Whether the sound of carols sets your teeth on edge, or you can't wait to get the tree up; Christmas has the potential to be a stressful time of year for many of us.
Taking a mindful approach can restore your holiday season to a time of joy and relaxation.
1. Make time for you – date yourself
Christmas is a busy time and we can often feel under pressure. Date yourself - create appointments just for you. These are scheduled appointments where there is no husband, wife, partner or children. Spend the time doing something that recharges or relaxes you - catch up with a friend, go for a walk on your own, go for a coffee, read a book. Whatever you feel would be good for you – go for it! Book it in and make it happen.
2. Get back to nature
Exercise is a wonderful antidote to stress, anxiety or depression. Most people notice they feel a lot better even after a brief walk outside. If you have the opportunity to spend some time in nature – in the bush, out on the beach – even better.
Try leaving your mobile phone behind or walking without listening to music. After a few minutes with yourself, nature tends to take over and we naturally relax, without needing the usual distractions. This type of relaxation feels even better and seems to be more effective than the relaxation that is caused by distractions (watching TV, walking whilst listening to music etc).
3. Create a ‘should free’ zone
Give the shoulds a break. There is nothing you “should” be doing (or not doing). Give yourself full permission to do what you feel like doing. Don’t feel guilty about indulging this Christmas. Enjoy the food and the drinks and the opportunity to do nothing. Enjoy sitting on the beach or watching TV. Obsessively worrying about what is good for you creates stress. Giving yourself permission to have time out from watching what you eat or drink can be enjoyable, fun and relaxing.
Of course I would say that! Many scientific studies and even more personal stories confirm the benefits of meditation. Twelve minutes or more of daily mindfulness meditation helps us to feel more relaxed, and less stressed and anxious. Over time, it can reduce the incidence and severity of depression. It also increases our emotional intelligence.
5. It’s OK to not be merry
Christmas may not be a happy time for some of us this year. We may be feeling the grief from losing a loved one. We may have had a relationship break-up. We may be in ill-health. Maybe we just feel lonely or down for no reason. These are natural and normal aspects of life and are unavoidable. In fact, what is not normal is to be happy all the time - and this includes during Christmas. The added pressure to be joyful when you just feel like hiding away creates its own pressure and stress.
We can be OK with not being OK! Mindfulness means we learn to embrace all of ourselves and all of life, and that is not always the good times. By doing this we develop an attitude of kindness, care and love for ourselves. This is the thing that most of us crave, and to be able to actually start to offer it to ourselves is the best Christmas present ever.