Self-coaching for Christmas
There's no denying that for many, Christmas and the festive period can be stressful. Whether it is trying to juggle family commitments (blended family here, trying to get time together over 3 different countries!), managing expectations about who does what, or simply the lack of routine and easy access to alcohol and chocolates, it's no surprise that tensions can rise quicker than a cat going up your Christmas tree. But the good news is, even in the midst of the festivities when your coach is knee deep in wrapping paper, you have help on hand. You. The ability to self-coach is something we all have, with a bit of forethought and help in working out how to do it. Enter the 3-step plan to get you through the festive period without either braining Aunty Doreen with the Celebrations tub or drowning your sorrows in Baileys.
- Know when you need to self-coach.
The first step is knowing when you need to self-coach. That’s about self-awareness and recognition, both in the moment and recognising times when you are most likely to need it.
What are your symptoms for when you feel stressed/anxious/overwhelmed? What kind of things do you find yourself saying, or thinking, or doing? And in what situations are these most likely to happen? If you know that spending a couple of days with your extended family makes you anxious, be clued into what those symptoms feel like so you can spot when it is happening, early enough to take action. Write down your early warning symptoms and come up with an action plan to take you through these.
If you know that your particular stress comes from having too much to do, sit down and work out how much you need to do, how much you want to do and how much you can do. Who can help you? What can you outsource and will it really matter if you don't do everything? Prioritise ruthlessly and under plan by about 10% of your capacity. If you get through everything on your list and still have time to bake and decorate 364 individual Christmas cookies for the 12 Days of Christmas, then great. (And please send me a picture!) But by planning 100% of your time, you are more likely to feel stressed and overwhelmed the minute something doesn't go to plan.
2. Work out how you can respond differently. It is in your power.
Understand what your usual responses to stressful situations are and then you can start to plan a different way to respond. Think A-B-C. Psychologist Albert Ellis proposed a 3-stage model to explain how we are affected by external events. He called these Activating Events (A) and that our response to them, the Consequence (C) doesn’t stem from the actual event, but rather our Beliefs (B) about the Event. When someone ‘pushes our buttons’ we are ceding control of our reactions and responses to that person. It happens so quickly that we don’t often recognise the belief part until we start looking for it. But we can choose which belief to respond to and one part of this is looking at what other beliefs are there?
For instance, your brother raises that hilarious story about something you did when you were 12 over drinks with your significant other. Your response is anger and a retaliation of telling something he would rather have kept quiet. That response is coming from a belief that your brother is trying to undermine you in front of your partner. What other beliefs are there? Your brother might think this is a genuinely funny story that you don't care having shared, he might think this is a great way to suss out if your partner is good enough for you. What else? Keep going until you can't think of any other beliefs about why this story has been told. Which of these beliefs serve you well? Which one would lead to a response from you that would keep you happy and calm? It is up to you to choose which belief you are responding to.
3. Have an emergency action plan of immediate calming responses.
Breaking down your beliefs and finding new ways to respond can take some time as you are relearning your responses. So it’s also a good idea to have an action plan of immediate destressing responses. In the moment, what can you do? Go for a walk, sing a song, take a bath, phone a friend, watch a Christmas movie or episode of your favourite TV program, meditate, go to the gym, do some colouring in, pick up your knitting, go and chop firewood. If you’re not sure what chills you out in a moment of stress, write a list of your top 10 favourite things to do. Which of these could you do at very little notice and what do you need to be able to do them? If you find that these are not working for you, ask yourself do you actually want to calm down? Believe in your own ability to be a calm, rational and relaxed adult. You can do this.