I absolutely love the Christmas holiday period. The lead up, the anticipation, the sparkle, the focus on joy, on love and on being together. A holiday, where many of us get to step out of our normal everyday and celebrate being with loved ones.
But sometimes it can all feel a bit too busy. Our to-do lists can overwhelm us. The being together part can feel forced or unwelcome. We can get stressed, worry about whether we can afford it, quarrel with loved ones, have too many late nights, eat too many mince pies and end up exhausted and not really enjoying the Christmas period as we’d like to.
And this can still be the case, even when we have the very best of intentions for it to be different.
As a single mum of 3 active children, 2 of which are twins and have their birthdays on 20th December, I have a lot of experience of feeling busy and teetering towards overwhelm at this time of year…
So, what can we do to help ourselves? How can we be more mindful over Christmas, so that we don’t end up feeling like we need another holiday to get over this holiday season?
Here are some ideas for being more mindful over this period. They are ones I use and have found helpful over the years. Pick, choose and tweak as you wish and as suits you!
1. Review your expectations
It’s when things are different from how we’d like them to be, that we feel resistance and stress. We often have beautiful magazine like ideals for how we think the Christmas period should be. But if we don’t live up to them, they can make us feel bad and inadequate.
Instead of trying to make the Christmas period your idea of perfect, ask yourself what’s important to you? What do you value? Then focus on that and try to let go of the rest.
For example, if it’s important to you that you spend time with your family, then let that be your focus. Drop making mince pies from scratch or the drinks party invite from people you barely know and play a game or watch a movie together instead. Or maybe cooking is your thing, so focus on that and let someone else take care of the decorations. Or just do them simply.
When you’re in alignment with your values and focus on what’s important to you, it’s so much easier to be imperfect.
Really listen and try to be present when you’re with others. Even if that means asking them to wait a moment while you finish something. A conversation where you have your full attention placed on the other person, feels so different from one where you’re mentally only half there.
When we connect properly with others, we feel so much better and are much less likely to have those tricky holiday misunderstandings…
3. Focus on your breath for 1 minute
If you sense you’re getting stressed or overwhelmed, stop and focus your attention on your breathing for 1 minute. Even if you think it won’t help. Often when we get stressed, we think we haven’t got time to stop for 1 minute or that it won’t make any difference. It will!
Simply turn your attention towards your breath for 1 minute. You don’t need to change your breath in any way, just tune into the sensations of breathing and bring your mind back each time it wanders off to something else.
This will help ground you and calm you down both physically and mentally, leaving you much more likely to choose a helpful response, instead of an automatic knee jerk reaction.
4. Go out in nature
Go for a walk. Being outside and in nature brings us back to ourselves. Make time for it, even if it’s just standing outside for a few minutes and taking in a few breaths of fresh air.
5. Christmas reminder
Find something that represents how you’d like the Christmas period to be. Perhaps it’s a song, a special decoration, a stone, a gift. Keep it nearby to remind you for if and when you get caught up in all the busyness.
My reminder is a little cloth heart decoration made by a dear friend of mine years ago. If I notice I’m starting to rush about like a crazy woman, it reminds me to slow down and be more present.
6. How would you like to feel?
I find that focusing on how I’d like to feel, rather than what I need to get done, can be really helpful. My to-do list stays pretty much the same, but I enjoy doing it more. I can be guilty of stressing through that to-do list with the goal of getting it done as quickly as possible and only allowing myself to enjoy the holiday when I’ve got to the end. And am completely frazzled!
By focusing instead on how I’d like to feel doing it and over Christmas in general, I find I enjoy the process so much more, am more present and much less exhausted.
This way of thinking also helps in the Christmases when my children go abroad to celebrate with their dad. Instead of feeling sad and missing them, I can choose to remember that I’d rather feel happy and full of love, despite them not being here. I can then use these feelings as a guide and choose the actions that will allow and encourage them.
7. Don’t take it too seriously!
Last but not least, enjoy yourself! The Christmas holidays, whatever your beliefs and traditions, is meant to be a fun time. An opportunity for most of us to have a break from work and spend time with those we love. So drop ideals and judgement and try to be present and enjoy what is. Be silly, laugh, and have fun with the imperfect.
And for those who have to work or, for whatever reason, aren’t with loved ones at this time, may you also have a Christmas time where you feel safe and warm and where you get to laugh and enjoy yourselves, even if it’s just for a short moment.
Wishing you all a very Peaceful and Happy Christmas time. And whatever you do and wherever you are, please take care of your heart and the hearts of all those around you.