As joyous as Christmas can be, it brings with it an array of demands including gift shopping, baking, cleaning, entertaining, making time for family and friends. This pressure can easily become pent-up tension that stands in the way of having a rejuvenating and enjoyable Christmas period.
With so much to do, in so little time, you may start to feel your sanity slipping! However, you can regain mental control and clarity through some simple practices. We suggest 10 ways to ground yourself in the moment and flow through your Christmas calendar.
1. Question your expectations
If you begin to feel overwhelmed, take a moment to step back and evaluate where the pressure is coming from. Much of the time, it’s coming from ourselves. Challenge why you think that you ‘must’ do certain things and consider what would happen if you didn’t. The chances are the world will keep turning and no one would think twice.
2. Become comfortable with saying ‘no’
Whether it’s committing to hosting Christmas lunch at yours, making the Christmas pudding from scratch, or attending a seemingly endless list of social engagements, be realistic about what you have time for, and be honest with yourself about what you want. Mindfully resist the reflex to say ‘yes’, even over the seemingly smallest of things. It’s these small commitments that can build up and become overwhelming.
3. Ground yourself in your breath
This is one of the simplest ways we can bring ourselves back into the present moment and calm our minds. The beauty of it is that it’s always available to us – no matter where we are or what time it is, we can always focus on controlling our breath and reap the benefits.
A simple technique is to start by simply taking a slow, deep inhale for a count of five, and then a slow, deep exhale for a count of seven. Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed or out of your depth, your breath is always within reach as an anchor to reality.
There are several ways you can meditate, and they don’t necessarily entail sitting in complete silence and stillness for extended periods of time. You can tap into your Zen state within a few minutes, even if you are on the go. Focusing on your breathing, absorbing the world around you through all five senses, and objectively noting your thoughts and feelings are some ways in which you can quiet your mind. While you’re brushing your teeth, when you’re driving, during a walk or just before you fall asleep are all moments in your day when you can spare time to meditate without disrupting your routine.
5. Acknowledge and accept your emotions
At this time of year, we often flow through different waves of emotions. Rather than suppressing them to continue charging onward with your to-do list, it’s important to acknowledge how you’re feeling, in order to be able to let it go. Resistance of emotion is simply judgement of that emotion, perceiving them as ‘negative’ or ‘unhelpful’. However, your emotions are not the issue – it’s how you choose to respond to them that determines the impact they have. Instead of ignoring your feelings, allow them to wash over you without becoming attached or absorbed, and let them pass.
6. Shift your perspective with gratitude
Practising gratitude can be incredibly effective at reducing stress levels. Noting what you’re thankful for pulls you out of the tunnel vision of the present moment in which you may be feeling overwhelmed. This also allows you to notice and appreciate the good that happens every day that can easily dip below our radar. Think things like a beautifully clear and sunny morning, moments that made you laugh or discovering the perfect Christmas gift for a loved one. Noticing these small moments helps instil a more balanced perspective that, over time, helps you form a more calm and measured approach to the stressful moments that arise throughout the day without allowing them to take over.
7. Factor in time for you
As impossible as it may seem, prioritising time for yourself is essential to recharge and avoid wearing yourself out. Taking a break does not mean you’re eluding responsibility. Self-care gives you the stamina to be your best.
Take notice of how your body is responding to your daily stressors. If you’re feeling run down, lethargic, or unmotivated, it might be time to schedule some time for you. Whether you do something that brings you peace and joy or you simply sit in a few moments of stillness, this time may be just what you need to feel refreshed and restored.
8. Ask for support
During such an incredibly busy time, it’s important to be able to lean on each other for support. Piling responsibilities upon yourself is only a recipe for exhaustion. Worrying about how we are perceived by others may make you feel uncomfortable about reaching out for help. However, this is simply a trap in a way of thinking that is not a reflection of reality. In fact, it may even bring you closer and strengthen your relationships with those around you.
9. Eat well
Taking care to upkeep our physical wellbeing is key to strengthening our mental wellbeing. Although the days may be full of planning and preparing for festivities, and attending celebrations, this is all the more reason to ensure you’re committing to healthy habits in other times in order to maintain a balance. For example, if you know you are set for an indulgent meal, set an intention to feed your body nutritious food and snacks at other points throughout the day.
10. Incorporate movement into each day
The benefits of physical exercise are well documented. Reduced anxiety, lowered blood pressure, improved brain function, better sleep quality and enhanced physical and mental endurance are just a few of the positive impacts you can experience from moving your body regularly. When we exercise, blood flow and nerve connections increase to and in our brain, stimulating the release of feel-good chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin. When paired with good, wholesome nutrition, physical activity is a key factor in maintaining mental wellbeing. Even just 10 minutes a day can do wonders.
The festive period can be as stressful as it is joyous. The pressure of living up to the vision of a ‘perfect’ Christmas manifests unnecessary expectations and can quickly spoil our ability to relax and enjoy the season. No matter what December holds, keep in mind the true intentions and purpose of the holidays: to come together with loved ones, unwind from the year that’s coming to a close and recharge for the new year. Keeping this in the forefront of your priorities and practising these simple steps can make the world of difference to remaining calm and collected this Christmas.