Over the past couple of weeks I’ve written various tips on how you can get through Christmas and I’ve kept the most important until last.
My guess is that you’ve been bombarded by emails on what to do and what not to do, and you’ll have lists and more lists AND this is by far THE most important thing that you can do over Christmas (I know, I would say this, however when you’ve read it I KNOW you’ll agree with me). So my request to you is, if you don’t do anything else, then please do this.
And the one thing to help you at Christmas is:
Be kind to yourself
We all have an inner-critic. Sometimes it can be helpful in motivating you, and at others in can drag you down. How often do you say things like – ‘you should have been more positive’, ‘you shouldn’t have done that’, ‘why didn’t you say yes’, ‘you’re so stupid.’
Why being kind to yourself matters, some theory.
When you’re self-critical you tap into your brain’s threat defence system, the fight – flight – freeze response which releases cortisol and adrenaline. Your mind thinks it’s under siege and it reacts to keep you safe. It makes you stressed, anxious and depressed and therefore not in a good state to achieve anything. This is great if you’re being chased by a lion, but it’s not so good if Aunty Mabel has just admonished you for forgetting to put salt in the vegetables.
When you’re kind to yourself and you react with a gentle touch or a soft voice, this releases positive chemicals which calm you down and make you feel safe, accepted and loved therefore giving you a better chance of responding positively.
Physical gestures remind you of caring emotions; they release oxytocin and lead to positive changes in your bio-chemistry.
The key to self kindness is to talk to yourself in the same way as you would talk to a person you love and respect.
Yes, I know that sounds easy when you say it quickly, and do you do that? If you’re like most people, at least some of the time you talk to yourself in a way that you would NEVER talk to anyone else, especially someone you care about.
How to put this into practice
The first thing to start with is awareness, by noticing when you’re being self-critical, to listen for that negative voice in your head.
And when you hear the voice, bring to mind a close friend, someone you care for. How would you react to them if they were in the same situation? Think about what you would usually do; maybe you’d give them a hug, or maybe you’d say something like ‘don’t worry, it will be okay’ and notice how gentle, calm and compassionate your voice is.
Now treat yourself like that good friend and see what happens.
You may have to try a few different phrases before you get the right words. In the above instance with salt in the vegetables it could be something like ‘That’s her opinion, it’s easy to make mistakes when making a big lunch and I did my best’, or ‘it’s okay, I forgot, but it’s not the end of the world.’
If your natural tendency is to respond with a hug you can do that by crossing your arms and squeezing them tight, or by rubbing your arm. Try different ways and see what works best for you.
Experiment and work out what you really need to hear.
As you practice this, you’ll work out what messages you need to hear at different times.
For example, when I’m struggling to write I might say something like ‘it doesn’t have to be right, the first time, just write’ and at other times it’s something like ‘it’s okay, you made a mistake’.
And if you’re not yet sure what words work for you try these:
‘I will talk to myself the same way I talk to the people I love’
If you can do this some of the time over the next couple of weeks that will be a massive achievement. And if sometimes you notice later that’s also excellent, you will find that you become more aware with time.
If there are other things that have helped you to get through Christmas, please share them below, other women would love to hear them (you can use a different name if you don’t want your real name to be published).