I consider myself to be a very upbeat and positive person, with a solution focused attitude (which by the way does not always translate to a ‘can do’ attitude). It is one of the reasons why I love being a coach.
However, as I write this post it is the week before Christmas, December 2020, and I’m thinking of the weight of this year on society and across the globe – it has been unprecedented. I doubt anyone could have foreseen back in March just how much pressure would be foisted upon us. When a serious event happens in life, there is a rallying of the troops – the friends, neighbours and family members that come to sit in solidarity, to comfort, listen and provide support with their presence. Their companionship to ease the solitude and emptiness felt. The tea would flow in copious amounts and the food offerings that were brought to ensure you kept your strength up, would be shared and enjoyed without a second thought. We are sociable beings.
While having my lunch last week, I listened to the radio as the presenter did their best to lift my spirits with some Christmas music. Every so often there would be a smattering of anecdotes about the various artists or, statistical facts about the recordings. This is the kind of information I love particularly about Christmas music, as there have been some very questionable cover versions released of songs that should be left well enough alone – but that is an argument for another day! As I sat and tried to bring myself to the happiness level required, I found myself struggling. As the first verse of Silent Night interrupted my thoughts, my solution focused attitude waivered. The dam burst and the tears flowed.
I thought about all that was not in 2020, not just for my own family but for so many others too. And as much as I am incredibly grateful for what I do have, the magnitude of what we have experienced this year I pray we never have to witness again.
That word again
I found myself pondering that word which has been bandied about ad infinitum – resilience. A word which I even used myself back in the Spring a few times; but if I must meet it again to the same extent that I had to draw on it this year? It will receive a one-way ticket to infinity and beyond at the end of my foot! Resilience is one of those things that you cannot quite put your finger on. You look back at an event or situation and ask, “how did I get through that”? And of course, this is a question that we will be asking of ourselves for years to come.
But resilience is also one of those things that are exhausting. Constantly trying to replenish our stocks of “we’ll get there” or “there is light at the end of the tunnel” is wearing us out. Prior to this year would we ever have thought it possible that we would be unable to rally the troops in a time of need? A year of heartache, loneliness, and grief to be dealt with in isolation. That’s not how we’re designed, as I’ve said, we are sociable beings.
But it is imperative that we allow ourselves to acknowledge those fears, worries, and emotions that 2020 heaped upon us. In my case, it was giving in to tears. This is not a weakness; it is a way for our bodies to let go and breathe. I know I am not the only one to have cried thinking about this blooming awful year that thankfully is almost over, but I may be one of the few who will admit it publicly.
Try one thing
So, what can we do to help us release the emotions that we have bottled up during this year? Breathing deeply is an especially useful tool when done right. In my past as a singing teacher, there were loads of exercises that I did with my students to help them focus on their breath. One (which I would always suggest being done when you get into bed, to avoid dizziness) is:
Lie on your bed
Knees slightly bent but comfortable
Neck supported (this is where your pillow comes in)
Elbows resting on the mattress with the palm of your hands resting gently across your hip bone so that your fingers are resting on your stomach
As you take a deep breath in through your nose be aware of your fingers rising as your stomach expands
As you exhale slowly through your mouth (as if you are blowing up a balloon) be aware of your stomach returning to normal (try not to force it)
You do not have to hold your breath to a count with this exercise, and if you can repeat it three or four times each night, you are onto a winner. The more you practise, the easier it becomes. You will even sleep better after it.
What about 2021?
All we can do is head into next year with hope. 2020 taught us that the little things are precisely those which we miss most. The most important one in my opinion is being able to hug. We greet with hugs, we say goodbye with hugs, we celebrate with hugs, we even commiserate with hugs. This is my hope for 2021. Not riches, or success or an abundance of stuff, just hugs.
So, to put it simply, all I want for Christmas is to know that next year, we can hug again.
If you would like to find out more about how to stay safe this Christmas (Ireland) click here