Do you know my least favourite word in the whole wide world, especially at Christmas?
If you find yourself using “Should” a lot, try replacing it with the word “could”. Could, helps remind you that you have a choice. As far as I’m concerned, I either will or I won’t, that’s it. What’s the point of I should? Will you, or won’t you? Could you? The choice is yours.
And you ALWAYS have a choice.
So this morning I had an unexpected two hours to myself. I should have taken advantage of it.
I should have….
- cleaned the house
- wrapped some presents
- dashed out to the shops
etc etc etc.
And did I do any of those shoulds? Errrrmm… No. I could have, but I chose not to.
Instead I had a long, hot shower, walked the dog, and came home and made a nice cosy breakfast. All sensory, oxytocin inducing activities.
And then, I looked at the clock and had a moment of “WTF??!!! WTF have I done with my time? I haven’t done XYZ yet!” Adrenaline came screaming through me, delighted to have been set free to wreak havoc on my day, but then I figured it’s ok to slow down. It’s ok to create some space for myself.
I choose peace, joy and goodwill.
I choose oxytocin, not adrenaline.
Oxytocin is the love hormone. It’s the one that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It’s the hormone that makes you fall in love with your partner, with your baby, with your pets. It’s the one that helps you feel all peaceful and cosy when you see a log fire and smell wonderful Christmas smells. It’s the feeling in your tummy when you see the joy on the face of someone you love when they open a simple but thoughtful gift.
Oxytocin is what we feel when we are relaxed, warm and cosy. It fuels the real Spirit of Christmas, and it is released when we feel safe, protected and loved.
At the other end of the spectrum is Adrenaline. Adrenaline is the hormonal Christmas Grinch. Adrenaline doesn’t mean to be a Grinch, it thinks it’s being helpful, but it’s not. It thinks it’s helping you to survive the onslaught, and it’s probably what drives Santa’s sleigh, but it’s also what drives you deeper into the melee. Adrenaline is more commonly known as the Fight or Flight hormone, and it is hugely important (in the right context), because it helps us stay alive. If you see an angry dog bounding towards you, adrenaline will give you the stamina to run like the clappers until you reach safety. It makes your palms sweat, your muscles clench and your heart pump extra hard inside your chest- great when you’re under attack, but not very comfortable when there’s no actual threat to your life 😉
Adrenaline speaks in caps lock. It waits for Christmas Eve, and then says things like “OH MY GODDD YOU’RE SOOO NOT READY!! YOU HAVEN’T GOT THOSE EXACT GOLDEN BOWS TO MATCH THE WRAPPING PAPER YET!!! SHE’S NOT GONNA LIKE THAT!! WHAT IF WE RUN OUT OF SPROUTS??! YOU HAVE ONLY ONE DAY LEFT TO DO EVERRRYYTHINNNGGG!! AAAARGGGHHHH!!!
Adrenaline also loves company. If you meet your friend in the shopping centre and she is also running on adrenaline, you may rest assured that your conversation will be in caps lock- something like this:
“HAVE YOU EVERYTHING DONE???”
“NOOOOO ARE YOU MAD??”
“ME NEITHER ARRRRGH!”
Sweat, clench, pump. And so the cycle continues.
The same applies to Oxytocin. It loves to hang out with other oxytocin, and the more of it you can get in the room, the better. If you meet another friend in the shopping centre who has her oxytocin levels ticking over nicely, she will probably be sipping hot chocolate while gazing at the Christmas tree. You can have a Happy Christmas Hug and carry on about your business.
The trouble with these two is that Oxytocin is a very shy hormone, and it will always give way to adrenaline (because adrenaline might be trying to save your life- so it needs to be able to override the other hormones… just in case). The trouble is, adrenaline doesn’t know that Christmas doesn’t need to be a Fight or Flight situation. It doesn’t know that it’s ok to relax, that the world won’t end if you don;t buy a single present, or if Christmas dinner isn’t exactly as you’d planned.
So this Christmas, how about you give your body a break from the adrenaline. Choose to tune into the cosiness of Christmas time, rather than the STRESSSS of it.
If the person cooking the Christmas dinner is nicely topped up with oxytocin- add to it! DO NOT bring your adrenaline into the kitchen- this is a recipe for frayed nerves, fights, flights, and all sorts of seasonal ruptures. Likewise, if someone is all tanked up on adrenaline, STEP AWAY. If requested, and if you both consent to it, you may engage in a 20 second hug (as above) but do not allow your adrenaline to engage with theirs.
And if all else fails, put yourself in a quiet room, light a candle, cuddle your pet and/or create something. It doesn’t matter what it is or isn’t (it could be a cake, a scarf, or a baby).
And just remember, always remember, to breathe.
And just so you can see how productive my morning was, here is my journal that topped up my oxytocin. An absolutely 100% non-essential activity, which kept my adrenaline on the down low. Very very simple, but I enjoyed doing it and there’s some nice symbolism in there for me.
So now I’m off to tie up a few loose ends (a gift for the cat- equally non-essential!) I wish you all a beautiful Christmas. If you feel the stress rising, check in with yourself. You have a choice. What can you do to increase your Oxytocin?! Pet the dog. Light a candle. Instant relief from adrenaline overdose.
And in the meantime, have a lovely cosy December!