If you’re feeling busy and stressed right now, that’s because the run-up to Christmas, for many of us, is a busy and stressful time.
It might also be because feeling busy and stressed and doing too much are convenient ways to avoid your true emotions about this tricky time of year.
[If you’d like support at Christmas but haven’t got time to read to the end of this blog, take a look at my ‘Coping with Christmas’ workshop on Wednesday Dec 21st here.]
We’re clever creatures, aren’t we?
We seek and find multiple ways to avoid, escape or numb emotional pain, grief, loss and other unpleasant, uncomfortable feelings.
Many of us learned to do this when we were very young, because there was no opportunity to process our difficult emotions, because they weren’t welcome or because there were no emotionally available adults around to support us.
Maybe we learned to overeat (tick), overwork (another tick), do too much (yep, that was me), drink too much (yep, that too), worry about things obsessively (one more tick) or adopt another dysfunctional coping mechanism or process to self-soothe or bury our painful feelings deep inside.
The problem is that whatever we are seeking to avoid will keep trying to get our attention, perhaps subtly at first, but ultimately in ways that sabotage our health, our work and/or our relationships, in ways that might even bring us to our knees if left unchecked.
So the best thing we can do is spend some time with ourselves, notice ourselves, listen to ourselves and give ourselves the space to feel whatever feelings we are trying to run away from, before they bubble up and over and drive us to bury ourselves under a heap of Quality Street or drown our sorrows in a vat of red wine.
The best thing we can do is slow down, breathe, relax and allow any feelings to surface – because we have to feel our feelings in order to heal them.
And if we stuff our feelings, they stay stuck inside.
Now they say we teach what we need to learn and here I am, writing about the very thing I am struggling with the most.
Because I have a chronic habit of keeping myself busy, of cramming my life with activities, work and compulsive thought processes in order to avoid feeling my feelings.
It’s basically one of the few coping mechanisms or survival strategies I have left following a long recovery journey during which I have healed from a binge eating disorder, stopped drinking to excess and stopped tumbling headfirst into unhealthy relationships – a journey that also saw me walk away from a stressful, busy job as a political journalist in London after a burnout and a breakdown.
Yes, I have ‘put down’ lots of unhealthy behaviours and transformed hugely over the past two decades, but I remain a work in progress when it comes to living and working with balance.
And I am especially prone to getting extra busy when I’m scared to feel what’s going on inside.
Which brings me back to Christmas.
Christmas, for me, stirs a jumble of childhood memories – some hilarious ones like getting drunk with my teenage girlfriends on Christmas Eve in Liverpool and stumbling home arm-in-arm from the faraway pub in the freezing cold; some not so funny ones like feeling lonely and lost and feeling the weight of my late mother’s discomfort and pain.
Christmas is also a time when we notice absences acutely – the family members we have lost (I have no parents or grandparents remaining) and the family members we wish we had, the family we had hoped to create.
I know Christmas is especially tough for those who are single-not-by-choice and childless-not-by-choice. This was my experience once and while I’m so grateful for my adorable husband and gorgeous pooch, it’s hard to avoid the sense that ‘Christmas is for kids’.
So if you are feeling blue, firstly I want to say, simply, that I hear you.
I see you.
You are not alone.
I also want to suggest that you carve out some space and time to hear and see yourself, to comfort yourself, soothe yourself and shower yourself with Christmas companionship and compassion, and that you give yourself the gift of feeling rather than numbing your feelings, knowing that this is how you heal.
If you’d like some support doing this in the company of like-minded women, please join me for a seasonal support session on Zoom on Wednesday Dec 21st at 6 pm GMT. The session is called ‘Coping with Christmas when life hasn’t gone to plan’ and you can read details about it and sign up via this link or the link at the end of this blog.
Of course, given what I’ve written above about how I manage my feelings through over-working, I have questioned why I’m hosting a workshop a few days before Christmas. There is an argument for taking the whole of next week off.
But I felt prompted to create this safe space for you to be real before the holidays, to share what’s truly going on, beneath the sparkle and glitter, and I have tried to schedule it with a nod to balance and self-care. I’ll be having most of Wednesday off before the workshop, lunching and laughing with my wonderful buddies from the Funky Little Beach Choir.
I have also decided not to host the same workshop this weekend. I had planned on doing so but nobody had signed up and I realised it might be better for all of us to be out and about meeting people in real life rather than on screen, or kicking back and relaxing on a lazy Sunday morning.
I hope you can join me on Zoom (or via catch-up) and if I don’t see you there, I wish you a peaceful Christmas and look forward to sharing with you in the New Year.
Coping with Christmas when life hasn’t gone to plan – we’ll meet on Zoom on Wednesday December 21st at 6 pm GMT. There is a small admission fee (£20) because I value my time and yours. Click this link to find out more and to sign up.
Also, if you are looking for a gift to give yourself or a dear friend, my book, How to Fall in Love – A 10-Step Journey to the Heart, will support you to feel your feelings this Christmas, to understand yourself on a deeper level and to take steps towards finding and forming a happy and healthy relationship and leading an even more fulfilling life. You can read the first chapter for free via my website here or go straight to Amazon to get your copy.