5 Step Guide to “more” Mindful Christmas
The festive season often brings more stress, pressure and can be generally overwhelming. We feel even more keenly the need to complete everything we couldn’t find time for in previous months. Our social lives are a lot more busy with all the Christmas drinks, parties, markets etc. We want to buy presents for our loved ones and/or our clients and we have to find space in a city where everyone is crowding and competing to achieve the same things. We want to come up with goals for the year ahead as well as analyze the past 12 months. We are thinking maybe we should send Christmas cards, decide what to cook over the holiday and plan something for New Year’s Eve. All that is happening on top of our regular life, which for many of us already feels way too busy.
How can we stay sane, avoid breaking down into anger or tears at the Christmas dinner table or snapping at our relatives when they inevitably do or say the ‘wrong’ things. Below are 5 things you can do to end the year feeling less anxious, worried and hopefully less irritated by your family, friends and most of all with yourself.
1. Don’t over consume.
Don’t give in to the marketing machine. I know people who take an extra credit card just to cover their Christmas expenses. This is madness! We don’t need most of the stuff we think we want. Next time you want to buy more decorations, plastic toys or an extra 3 bottles of wine, stop and ask yourself – Do I really need it, will this add actual value to my experience of Christmas? A lot of the time we don’t eat all the food we’ve prepared or drink all the booze we bought. Children these days get so many presents they get bored with unwrapping the paper. Is it worth it to buy a mindless present for someone just because we feel obliged to buy something? We can eat so much over the first three days of Christmas that we feel bloated and heavy for the following three. You can try mindful eating instead. Before you do the same thing you do every year, take a little pause and reflect; is this what I really want? Is this going to make me truly happy? or is it a habitual behavior, a need for instant gratification which doesn’t serve me in the long run?
2. Become aware of your stressors and try to let go wherever you can
Step one. You can’t change what you are not aware of, so in order to improve anything in our lives, we first need to become aware of what is not serving us, to name the things that we need to let go of. The best way to reduce stress is to pinpoint the ‘stressor’ event(s) or experience(s) that trigger it. Once we realise what our most common stressors are we can make an informed decision on how we wish to approach the problem. Ideally, we would eliminate them entirely. If we can’t do that, maybe we can minimise our contact with those external stimuli. If it’s something we have no control over we must learn to distance ourselves from it and/or accept it. It is often very difficult to change our reality but we can always change the way we engage with it, and therefore how we feel about it.
3. Be present, life is short.
Take some time off and it is as much in your head as it is on your calendar. For a lot of us Christmas is the only time when we can 100% switch off as most of the businesses, schools, institutions shut down. Make sure you make most of it, disconnect from your work and other commitments that can wait and focus fully on people you choose to spend your time with. Be fully present with your body but also with your mind. Put everything else on hold, let your mind rest, take the opportunity to recharge, step out of your routine, take things more slowly, maybe sleep a bit longer, or do something else which you don’t get to do when on a busy schedule. It is a conscious choice. The holiday will be over before you know it, so stretch this time by making most of it. You have the choice to live it. Otherwise, it might end before you realize it has even started. Be present, it is the greatest gift you can offer to those around you and to yourself.
4. Be Grateful
It is the perfect time to say your thanks, to focus on how fortunate you are, and what you already have, regardless of how little it might seem. We all have something to be grateful for, so take this opportunity to bring it to your awareness, to appreciate the beauty of life, the beauty of the planet, the love of the people who surround you, the senses which allow you to engage with the world, the food you get to taste, the smells you get to smell, the textures you get to touch, the air you breath and the lungs which make it possible to breath in the first place. Life is a f….. miracle!
5. Skip it altogether
Who said you need to do what everyone else is doing. If Christmas for you is mostly connected to stress, seeing people you don’t necessarily want to see or doing other things that don’t agree with you, skip it! Go away, disappear, sign out, do your thing. You are allowed to make your own choices and you should never be judged for it, as long as you are not directly hurting other people. When we do something only to please others, it usually makes us tense and unhappy which is not the place from which you can give positive energy and love to those you care for. Do what you need to do and don’t feel guilty. Those who love you will understand.