From to pay­ing bills to prep­ping par­ties, this time of year can be over­whelm­ing. Deb­o­rah of­fers up some sur­vival tips

NEXT (New Zealand) - - At A Glance - by Deb­o­rah Hill Cone

There is one sort of per­son who knows when their GST is due, and an­other sort of per­son who can im­me­di­ately name their spirit an­i­mal. (A sloth, if you’re ask­ing.)

There are the sort of peo­ple who pos­sess Vul­can chess mas­tery and the sort of peo­ple who have a knack of cre­at­ing drift­wood sculp­tures. Not judg­ing.

Then there are those prac­ti­cal goget­ting type peo­ple, who find the ex­ter­nal world, with all its chores and de­tails and prac­ti­cal con­sid­er­a­tions their nat­u­ral mi­lieu. They can ma­nip­u­late the com­pli­cated as­pects of daily life like a haz-mat tech­ni­cian han­dling plu­to­nium. Vogue ed­i­tor Anna Win­tour, when asked what her great­est skill was replied: “De­ci­sive­ness.”

Spoiler: I’m in the other lot.

That is, the dither­ers and dream­ers, who find even get­ting the wash­ing done and de­cid­ing what to cook for din­ner a bit too de­mand­ing. I zone out so much some­times it’s hard to fathom how I’ve man­aged to get this far through my life in one piece.

I’ve made a sort of peace with this.

I’m just re­ally, re­ally bad at nav­i­gat­ing life’s point­less daily tasks. I was awake in the mid­dle of the night the other night and feel­ing clenched with a prim­i­tive dread and then I re­alised I was stress­ing be­cause I had some over­due li­brary books. And at this time of year with Christ­mas and all that stupid pres­sure to try to make your life like the movie Love Ac­tu­ally, it’s even worse than usual.

Christ­mas is a re­ally hard time for peo­ple who have what is known as “a frag­ile process.” Those of us with a frag­ile style of pro­cess­ing tend to ex­pe­ri­ence core is­sues at very high or low lev­els of in­ten­sity. We tend to have dif­fi­culty start­ing and stop­ping ex­pe­ri­ences that are per­son­ally sig­nif­i­cant or emo­tion­ally con­nected (Hint: fam­ily gath­er­ings are both.) We ei­ther connect too strongly or are not able to connect, and can be eas­ily over­whelmed.

See, liv­ing in the real world is hard. If you’re like me, you need help. Here are some of my top tips. (Other than watch­ing Love Ac­tu­ally again and re­al­is­ing it is Bat­shit Crazy, Ac­tu­ally.)

ONEMay I share the best five words of ad­vice ever. ‘One. Thing. At. A. Time.’ That’s it. When you feel over­whelmed just do one thing at a time. Ev­ery­thing just gets eas­ier ev­ery time you tell your­self that.

TWOBe­fore you do anything else, take re­spon­si­bil­ity for your own com­fort. At­tend to that first. Au­dit your body state, your pos­ture, your breath. You need to feel safe be­fore you can do anything. Maybe we all still de­sire to be looked af­ter like a baby. Do you need some good food? Do you need a warm jersey? Cre­ate a quiet, warm and wel­com­ing place to re­turn to.

THREEJust no­tice. A lit­tle bit of re­pair hap­pens just in you notic­ing what is hap­pen­ing in the here and now. “What hap­pened there?” Try to do it with com­pas­sion­ate cu­rios­ity. And what­ever you no­tice, cut your­self some slack. Be slightly bi­ased to let­ting your­self off the hook when given a choice. I found this writ­ten in my jour­nal: “You can have a smaller party.” I was go­ing to have a big party and ended up just hav­ing lunch with all my favourite women.

FOURRou­tines can help. Maybe re­duce de­ci­sion-mak­ing by wear­ing and eat­ing the same thing ev­ery day. Pay at­ten­tion more to process than to con­tent. I’m go­ing to write 500 words, whether they are good or not.

FIVERe­mem­ber done is bet­ter than per­fect. Life can’t al­ways be mar­vel­lous. Some­times you can feel bad but still be okay with that, and make peace with what is. I try to look for ‘col­lat­eral beauty’, the good stuff in the mid­dle of the bad.

SIXCreate laugh­ably small goals. The famous pro­ducer Rick Ru­bin when work­ing with stuck song­writ­ers used to ask them to do a small piece of home­work that night. They were told to come back the next day with one word they liked for the song they needed to fin­ish. Just one word.

SEV­EN­Try not to feel the pres­sure to cre­ate ‘a life’, ‘a per­son­al­ity’, or a ‘char­ac­ter’. Don’t keep ques­tion­ing: am I the sort of char­ac­ter that wears green sparkly nail pol­ish or has a ‘smash the pa­tri­archy’ bumper sticker or eats turmeric bread made of crushed crick­ets? Just try to be a hu­man. That’s all.

EIGHTDon’tbe tyran­nised by the imag­ined con­cep­tion of what is expected of you, what you be­lieve you ought to think, how you ought to look, what you ought to do and who you ought to be. It doesn’t mat­ter if peo­ple ap­prove of you. If you take neg­a­tive feed­back as a black or white judge­ment about your worth, you will give up ev­ery time you face ad­ver­sity.

NINETell your­self that it’s okay to f*** it up. Tak­ing con­trol gives you a sense of con­trol and sat­is­fac­tion in­stead of feel­ing pow­er­less and help­less. But if you take con­trol, you need to let your­self fail.

TENThe lit­tle things are the big things. Be­cause they are a re­flec­tion. How you do anything is how you do ev­ery­thing. Make your bed. Put the lids on pens. I did get around to tak­ing my over­due li­brary books back.

ELEVENS­top look­ing. You’re not go­ing to find an an­swer. There isn’t one. The an­swer is not an es­cape from or­di­nary life, but a way of ren­der­ing or­di­nary life more mag­i­cal. Happy or­di­nary, mag­i­cal Christ­mas.

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