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  • Kevin Patton

Looking After Yourself at Christmas

Updated: Sep 17, 2019

Some of the Emotion Regulation skills could be especially helpful to us during Christmas. We sometimes face difficult situations or memories, and perhaps this review of some of the skills can help. One of the most important things we can do for ourselves is to practice the skills for Reducing our Emotional Vulnerability by using our Wise Mind, which is a blend of our thinking, feeling and reasoning skills.

Increasing Positive Emotions Do what you can to increase your positive emotional experiences during this holiday period. This does not mean to ignore your negative or difficult emotions, or that those experiences aren't important. But it is also important to open the door to positive experiences. You deserve to have positive emotions and positive experiences. Find some ways to have fun. Work on relationships. Repair old relationships. Maybe call a friend that you haven't seen for awhile. Or make amends in a relationship where there has been conflict. Reach out for new relationships. Maybe in one of these fun events you are doing or attending there will be someone whom you can chat with, invite for coffee or a walk. Maybe you can reach out to someone online. Attend to current relationships. You make the first move. Invite someone for a video or popcorn. See the New Year in with someone. Telephone your sister. Have a little party or a group snowball fight. Remember that you deserve and can have good relationships. Be Present to and Mindful of the Positive

Focus your attention on the positives around you. Think of something good that has happened this holiday season. Did you see an old friend? Get a special present? Is there something going on right now, or about to happen today that is really good or fun? Focus on it. Be fully present. Notice everything about it. Stay in the here and now.

Be Unmindful of Worries.

Don't give attention and air time to worries about the positive things. Distract yourself from thinking that you don't deserve a nice time, a good friend, a good present, fun in the snow. You deserve to enjoy all those things and more. Don't worry about when the positive thing will end. That takes away from your pleasure now. Enjoy it right now. Don't think about what might be expected of you because of the positive event that's happening now. You aren't going to experience something bad because something good is happening now. You don't have to pay for it later. You deserve it now.

Remember that by being mindful of and enjoying the positive event now, you’re not ignoring your pain, anger and fear, you’re just making room for some positive experiences to be in your life too.

To be at our best in dealing with our emotions, remember:

PLEASE MASTER treat PhysicaL illness balance Eating avoid mood Altering drugs balance Sleep get Exercise

Master plan and do something every day that gives you a sense of achievement.

If we are feeling sick, hungry, tired or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or if we are not doing something during the day that gives us the feeling of accomplishment or mastery, we are more likely to be vulnerable to negative emotions, to experience or see the negative, and less able to handle well situations and interactions that we have, or to handle them in Wise Mind rather than out of a purely emotional response. So check these things. Make sure that you are eating well and getting enough sleep and the other things, to be in the best shape you can be in to deal with what's happening.

Emotions, thoughts and what we do or feel an urge to do (behaviours) are all linked and become vicious cycles. Changing one part of the cycle will help improve the situation and help you feel better.

Radical Acceptance

Acceptance means being willing to experience a situation as it is, rather than how we want it to be. Not to be willing (wilfulness) means trying to impose our will on a situation.


A Activities (Distraction & Diversion)

C Contributing – helping others

C Comparisons – comparing self with (better) self

E Emotions – generate different emotions by watching movie/TV, listening to music etc

P Pushing away – putting our attention onto something else

T Thoughts - new thoughts. E.g. counting, playing 10 (10 colours in room, 10 Bond films etc)

S Sensations – use seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching senses


Stop – Don’t react automatically

Take a Breath – Slow your heart

Observe – What am I reacting to?

Perspective – Am I getting this out of proportion?

Practice what works – what’s the most helpful thing I could do?


Gentle: be courteous and temperate in your approach; no attacks, threats or judging

Interested: listen; be interested in the other person

Validate: validate the other person’s feelings, wants, difficulties, and opinions about the situation

Easy manner: Use a little humour; smile; be diplomatic; soft sell over hard sell


D Describe the current situation

E Express your feelings and opinions

A Assert yourself by asking for what you want, or by saying no

R Reward the person - let them know what they will get out of it

M Mindful of objectives without distraction

A Appear effective and competent

N Negotiate alternative solutions

Do not turn to drinking to get you over this difficult time.

Change Your Temperature

A powerful technique for coming back to yourself is to get a bowl of ice, fill it with water and, holding the nose, dive the face into the bowl of ice water for a count of ten. This is done quickly three times, taking a breath between plunges.

This technique makes use of the Dive Reflex. When you plunge your face into cold water, the trigeminal nerve on your face is shocked. The body cools down and the heart rate and metabolism slow. This immediately forces the symptoms of anxiety, frustration and anger to reduce.

When you are not in a situation where you can dunk your face into a bowl of ice water, holding a cube of ice in the palm of your hand can also help. Also, many shops sell instant ice packs that stay at room temperature until activated. If you find yourself in a situation where your emotions are taking control, you can find a private spot and use a portable ice pack to come back to yourself.

Hot baths, hot drinks and hot packs are also useful. however, they are not as immediately effective as ice. While they do change your body chemistry, hot things tend to soothe rather than shock.

Do not use ice if you have a heart condition!

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