Staying Grounded When Christmas Is A Sensory Nightmare
Now, I am the first person to admit that I love Christmas. Genuinely. I love everything about it. I love the lights, the food, the chocolates, the songs, the food, the jumpers, the makeup, the food - you name it, I probably love it.
However, all of this can add up into a sensory nightmare.
Despite my love for everything about the season, I definitely reach points over the festive period where the lights are too much, I can’t handle talking to or seeing people, and I crave a cool white room where I can just have some alone time to breathe and ground myself again. Unfortunately, not many cool white rooms exist where I can just be alone, and a lot of the time we’re outside or around other people’s houses. Quite frankly, sometimes the festive season just sucks. And I never thought I’d be admitting to that.
However, despite knowing that there will definitely be moments that are a complete sensory overload, there are ways and means to get through those moments, as well as try and prevent them from happening in the first place. 21 years of christmasses mean that I have tried and failed and utilised many different tricks, and these are a few I always come back to - as well as a couple that I will be trying out this year, because my needs are different year on year. Sometimes I’m in a better place, sometimes I’m in a shit place, sometimes I just don’t know!
TAKE FIVE MINUTES TO YOURSELF IN THE BATHROOM
Alright, I know this sounds odd, but stay with me. A bathroom is generally the closest you will get to a cool white room with nothing else in it, because there tends to be no soft furnishings and the decor tends to be all cool colours. Unless you are my friend Laura, who had carpet on the floor of her bathroom when we were growing up. But. That is not most bathrooms. And it offers an easy escape!
Instead of having to admit to possibly a whole room full of people you don’t really know that you are on the verge of a breakdown, you can just excuse yourself for a wee, and like Esmerelda running to the Notre Dame, you can escape to the sanctuary of the lav. When in there, I either take a few minutes to play a soothing game on my phone to distract my brain - Gardenscapes is a personal favourite - or I just sit on the loo and do some deep breathing and meditation exercises, until I feel ready to once again tackle small talk and cheese.
ON THAT NOTE, MAKE SURE TO SCHEDULE IN SOME DOWN TIME
It might be Christmas, and you might have 1001 friends and family members to see, but make sure to always schedule in some time in your own home to recharge the old batteries. It might mean that you have to prioritise who you see and when you see them, and possibly make plans to see some people in the new year instead - but better that than you trying to cram absolutely everything in and burning out. And when I say downtime, I mean downtime. Whole days at home where you have to do nothing but veg out on the sofa, eat delicious festive snacks, and watch whatever the heck you want on the telly box - and not have to think about entertaining people. Hell, take a break away from the festivities completely if you want, and read a good book or watch a movie that has nothing to do with Christmas.
Rest and recharge. It’s the best gift you can give to yourself.
MAKE SURE SOMEONE KNOWS THAT YOU MIGHT STRUGGLE WITH SOCIAL SITUATIONS
Sometimes I find it easier to cope if someone close to me knows that I might struggle with a situation, or that the festive season in general is overwhelming. They can, without being intrusive, keep a little eye out and nudge you if you need it, or help you escape from the situation. It’s not a perfect solution, and you might not want to tell anyone how you’re feeling, but it can just help to have that extra pair of eyes, and a pair of ears you can go to if you need to offload.
TAKE SOME TIME TO BE OUTSIDE IN NATURE
Ground yourself with the earth and the trees. By yourself, with or without music, with or without a pet, take yourself to some nature and take a walk in it. Really notice what’s around you with your senses. Feel the ground beneath your feet, feel the rough bark of the trees, smell the crisp air and general nature scents, see the wintery colours of the scenery around you. Bring yourself back to the here and now, try and really be in the present, forget about Christmas and whatever responsibilities you have. Just be in nature in that moment. Absolutely nothing else matters.
There’s so many apps out there now that help you take five or ten minutes out of your day to meditate. Those five or ten or twenty minutes of breathing and focusing and being present can really help bring you back to centre and stay grounded. Headspace is a popular one, but I personally love Calm. It has so many different kinds of meditations on there, that there is literally one for every situation you might find yourself in. They have ‘emergency calm’ meditations that you can listen to if you’re overwhelmed and urgently need to bring yourself back to the present, walking meditations, sleep meditations, mindfulness at work - if you can think of it, they’ve probably got a mediation for it.
Of course, you don’t need to spend any money on this. YouTube has a good selection of free guided meditations, and really all you need is to sit somewhere in peace and silence, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing for as long as you need to. Meditation doesn’t need any fancy equipment, and it can really do you the world of good.
KEEP A COMFORT ITEM IN YOUR POCKET
Personally, I find the feeling of satin to be the most comforting feeling in the world. If I’m going into an unfamiliar situation, or going into a situation that might be completely overwhelming, I keep a square of satin in my pocket so that I can rub it between my fingers. The familiar sensation keeps me grounded and keeps me calm, and isn’t noticeable. Your grounding item might be something similar, or something completely different. Whatever it is, as long as it brings you comfort it’s a good thing.
Really, staying grounded at Christmas when it can be a complete sensory nightmare with the lights and the smells and the people and the colours is a matter of common sense, and putting yourself first even when it would be easier just to go along with what everyone else wants. Take some time to yourself, keep breathing, don’t always force yourself to attend social events if you’re not in the right frame of mind, and just be mindful of your state of mind. If you’re not feeling it, get yourself to a safe space and recentre. If you’re feeling up to going out and getting smashed, go out and get smashed. Christmas should be a fun and enjoyable time for everyone, and that means listening to your body and your needs. Whatever those needs are.
What are your top tips for staying grounded at Christmas?