Have Yourself A Calm Christmas
Now that birthday month has finished in my house I can let my head get around the fact Christmas season is upon us. Again! Already! I’m not the most Christmassy person around, I admit. There’s lots to love about the season, for sure, and also plenty that sets my teeth on edge!
I find the commercialisation all too much and the pressure to have a perfect day overwhelming. Too many things we should be doing or buying! And all the waste – the paper, the plastic, the food. It gets me stressed just thinking about it!
But I also know Christmas can be a time to reconnect with what’s important to us. It doesn’t have to be a full on commercial juggernaut. It is possible to do Christmas your own way, and feel good about it.
Here are my tips for surviving the mayhem and actually enjoying Christmas this year:
Ensure you protect some time to step away from all the busyiness and doing. I’ll be doing this with my monthly massage and weekly yoga class. One of my favourite yoga practices is Yoga Nidra, an amazing guided meditation practice that can help strip away all the unnecessary shoulds in your head and connect to the present moment. You can find some free yoga nidra meditations here.
When you are feeling stressed, or simply in need of slowing down, focus on your breathing. Deep breathing will soothe your vagus nerve which helps to reduce your heart rate. Associate Professor of Neurology Lucy Norcliffe-Kaufmann notes that breaths of 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out are optimal for stimulating the vagus nerve. It takes deliberate attention, but longer, slower breathing is a tool we all have available to us, free, whenever we need it.
Frankincense is a really helpful grounding essential oil – use it in a diffuser or put a couple of drops on a tissue and put it under your pillow at night or in your pocket when you’re out and about. It has a lovely Christmassy feel to it too.
Have an early night
It might sound obvious but getting enough sleep can make everything more manageable. And this time of year is about rest. Before electricity, we would all have slept more during the winter months.
If you’re having trouble getting to sleep you could try using some Neroli or Lavender essential oil in a diffuser or put a couple of drops on a tissue under your pillow. A warming bath with two or three drops of Lavender oil can also help. Just remember to mix the essential oil in an emulsifier first (such as milk) otherwise the oil will just sit on top of the water and you won’t get the full benefit.
Your brain can get into sleep time mode more easily if you develop a routine of turning your phone off at least an hour before bed. The blue light and stimulation from social media/news/internet/messaging friends can hamper our ability to get to sleep. Though your phone can also be useful for bedtime – set an alarm or reminder each night to turn it off and go to bed!
But whatever you do, it’s important to value sleep enough to prioritise it. That means choosing it – not watching another episode on Netflix on autopilot or staying out for another drink when you’re tired.
For many people a big part of Christmas celebrations is feasting – treats and indulgences aplenty. And of course, it’s time to relax and enjoy. But your body, mind and emotional health will suffer from weeks of eating only beige food. So make sure you don’t forget the immune boosting foods that help us stay healthy at this time of year. Eat a rainbow of foods – winter veg such as red cabbage, sprouts, parsnips, squashes are all delicious if prepared well.
And don’t forget to keep hydrated! Yes, have the gin or the mulled wine, but make sure your water intake stays high too. We can often dry out without realising if we’re spending lots of time inside, in centrally heated rooms with lots of other people.
Spend your Christmas wisely
Do you really need to buy that extra present, extra cake, extra decoration? Why are you buying it? What would happen if you didn’t buy those things? People have so much stuff these days and many of us are decluttering!
Giving to others and creating special memories is a wonderful feeling, but be conscious about how you are doing it. You don’t necessarily need to buy more stuff. By making the decision not to buy for friends and family, you may be taking the pressure off them too. Rather than exchange gifts no-one really wants or needs, you could go for a walk together, or if squeezing more events in around Christmas adds to the stress, plan a special trip for the new year.
We are often pressured into doing things we don’t really want to do because ‘it’s Christmas’. You may feel honour-bound to stay for after work drinks, or spend time with people you avoid the rest of the year because they make you feel stressed. It’s ok to say no.
Or if an outright ‘no’ feels a step too far this year, put some clear boundaries around your time. Rather than a weekend with extended family, have a lunch or brunch together. Rather than feel bulldozed into a big night out with work mates, say you’ll stay for a drink then head off (and it doesn’t have to be alcohol if you’re not into drinking booze).
There’s nothing wrong with buying gifts, or having lots of parties, or participating in any of the hundreds of Christmas activities on offer at this time of year. Just check in with yourself that you’re doing it for positive reasons.
And if you end up doing something that makes you feel anxious or upset then be kind to yourself and ensure you have something to look forward to afterwards. Give yourself time to decompress.
I still have some appointments available in December so it’s not too late if you need some time out this festive season. I also have some beautiful gift vouchers available – hot off the press this week!. The perfect present for anyone who has plenty of stuff but desperately needs their world to slow down for a little while (and if that’s you – me too! I hear you!). Just get in touch here.