Horne; Opening up to stress of memories at Christmas

Christmas is a time of joy and connection, but it is also a time when our losses surface.

I think we all have times when our cup feels empty, when one more task that we have to do seems insurmountable.

As we see the days of December rushing by and Christmas fast approaching, our already busy lives feel the need to stretch further to prepare for the holiday season.

When it seems that the chaos of life is whirling all around you, it is imperative to make a choice to stop and find a still point in the centre of the storm.

I thought that I would do that for myself and went off with my hubby for two wonderful days at Sparkling Hill. It was heaven as usual, but within three days of coming back, I seem to be back feeling just the way I did before my little break.

Christmas is a time of joy and connection, but it is also a time when our losses surface.  The busyness of the season does not encourage us to stop and explore the building emotion that may well within us. We just get more caught up in our list of holiday preparations without stopping to find out where the anxiety is really coming from.

It was my mom’s birthday on Dec. 3. I texted all my sisters and we each brought recognition to the day, then on I went with the myriad of things that needed to be done in my business.

It was late that night when I finally stopped and climbed into bed. I heard a ping on my phone and one sister had texted a picture of my mom in the chair that she spent a great deal of her time in for the last year of her life, living in my home and she was laughing hysterically.

It kind of tore my heart out and reminded me of the best part of her and what she brought to my life. The pain was there, feeling the loss of her death last year shortly before her 93 birthday, but I didn’t let the feelings come.

I went off to sleep and got up the next day and got busier. Feeling the pain of loss is something we don’t mean to avoid, but it seems to be our natural desire to not go there.

The result, now a week later, has turned that suppressed emotion into anger and agitation. Every little thing that usually passes easily by seems like a struggle.

Trying to avoid the pain of loss usually leads to a change in our mood and an anger begins to build that results in every little thing that is going on feeling like a mountain to overcome.

Things that we usually handle easily become difficult.

Other people’s reactions become unusually irritating.

It is an unrelenting feeling of anxiety.

Dr. Harriet Learner speaks of the patterned ways that we have of managing anxiety in her book “The Dance of Connection.”

Some of us respond to anxiety by moving into overfunctioning and others move into underfunctioning.

The first coping mechanism involves advising, taking over, micromanaging, and getting in other people’s business rather than looking inward.

Underfunctioners become less competent under stress and look to others to take over.

What really wears us down is trying to stay in front of the truth of how tired, scared, confused and overwhelmed we sometimes feel. Stress and anxiety define so much of what our lives have come to know. It feeds on itself, taking on a self-perpetuating quality that is hard to break.

Finding ways to increase your daily dose of calm and stillness is a learned practice. Decreasing the caffeine and doing more exercise are important, too.

Just choosing to get off the merry-go-round and opening up a clutter free space where you can think and feel and connect with your own inner being is a necessity, even when 20 people are coming for Christmas dinner and you haven’t bought a single Christmas present.

Putting yourself first and saying no, shutting the door and looking at pictures of those you miss and letting the tears flow is good for your health and good for your demeanor. Sometimes you just have to look your feelings straight in the eye and say come on in.

I think I feel better already.