When it comes to December in Glasgow city centre on a Saturday afternoon, Buchanan Street is heaving with shoppers. Bags hitting off the knees of passers-by amidst fleeting sounds of forced exhaling sighs amongst the hive of shoppers hunching defeatedly into their winter coats and hurrying to their next shopping destination. Operation Present Hunt. Time is of the essence.
Tension in the air is at times unbearable. The looming apocalyptic demise of our world is nigh…
…oh no, sorry, my mistake. It’s the festive season.
Having hot-footed it to Paperchase with my colleague Liz for our highly anticipated festive beverages, we couldn’t help but notice the general gloom in the air. Ok, perhaps we’re slightly biased in our mood having spent the morning in the soft glow of the Glasgow Treatment Rooms, but to look at the faces of our fellow shoppers, it really wasn’t a happy sight.
Everyone seemed a bit…frazzled.
It’s as if the pressure of pandering to our commercial Christmas was all too much.
And it’s this pressure that led me to a thought for today’s blog. For the duration of this post I’d like to affectionately term this form of stress ‘the frazzle’.
As a massage therapist, I’m no stranger to the frazzle. It rears its ugly head during long working hours, when we’re exposed to illness, during times of financial pressure and when we let our physical and mental health slip down the metaphorical drainpipe. It’s the feeling you get when things just become ‘too much’.
And exposure to the frazzle is high on the build-up to Christmas. With darker nights, lethargy setting in and the pressure of spending in full effect it can be hard to escape it’s clutch.
As a society, it’s not entirely our fault that we succumb to feeling a bit ‘meh’.
The media has us pre-conditioned to festive negativity and that’s incredibly tragic. Every year we’re subconsciously fed the negativity of being cold and associating cold with feeling miserable, tired and resorting to the couch. You’re subjected to the pull of eating too much. And despite today being the early part of December, I guarantee you’ll be made to feel overfed and lethargic by Boxing Day, guilt-tripped into a diet by January the first and utterly spent of any thread of positivity by Blue Monday.
Don’t hide away just yet!
If you ask me, that just will not do.
So here we are, floundering in frazzle and anxiously awaiting Christmas. Where do we go from here?
I’d like to make a suggestion…
Let’s be done with the modern-day concept of a commercial Christmas. Let’s tear down the shackles of the frazzle and turn stress on its head.
Let’s use stress to our advantage.
Stress can be our greatest ally or our fiercest enemy. Looking on our modern practices and values, we often favour the latter. Do we have to stick with the status quo? Hell no! Stress is a physiological signal that we can choose to ignore, or use it to guide our future actions. Are you constantly feeling tired and burned out during the colder months of the year?
If the answer to this question is ‘yes’, then fear not; an awareness of your current situation is the foundation for change in your lifestyle habits.
Now of course, we must take into consideration our location on the Northern hemisphere and appreciate that we’re in Winter. The winter season tends to bring a natural dip in our energy levels in comparison to the summer months.
But don’t let that stop you. Less sunlight and colder temperatures isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Rather than a time of frazzle and despair, use this season wisely. Wield your winter weaponry for actions of good: for restoration, relaxation and for social gatherings.
Turn stress on its head.
Rather than hide under the bed covers, go for a walk in your local park, crunch the frosty leaves with your feet and enjoy the fresh winter air on your face. Book yourself in for a massage (and a snooze if need be. I won’t be offended, honest). Sample the festive menu from a local restaurant or take part in a restorative Yin yoga class. Meet friends for a catch-up at the Christmas market (hilarious stories resulting in loud snorty laughs are not compulsory, but are welcome nonetheless!) and enjoy the rich taste of a warm festive drink.
Challenge lethargy with action.
Embrace the beauty of the festive season and it really can be a wonderful time of year. Inspire change within your own approaches to the festive season and see what becomes of your efforts. Sometimes the hardest part of any new behaviour is getting started. Don’t let stress get you down. Let it be the power to inspire positive action.
I’ll leave you with the wise words of Rabbi Dr Abraham Twerski.
Speaking of action I’ve been sitting for a wee while now. Better go for a walk in the cold air!