Director of the Counselling & Hypnotherapy Institute in Australia ALEX CATERJIAN writes about ways you can get through the festive season by taking a very different approach
Christmas is one of the most stressful periods of the year.
All too often people feel under pressure to spend, spend, spend at Christmas. From late July we are bombarded with ads about all the things we should buy for that one magic day in December. The popular image at Christmas is a table covered with food and drink and a pile of presents around a makeshift tree – quite an expensive endeavour. It can be especially hard for parents, who can believe they are failing if they can’t afford the latest fashion, toys or computer games. If we do give in to the pressure and the feelings of guilt that surround Christmas, and spend more than we can afford, the reckoning is always around the corner in January. The bills will come in, and will have to be paid. Running up debt is bound to lead to anxiety, stress and even depression.
Far from missing family members, for some people Christmas can be a time of family hell. Being cooped up with relatives with whom you have little in common, being forced to play games, or make jolly conversation with people you don’t altogether like, can be an experience to be dreaded.
Sometimes, just to cope with the Christmas stress, some people drink too much – perhaps ‘to celebrate’, or perhaps to help themselves feel more cheerful in a seemingly dreadful situation of poor family dynamics where alcohol can be seen by some as a form of ‘self-medication’. But as most people become drunk they can become maudlin, and then quarrelsome. It isn’t long before old rifts and resentments boil to the surface. From time to time the festivity turns into a fight, leaving injured bodies and, more importantly, injured feelings.
How can hypnosis help you manage the festive season?
Research has shown that hypnosis, as part of therapy, is a powerful therapeutic tool. The reason it works so well is because it bypasses the critical factor (the conscious mind), and communicating information directly into the subconscious to settle within the unconscious mind. Now, when it comes to dealing with problems, this is important as it doesn’t allow your consciousness to interfere (ie doubt or negatively question) the information being given to you. As part of therapy, the information is what has already been discussed in the counselling part of the session before you’re put into hypnosis. It is also powerful due to you only needing a handful of sessions, rather than engaging in a prolonged therapeutic plan.
The festive season can bring up a great deal of resistance and fear in most of us, and this can interfere with your ability to be happy and engaging during what is supposed to be a time of cheer and joy.
Hypnosis can help you deal with the anxieties and depressions of the Christmas / New Year period in the following ways:
Dealing with stress with strategies that may include:
o Manage your emotional reactions. It’s no point getting upset about the small things that are done and said during these family gatherings. It will only ruin your day, if not as well as cause more longer termed relationship strains. So learning how to calm yourself down and put the thoughts aside for the day will go along way in helping you find a more positive side to the festive period.
o Learn to relax: This includes both your body & and your mind. If you are mentally preoccupied with the potential problems that may happen, or obsessed over maintaining the peace, then not only are you going to physically tense up, get headaches, and / or forget things, but you’re also likely to be say things that may be more negative. This is called the ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ – where you self-sabotage to prove how right you really are. In a family environment, this too can give way to ruining relationships for the year ahead. Wouldn’t it be better to enter the new year feeling good as you relax your mind quickly and completely as you remind yourself about how positive the year ahead will be, rather than the gripes of the ‘he said this’ or ‘she did that’ during Christmas lunch?
o Avoid known triggers. If someone brings up a topic which you know sets you off, use a distraction strategy to quickly move onto something else to talk about. If not, use other strategies to make sure you aren’t stuck in the cycle of engagement, no matter how tempting it may be to set him or her straight!
o Don’t expect miracles. If certain family members bicker all year long, you can be sure that there’ll be tension at Christmas lunch. Don’t expect a ‘ceasefire’ on the bickering; the snide remarks will pop up throughout the day. It will be better for you to hold realistic expectations of what will happen during your family gathering, and be prepared to deal with your expectations, rather than try to fix any problems, or hope for any miracle back downs.
Dealing with depression by embracing Christmas – apart from using the techniques above:
o If you convince yourself that Christmas is terrible, you will feel anxious and depressed as it approaches each year. Do something that you would not normally do to get into the spirit of Christmas.
o If you feel alone this Christmas, send out Christmas cards to friends and co-workers. If they reciprocate, hang your Christmas cards proudly. Whenever you feel alone, look at your Christmas cards. Those small tokens should serve as a reminder that someone cared enough to remember you this Christmas.
Financial pressures due to overspending:
o A helpful preventative strategy is to reduce ‘Christmas stress’ one must be remember one thing, and that is: Save a percentage of your disposable income throughout the year to provide a nest egg for Christmas expenses. Make a list of all the gifts that one wish to buy and shop early.
o No-one says that you have to buy expensive gifts for Christmas. It truly is the thought that counts. Do not over burden yourself financially by feeling obligated to spend beyond what you can realistically afford. The credit card bills will come in all at once, and you will suffer for it as you struggle meet this period of over commitment. It’s best to be thoughtful, perhaps be creative and make a gift, than to indulge in guilt for reciprocity. Remember: everyone’s budgets are different, if others can afford it, it doesn’t mean that you have to try to afford it.
As always, it is very important to manage the underlying reasons for you becoming anxious or depressed in general, let alone during the Christmas period. Counselling helps to bring this out, and hypnosis helps to reinforce change. Without this, it’s impossible to get through any period unscathed.
At the Counselling & Hypnosis Institute of Australia, we look at teaching our graduates how to be effective clinicians. What this means is that we skill our students not only how to ‘do’ hypnosis, but also how to help people solve their problems. While other schools look to band-aid the problems, we provide our students with the theoretical knowledge and equip them with solid practical skills to get deeper into the problems present in order to help their future clients resolve their difficulties on a longer termed basis.