accept ourselves.

photo of sun setting over the ocean

Carrying other people too much not looking after ourselves

Another issue clients commonly face is a feeling of overwhelmedness or exhaustion that comes in these busy family oriented times of year. Firstly never resist the opportunity that these busy situations provide for you. Many of us, myself included in past times, don’t look forward to these times because we have fear of being overwhelmed. Actually these occasions provide the perfect opportunity for us to tune in and notice how our body is going. If there is exhaustion or overwhelmedness it is up to us to look after our bodies better. No one else can do it for us, no one will come and rescue us, give up on that concept.

It is our responsibility entirely to be who we need to be. This may well mean having the courage to say no to things. It may mean choosing to look after ourselves first rather than focusing on carrying everyone around us.Those of you who are what I call people carriers and feel you have to look after the emotional needs of everyone around you may feel particularly overwhelmed. There is nothing more draining than feeling like we have to rescue or fix people emotionally. Truly this is not our role. Every adult human being is responsible for their own emotional health.Our pain ,fear or feelings of inadequacy can be wonderful teachers. We just have to be prepared to really face and accept those emotions and to let them guide us as to how we may need to change to heal. If we are always wanting to fix others we are actually taking away their opportunity for growth. Let go of carrying others, really tune into your body and understand what your body needs to have a peaceful festive season. Aim not to act from “should” but rather from what feels comfortable for your tired body. Then you have a chance of learning really what you need to learn.We can be very compassionate with people without trying to carry them.Compassion is different to carrying.It involves much more a deep acceptance of others as they are ( sometimes we may have to set boundaries on outward difficult behavior but we can still be accepting of who someone is at a deep level to see their pain ,fear or inadequacy).As we start to become more present being aware of the same life energy or presence in others is really what love ,acceptance and compassion is about.

Dealing with difficult people

A final issue may be having to deal with difficult people or family members at this time of year. Here is a list of useful suggestions.

    1. Aim not to resist this situation or the fact that you have to deal with this person. Everything in life is an opportunity for growth and these challenges are perfect for that.
    2. Honestly face what you are bringing to this situation first.Are you bringing old patterns like the need to control or the need to carry? Is some of your difficult emotion such as pain, fear, jealousy or inadequacy being taken out on this person. These issues may be present or they may not.If they are just acknowledge and accept them and you will be much less likely to take them out on the other person. If really you feel clear and that this person is taking their stuff out on you,then it maybe necessary to stand up for your truth in some way or set some clear boundaries around hurtful behavior you are being exposed too. Sometimes this is hard to manage because the other person is incapable of hearing anything. In these circumstances just clearly see that the difficult behavior is coming from that other persons unconscious emotion and that truly there is nothing wrong with you. I see many people who blame themselves or think something is wrong with them when another person is treating them badly, this is not the case . Presence is extremely helpful here as it can teach you how not to get caught up in the other person. I will mention this later.
    3. Aim to understand the depth of the other person, see what is underneath their difficult behavior.Usually there will always be some kind of pain, fear or feelings of not being good enough. When we can truly see the depth of another person we can deal with them much more compassionately because we see that they are not trying to hurt us, they are simply out of control caught in unconscious emotion. This doesn’t mean that we can’t set boundaries or choose to spend less time with them, but we will tend to deal with them in a more compassionate way.
    4. Be present. This is the most important on the list. A useful method is to practice the body meditation on my resources page (based on Eckhart Tolle’s feeling the inner body meditation). When you are with someone challenging always keep some awareness on a part of your body maybe the energy in your hands or your breathing. It really helps you to stay more centered with yourself and not get caught up in the other persons fear, criticism ,anger or manipulative tendencies. It also helps you to clearly see that this is their stuff, it really has very little to do with you. As we work on presence and can be aware of it in ourselves we can also be aware of it in others.This is very healing no matter who we are dealing with.Presence does take a little practice.If you have a relative whom you really struggle to be with and your body suffers severely every time you see them because you can’t yet clearly see it is entirely their stuff or remain present enough.Be kind to yourself and limit your exposure as much as you need too or completely if necessary. We always have to heal our bodies first the rest will come in time.

Wishing you all a very peaceful festive season.