Welcome to this month’s blogspot, where Person-Centred Counsellor Jayne Yeates discusses the pressures of the festive season and why so many of us feel stressed at this time of year. Jayne describes how Christmas can feel like a list of Shoulds, musts and oughts’ which are reflective of perceived expectations, and how therapy can be an opportunity to find a space outside of societal pressures to find the real ‘you’.
One of the most stressful times of the year for many people is Christmas time. The pressure to find the ‘perfect present’ and create the ultimate meal, as well as the decorations, shopping, guests and family gatherings, the parties and the work ‘do’s’…. the lists can be endless. There could be the expectation that you should create the most wonderful Christmas, that you ought to buy gifts and cards for each and every family member, and that you must have a fabulous time.
The reality for many people is that this pressure can cause huge amounts of stress, not only financially but socially and within relationships and families.
Within therapy clients have asked me over time how to manage this stress, and be able to ‘let go’ of some of the expectations, or at least perceived expectations, and develop ways in which to manage these ‘shoulds, musts and oughts’’. These expectations may extend to other areas of our lives and we can find ourselves striving to meet the desires of others, and putting our own needs at the back of the line. As a Person Centred therapist and working with clients in a non-directional way, this can be a very difficult question to answer without offering solutions that may be unhelpful.
Paying close attention to our own needs and listening to our own intrinsic wishes can help to relieve some of these stresses, particularly when it comes to creating ‘the perfect Christmas’. When our bodies are under stress the brain creates cortisol to help us ‘fight or flight’ in difficult situations, our breathing and heartrate can be affected, and clients often complain of ‘knots’ in the stomach or anxiety in the chest. Learning to manage our stresses and listening to our bodies and internal selves can help us to understand what we need to be able to cope in times of difficulty and stress.
By creating a safe, therapeutic and confidential space, my clients and I work together to try and understand what it is that they really want and how they can achieve it. By learning to understand their own patterns of behaviour and thinking they can start to make changes and reach the desired outcomes that they set. This in turn, allows us to identify these ‘shoulds, musts, and oughts’ and work together to explore where these pressures come from, how they can relieve some of these issues and create a calmer and less stressful lifestyle based on their own internal evaluation rather than the external “you should do this…. You must do this..… you ought to do this….” from other’s.
Therapy can offer the space to explore the expectations we place upon ourselves, and the real (or perceived) expectations we receive from others, to be able to gain clarity and control over our lives.