As much as Christmas time may be joyful and a time of celebration it is also a stressful time for many. The pressure we put on ourselves to find the right gift, to say nothing of the shopping experience itself, is bad enough. This is also the time of year when we gather, or are expected to gather, with our families and friends; this can highlight the difficulty we have in our relationships and make loneliness more keenly felt. With these challenges in mind I would like to offer some advice on relaxation for the challenges of the season.

The stress response, or fight or flight response, causes many physiological changes and over time immune function is impaired as well as the bodies ability to heal. The relaxation response is the opposite. This first exercise may be done anywhere where you can stop and close your eyes for a moment: Take time to breathe…

• Rest one, or both, hands upon your belly and try feel yourself breathing into it. Inhaling, the belly expands and exhaling the belly pulls in.
• When that becomes comfortable, begin to count during the breath. On the inhale count up to a number which feels comfortable, and then exhale whilst counting down from the same number.
• Continue this for as long as you like, slowing the breath down as you become more comfortable with it. Try to work up to an inhale and exhale of six to eight seconds each.
• When you have begun to relax, and are ready to carry on, open your eyes and go about your day.

Want, of all kinds, is often more keenly felt at this time of year. It may be a material desire or the want of companionship and love. Sometimes, the antidote for want is to reflect on gratitude. Something to be thankful for…

• Begin with the breathing exercise mentioned above, visualizations and meditations always work better after a period of relaxation.
• When you are ready, allow yourself to reflect on something, or someone, for which you feel grateful. For example: if you are sad because you feel a lack of love or friendship, picture a friend or loved one who is in your life.
• Allow the feeling of gratitude that comes from focusing on that person, or thing, to grow and fill you. Stay with it for as long as you like, or as long as you can.

At first glance, this exercise may seem facile; but the emotions that we focus on define our mental state. Naturally, for some people finding anything to feel grateful for may be impossible.

Finally, in caring for ourselves we must not forget the impact of stress on our bodies. Long hours walking or standing causes blood to pool in the legs and lower back tension. Everyone likes to put their feet up when they get home; the problem is they do not put them up high enough. Put your feet up…

• Find a place against the wall where you can lie down on the floor with your legs extended up the wall.
• Lay on your side with your bottom about a foot from the wall, further back if your legs are tighter.
• As you roll on to your back extend your legs up the wall, your lower back should be flat against the ground.
• Rest here for 5-10 minutes whilst you do the belly breathing mentioned in the first exercise. These practices are intended as simple ways of reducing stress, however; stress is often anything but simple.

If you have need of further support or have any questions about counselling at So Organic please call me for a free consultation.
David Lefebvre Sell - Counsellor Saturdays 2pm-6pm 07840 529829