You have received yet another invitation to a Christmas party: on the one hand, it’s good to be popular, but on the other, there aren’t enough hours in the day to go to each event you are invited to. What to do? Do you feel under pressure to attend all the social occasions you are invited to? What is the main emotion that you feel each time to receive an invitation: joy, guilt, annoyance?
Let’s Start with How You Feel
There are ways that can help you survive the festive season without running yourself to the ground. Let’s start with two very simple questions. How much do you enjoy social occasions? How do they make you feel?
For example, if you are naturally introverted, going to a party may cause you some anxiety. Also, worrying about what to bring, what to wear or spending too much money on presents can make you feel stressed. If you are concerned about getting party fatigue, it is a good idea to start noticing the way you feel. If you notice that your energy levels are lower than normal, think about getting some rest. In other words, it is advisable to take the necessary steps to feel better as soon as you spot that something is not quite right and not wait until you are already feeling burnt out. Start thinking about what events take priority and allow yourself not to feel guilty for not attending each and every one of them. This year, you can decide to allow yourself to focus on the way you feel and being in the moment.
When you feel calm and connected with yourself, you may notice it is easier to relate to other people and interact with them. Sophrology can be of great help, giving you the tools to become more balanced and happier within yourself.
How Sophrology Can Help
Sophrology is a dynamic relaxation technique that can help reduce stress levels through a combination of breathing, visualisation and simple movement. It does not require special equipment or a whole hour to practise, so it’s perfect for busy people.
A Sophrology session that you can do at home can be as short as 10 minutes. The exercises are very intuitive and they aim at using a calming breathing pattern to soothe and unwind.
A useful exercise is the body scan, where you focus on each area of the body from head to toe, paying attention to any tensions, aches or pains. Catching these signs of tension early can shorten your recovery time from fatigue, or prevent fatigue altogether.
During the body scan you take a pause to connect with the five systems in your body: each system represents a different area. In the first system, you use your breathing to help relax your head and neck. In the second system, you relax your chest, arms and upper back. In the third system, you relax the upper tummy. In the fourth system, you relax the lower tummy, lower back and your legs. In the fifth system, you bring everything together and focus on your belly button area, using abdominal breathing. We call this the clearing breath, because, through your breathing, you are connecting with all the systems in your body and releasing all the tension in one go. You can also notice if there are any positive sensations in the body after doing this exercise.
Once you have scanned your body and listened to it, you can better understand what you need to feel good and take the necessary steps to look after yourself in your daily life. This can make the difference between simply surviving the festive season and really enjoying it. Sophrology invites you to align yourself to the way you feel instead of feeling disconnected, fatigued and frustrated.
In the run up to the festive season, get into the habit of checking in with yourself: take stock of what is going on, how you feel within yourself, how your body feels and what state of mind you are in. By following a daily self-care routine you will become more in tune with what you need.
You can use some Sophrology techniques to help you feel calm and rested, and some planning to help you decide what events and activities are more important for you.
Keeping Your Cool
Imagine the feeling of having a glass of wine, feeling merry and at ease: well, with Sophrology, you can potentially feel happy and relaxed without the aid of alcohol!
You may be lured by drinks to help you lose your inhibitions and feel more festive, however alcohol will impair your judgement and you won’t remember what you said when you wake up the following morning. It’s much better to feel relaxed before you leave the house. To do this, instead of rushing out, take five minutes to regroup.
If you are feeling anxious or are worried about not knowing anyone, do this exercise: in a standing position, close your eyes. As you breathe in, raise your shoulders. Holding your breath, pump the shoulders up and down until you feel the need to breathe out and let go of the arms. Repeat three times then, keeping your eyes closed, notice the sensations in your body. You can allow yourself to tune into all the positive energy you have created by moving your body. Every time you breathe in, you are inviting positive energy in each system in your body. You can diffuse this positive sensation when you breathe out, visualising it reaching your skin, your organs and your bones, as if you are bathing in bright light or soaking up the warmth from the sun. Then, you can either take a seat for a minute or stay standing. You may notice that you start feeling a bit more relaxed, as if the movement has taken away the tension from your shoulders. Your mind may also seem clearer, less clouded by worry or unnecessary thoughts.
Attending an Office Party
Do you dread going to a work ‘do’ because you have to impress other people, maybe because you are aiming to get a promotion? Before becoming too anxious about it, try to step back and do some exercises to calm the nerves. Take a seat and keep your back straight. Close your eyes. Breathe in from your belly and, when you breathe out, let go of all the tensions and the need to make a good impression. Visualise feeling confident and comfortable, speaking calmly to others while keeping in mind the reasons you are there.
Don’t forget that you don’t have to stay for the entire duration of an event – people have busy lives and they will understand if you have to go.
Work situations can be delicate so make sure you don’t drink too much and don’t turn up on an empty stomach. Treat an office party like a regular work meeting. While it’s best to avoid talking about your job, if you think you have nothing in common with your colleagues you can talk about a project you all found interesting. Whatever you do, don’t make fun of others, especially your bosses, because the walls have ears!
Attending a Social Gathering
While it’s tempting to be a wallflower and hide in a corner, take the opportunity to talk at least to one new person you hadn’t met before at a social gathering. Think about this as an exercise to build self confidence. Listen more than you speak and use the conversation as a way to learn something – maybe you can discover an activity that you would like to try yourself by asking the right questions. For example, at a party you could ask someone about their hobbies, holiday plans or even their new year’s resolutions. If they tell you about a location you haven’t visited yet or a sport you don’t know anything about yet, ask questions and show interest. If you feel shy talking about yourself, keep the conversation light, even if it’s simply discussing the weather.
Statistically, families tend to argue more over Christmas as they spend too much time together. Are you the “black sheep” of the family? Expect a healthy dose of criticism with your Christmas pudding.
Plan your days so that you can have some time out: you can go out for a walk to clear your head or volunteer to run some chores outside. Even taking the rubbish out can be a life saver!
Also, remember that everybody may feel tired and irritable, so spreading a little positivity can go a long way. For example, pay a compliment to someone in your family who feels under-appreciated.
Every so often, remind yourself to just enjoy the moment, even if that means stepping out of a situation and taking a deep breath to help you appreciate it.
Do you fancy having an alternative Christmas? You could do some volunteering at a local centre, either by yourself or with members of your family. By being in a different environment, you get to interact with your family in new ways and you get to discover hidden qualities you didn’t know about.
Thriving, Not Surviving
Whatever you do this festive season, remember that looking after yourself should be your number one priority. A daily Sophrology practice will help you feel centred and balanced so you will be less likely to get annoyed or frustrated. Most importantly, during the holidays you can decide to embrace a different pace of life, if you so wish, maybe by slowing down and enjoying each moment, noticing your environment as if it was for the first time, allowing yourself life’s little pleasures. As the year draws to an end, you can choose to have a less hectic schedule and prepare yourself for the new year.
Remind yourself that each day you are creating memories that you will look back at in years to come.