As we approach Christmas/New Year people report experiencing not only a festive spirit, but also increased levels of stress. The pressure of striving to attain a “happy” mood state at this time of the year can be quite exhausting. We are surrounded by people who love Christmas, decorations abound, Christmas carols are playing and parties are being held. But what if, for whatever reason, you don’t feel this way about the festive season?
More than any other occasions Christmas is a time when all sorts of emotions are invoked. Some of us adore everything about Christmas but for many others it is a time that fills them with dread. For many different reasons Christmas can be a difficult time and the pressure put on those who find it hard often increases our negative feelings. Commercialism and advertising place pressure on parents to buy more and more expensive gifts to make Christmas the best they can for their families. For others reminders of the loss of loved ones increases feelings of isolation and depression.
Here at Zest Infusion we would like you to know that if you find Christmas a tough time of year you are not alone. But by being kind to yourself and using mindfulness and meditation you can ease the pressure a little.
Here are our top tips to help you through the next few weeks:
Be kind to yourself: Speak to yourself as you would your dearest friend if you are having a difficult time. Mindfully step back and simply notice without judgement “I’m having a thought that this is not my favourite time of the year…” It is OK to feel however you feel right now. Witness the narrative with which you construct your sense of self: “Christmas should be…” “I shouldn’t be…” “I wish I could have…” Allow your thoughts and feelings to come and go in the space of mindful awareness. At the same time remember that it is just another thought, whether you like it or not. We are often caught up in the prison that the great storyteller (our mind) creates, even though the door is wide open. Let go of the struggle!
Take extra special care of your mind and body: The temptation at this time of the year is to eat and drink way too much of the bad stuff! While it is great to let your hair down and enjoy this time of indulgence our bodies and minds can suffer from the excesses of Christmas.
Remember to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water, try to fit in some exercise every day, eat beautiful fresh fruit and lots of salads with good quality protein and healthy fats and try to minimise processed food and alcohol. Our body and mind is inextricably linked so if you are looking after one both benefit enormously.
Meditate, meditate, meditate: If you have done any work with Zest Infusion you will know the importance of meditation. Sitting for even just one minute with your eyes closed, focussed on your breath will benefit you in so many ways.
You do not need a special set time or place to meditate. Go for a walk, sit by the ocean, in your favourite park or find a peaceful spot at home. Meditation can be done anywhere and for any length of time. When you find yourself getting stressed or anxious take one minute to sit, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Use your senses to ground yourself in the present. Mindfully tune into what you can hear, smell, taste and feel. If you can fit in some longer periods of stillness then that is great but take any small moment and make the most of the chance to breathe and calm your mind.
Meditation is a gift to disconnect for just a moment or two allowing us to reconnect again.
Act in line with your values: The Christmas season and family gatherings can be a source of frustration and pain in relationships. Be mindful of the “life traps” that others set for you. When someone tries to start a contentious conversation, don’t take the bait. Notice your own need to express or justify your self, take a breath and carefully navigate your way around the trap by simply listening and not reacting. Ask yourself “What do I want to stand for in this situation?” “What do I value?”
Set up a relaxing routine: What is the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing at night? The way we set up our day can make such a difference to how we feel. Even if we love Christmas it can be exhausting and stressful. Try adding some of these into your routine:
Set your alarm 15 minutes early. Avoid picking up the phone or any electronic device for the first half hour. Make yourself a warm cup of tea, sit outside and just take 5 minutes to enjoy the beginning of the day. Meditate on the intention that you want to set for the day, e.g. “today I want to cultivate patience…gratitude…peace…”
Make some time to eat a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner.
10-30 minutes of daily exercise is beneficial not only to our physical bodies but studies prove that exercise increases feel good hormones and calms the mind. If you are short on time studies show that short 10 minute bursts can be just as effective. Our summer nights are perfect to get outdoors and watch the sunset – the kids will benefit from this too!
At the end of the day make some time for you. Half an hour before bed turn off all electronic devices, have a warm shower, light some candles, put on some soothing music, throw on your favourite PJs and take some time to sip a chamomile tea. Chamomile tea is beneficial for the nervous system and helps relax us before we get ready to sleep. As you climb into bed put on your favourite sleep meditation and drift off to sleep for 7-8 hours.
Self-care is crucial not only at Christmas but every day. It can make an enormous difference to our daily lives.
Zest Infusion wishes all our beautiful clients a Merry, Mindful Christmas and a peaceful break over the holidays. Our office will be closed from 25th to 28th December. We look forward to seeing you all in 2017.
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