This time of year can feel full on and hectic. There seems to be a never-ending list of demands to try and meet the needs of other people. It can feel too much.
And that’s not to mention the shopping, planning, cooking, entertaining, wrapping, cards, family and potential worries about money.
The festive season is also a time of year when you may connect to painful losses and heartache. It’s not that unusual to experience emotions such as sadness, melancholy and emptiness. You might even notice feelings of depression and as if you’re swimming against the tide of celebration, fun and excess.
That can feel exhausting.
The Love Hormone
At times like this, your emotions can feel like they take over.
And in a way, they do. That’s because if you’re upset and stressed your brain goes into ‘fight-or-flight’ mode. This response is an entirely natural response. But when this happens there is likely to be a lot of cortisol (the stress hormone) gushing through your body, and then you feel irrational, overwhelmed and desperate.
At Christmas, this is when you might indulge in delicious chocolates, mulled wine, alcoholic cocktails, cake or mince pies. But there is another way to self-soothe and lift your mood. What is it? Oxytocin.
Oxytocin is the ‘feel good’ or ‘love’ hormone. Your body naturally produces it in moments connection and intimacy, like when you have good sex. This wonderful hormone helps lower your cortisol levels, reduce your stress levels and evokes a sense of happiness and contentment.
When you’re experiencing a high level of emotional overload, forget the salted caramels and get the body to release oxytocin.
How To Stay Relaxed At Christmas Time
I don’t have a magic wand. Broken hearts and painful memories don’t heal quickly. But taking care of yourself over Christmas can make the holiday’s less stressful and more enjoyable.
As oxytocin increases in response to touch and stimulation, hugs and kisses, cuddles, petting animals, laughter and kind words all boost its levels in the body. So you might want to cuddle up with a loved one on the sofa and indulge in a glass of champagne and an after-dinner chocolate.
But equally important is meditation. Meditation is a great way to get oxytocin flowing through the body and stay relaxed while taking 10 minutes out for yourself.
Here’s what to do:
1. Sit down in a quiet place. If it feels safe to do so, close your eyes. Put one hand on your body, e.g. on your chest over your heart, on your solar plexus or your stomach. Just make sure you’re comfortable.
2. Notice how your body is supported by the chair you are sitting in and take slow deep breaths. Imagine your breath travelling down into your hips, into your legs and the soles of your feet and the earth. See if you can connect to the earth grounding you.
3. Now conjure up in your mind an image of something that represents a sacred space for you or someone who feels safe. This image could be a childhood home, your current home, a place in nature, a person or a pet. Just notice what image emerges and try not to censor it.
4. As you connect to the image, continue to breathe deeply and see what comes to mind. Explore the image and notice any sensations you feel.
5. Do this for at least 10 minutes, or as long you feel is necessary to notice and take in the more relaxed state.
Breathing deeply and connecting to something sacred or a safe person will help trigger the release of oxytocin in your brain and this will have a calming effect. It’s an excellent way to soothe yourself.
Give it a try! Perhaps it could become part of your daily New Year routine.
Over to You
What’s your relationship with stress? How do you relax and take care of your needs at this time of year? If you want to explore your relationship with stress and how you can incorporate relaxation techniques into your life get in touch and book your first counselling appointment.
Or call me today on 07535 864836.
Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.
P.S. PASS IT ON
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© Sandra Harewood
Soul Centred couples counsellor Sandra Harewood specialises in working with couples and single women with childhood wounding that impacts their adult relationships. Sandra provides a soulful space for her clients to explore and discover creative solutions to their difficulties and create great relationships.