Christmas can be a difficult time of year for many people, whether you celebrate or not. The days are at their shortest, the expectation to be having fun can pile on pressure and all of this on top of 20 months of a global pandemic.
What can we do to look after ourselves, reduce stress, and stay present over the holidays?
Thresholds’ facilitator and mindfulness teacher, Nicola Lowit shares her top 10 tips for having a stress free and enjoyable time.
- Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness can help ground and connect you and enable you to respond to difficult experiences in a compassionate and accepting way, rather than simply pushing unwanted emotions away. Why not try out a short meditation, you can find free resources at insighttimer.com
- Come back to your senses
Anxiety and stress are so common these days and the simple act of listening to yourself can help to calm the nervous system. Our senses connect us to ourselves, and our environment, in a way that bypasses our busy, analytical and judgemental minds.
If you feel overwhelmed, try to find a quiet space where you can activate your sense: simply notice what you can see, hear, feel, smell and taste. You could go outside and take a mindful walk, tuning into the feeling of the air on your skin, the temperature, the noise of the wind in the trees, or the cars on the road.
- Get out into nature
Spending even short amounts of time outside during daylight hours, particularly in winter, can help to regulate our body clocks, absorb vitamin D, and connect us with nature. Many studies are now showing what we all probably know already – nature is good for us.
- Look for beauty
You can enhance the benefits of a walk by actively noticing the beauty. Even in the depths of winter you can find bright red berries, frost sparkling on the ground, or the way the light reflects in a puddle of water. Our brains are hard-wired to notice threats to our safety, the challenge to overcome this is by making a conscious effort to absorb the beauty in the experience.
- Keep a journal
When done consistently journaling can lead to fresh new insights and ideas that can be transformative. It is a beneficial way of getting through tough times, achieving goals, or fostering creative efforts.
Try making it a part of your daily routine with one of these ideas:
- Goal setting
- Daily log
- Journaling for stress
- Recording highlights – “what’s the best thing that happened today?”
- Gratitude journaling
- Move your body
Any movement helps counter feelings of stress and overwhelm, as well as improving energy levels. We often feel great when returning from a walk, bike ride, run, swim, or yoga session, so why do we spend hours arguing with ourselves about getting started on these activities?
For me the trick is to bypass my thinking mind and not allow myself to get involved in the ‘but I don’t feel like it’ and do it anyway.
It helps to find ways of making exercise a habit. Find something you enjoy, get your kit ready the night before, make it something you do as automatically as brushing your teeth. As the advertising slogan goes ‘just do it’.
- Eat mindfully
Bring attention and awareness to our cravings, is this a genuine desire? Are we hungry? Or is it a habitual reaction because food is in front of us, or we want to push away some feeling of discomfort.
Try to slow down your eating, pay attention to the tastes and smells and the texture. We are not suggesting denial, but ways to find pay more attention and making eating a more enjoyable experience.
- Connect with others
It’s easy when it’s cold and dark to want to retreat inwards; to hibernate and not see family or friends. However, as many of us have learned over the pandemic, connecting with others is important for our wellbeing. This can be achieved via a myriad of ways; the goal is to feel heard and connected with someone else.
- Take time for yourself
What is it that brings you joy? Identifying what it is that helps you relax and experience a feeling of joy and fulfilment can be so beneficial to balance the constant demands for our energy and time.
Taking time and space and time to decompress, recharges our batteries, and can give you more energy and motivation.
Many women say they worry about being selfish when doing things for themselves, but you can’t pour from an empty cup. As they tell us on aeroplanes, “put your own oxygen mask on first”. It is a further drain to look after others when we haven’t looked after ourselves first. Even just 10 minutes a day, you’ll be surprised what a bit of ‘me time’ can do.
- Back to basics
Finally, don’t neglect the basics: eat nutritious food, try go to bed at a reasonable time (at least sometimes!), and move your body. See this time as an opportunity to slow down and get back to basics.