Christmas can be one of the most stressful times of the year! However, it doesn’t need to be.
The reason why ‘stress’ and ‘discomfort’ creeps in because we get caught up in the doing (shopping, arguing – who does what, who goes where and when) instead of enjoying the moment and simply being.
Christmas can in fact be one of the most relaxing times of the year. You get extra time off from work for relaxing (if you simply be), spend time with loved ones, enjoy the beauty and wonder that surrounds us and if you have children, be a kid again and enjoy all those crazy games and watch all those silly funny repeat films on tv again (my favourite is ‘The Elf)!
Here are some of my tips for enjoying Christmas:
- EATING: food is for enjoying. Simple! During this season where there is so much food out there and so many commercials to attract us to buy these ‘ready made meals’, it is easy to get caught up in the ‘must have’ cycle. HOWEVER what a better time to get creative in your kitchen and bake and make the most wonderful home cooked meals, where you know exactly what goes into your dishes, using ingredients that you and your family and friends like rather than what you ‘should’ be eating and most of it going in the rubbish! FOOD WASTE plays a major part over the festive period so let us not contribute to it. Be creative. Spend time in the kitchen with your family – it can be fun and creates time for bonding and coming together. Why not make some home made cookies and chocolates? These are great to enjoy, leave for Santa and give as gifts!
- WALK: Go for a walk. Regardless of how cold it is, or snowy (of course as long as it is safe), get out in the fresh air, take in some natural air, admire your surroundings and views and give gratitude for what you truly have in life, however little or a lot you may have. Give love and thanks for all that you have and of course the beautiful nature that is available and FREE to us all. Pay attention to sights, sounds and smells. Walking is a great stress reliever and mood booster so what’s there not to love. You don’t need to have a destination – simply go out and see where the walk takes you and be mindful without overthinking your route.
- DEEP BREATHING: When you feel yourself becoming angry, exhausted, anxious or stressed, it’s difficult to remember why you should remain calm. When this occurs, take 2-5 minutes to simply slow down and take deep breaths. This is a meditation that’s used to punctuate the day, so that it dissolves negative thought patterns before they gain control over your life. Secondly, it’s an emergency meditation that helps ‘ground’ you when your thoughts threaten to spiral out of control. When you are carrying out the meditation you may find that your mind repeatedly runs away with itself. This is entirely natural. It’s what minds do. They leap around and offer up thoughts to your conscious self. When you find that your mind has wandered, gently escort it back to full awareness and bring yourself back to the moment and mindfully deep breathing to relax the body and mind.
- DO SOMETHING THAT MAKES YOU HAPPY: When all else fails, take time out to do something that makes you happy, go for a walk, go the movies, catch up with friends, go out for a coffee, invite a friend over and treat them to some of your home made cookies or make lunch together, put some relaxing music on and take a hot relaxing bath, take the kids out somewhere fun (trampoline parks are all the rage now and so much fun as well as a great way to burn excess energy).
The list of things that you can do to make this festive season purely enjoyable and fun is endless. All it takes is for you to become mindful about what you want, set realistic expectations, don’t over burden yourself with schedules and to do lists and ‘simply be’!
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is quite simply paying full whole-hearted attention. A typical meditation involves paying full attention to the breath as it flows in and out of the body. Focusing on each breath in this way allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind and, little by little, to let go of struggling with them.
Mindfulness is about observation without criticism; being compassionate with yourself.
When unhappiness or stress hovers overhead, rather than taking it all personally, you learn to treat them as if they were black clouds in the sky and to observe them with friendly curiosity as they drift past instead of being judgemental and critical of yourself and letting go of the ‘why’s, how’s, when’s’ etc.
Scientific studies have shown that mindfulness not only prevents depression, but that it also positively affects the brain patterns underlying day-to-day anxiety, stress, depression and irritability so that when they arise, they dissolve away again more easily.