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Christmas Presence

The traditions of this annual holiday will likely be challenged by this unprecedented year. While the giving of gifts is easy enough to arrange with the vast array of online businesses available, being present with the ones we love may not be. Restrictions may be lifted where you are but, for some, they will not, and we mustn't forget there will always be those for whom the risks remain too high.

So, what can be done to alleviate the situation? There's no doubting that 2020 has been a tough year for everyone. As someone who suffers with depression, I'm relieved that I've managed to avoid sinking into a black pit, but I've needed to use everything I've learned during my years of training. I won't suggest I've been happy and bouncy, but I've coped. And I've done that primarily with a mix of mindset and re-framing. Let me elaborate further.

The dictionary defines mindset as "a person's way of thinking". For example, when I say "what can I do?" it can have many different meanings. If my mindset is one of depression and despondency - it's more of a desperate plea. But if my mindset is a more positive one - then the question is being asked in a spirit of can-do and helpful exploration.

If making a mindset switch is proving difficult, start by taking a moment of quiet to breathe deeply. Focus simply on the in and out flow of your breath. It may help if you count each breath, or place your hand to feel the in and out of your stomach, the up and down of your chest, even the air going in and out at the base of your nose. After a few minutes or when your body feels relaxed, think back to a time when you felt resourceful & resilient, confident & content - whatever combination of emotions seems most useful to you right now. Sit with that memory and try to immerse yourself in it. What details can you recall about it? Where were you, who was there, what was going on? How did you feel physically - the set of your head or your shoulders, your energy levels? What else can you remember about the incident - was there a aroma or a sound you could harness? Breathe that memory in deeply. And there you have it, your mindset switch. Now go ahead and use it.

In time, and with practice, you'll find making a mindset switch easier to do. It'll be possible to simply acknowledge that a different way of thinking would be helpful, and to adopt it.

Re-framing could sound like putting lipstick on a pig, but if you bring that new mindset to this process, you can find out there's a lot more to it. Re-framing could be described as looking at things in another way, but what's key is that you change and challenge the beliefs and the emotion with how you're doing the looking. If you look at something when you're sad or you've just received a rejection, it is likely to appear harder, less achievable, than if you look at it when you're happy and have just received recognition or congratulation. A rejection can cause feelings of overwhelm and beliefs such as doubting yourself and your abilities, whereas recognition or congratulation can cause feelings of uplift, alongside beliefs such as confidence in yourself and your abilities.

With that in mind, how might you re-frame your experience of Christmas this year?

For that warm feeling you get when paying it forward - could the absence of the family clan gathering enable you to put more into the food bank box as you do your regular supermarket shop? Could you decide to do away with the orgy of present giving and keep it simply for any children or those living alone? Perhaps you could focus on what people need rather than adding more things to their already over-full homes? With the money you've saved by celebrating Christmas in a low key way, could you donate to homeless charities?

Of course it doesn't have to all be about self-sacrifice - you could treat yourself with your favourite meals rather than having the traditional big family gathering fare. You could have a nicer bottle of wine when it's just you or a few. If sitting around for extended family gatherings drives your active self mad, a pared back gathering gives you space to indulge yourself with those long walks, but if peace and quiet is your preference, your indulgence may be to simply sit and listen to Carols from Kings - even if it's a recording from a previous year, lighting your favourite scented candles without worrying the grandkids could burn themselves, staying in your pyjamas all day without guilt, or reading your new book without interruption.

Hopefully anyone living alone in your circle has been invited to bubble so they can join in - but only if that's what they want to do. Video calling has become so much the norm that even my technophobe mother now video calls me via messenger rather than picking up the phone, even for the briefest of calls. When making a list of calls to make over the festive period, remember to think of including those who've lost a loved one during the year. Your Christmas may need to be quieter this year, that doesn't mean it can't be filled with love and kindness.

Whatever form your end of year takes, I wish you a safe & peaceful break, with a hopeful outlook for the year ahead.

© 2020 Caring Coaching