Christmas can be a stressful time. It is a time when many of us are thrown into a room with relatives that we rarely see for prolonged periods and often this brings up a lot of old habits. No matter how old we are, as soon as we are in a room with our families we suddenly feel like we are about 15 again! Not only this, but our routine is often completely thrown, meaning that our mindfulness practice goes out of the window! Here are some tips that I find useful to manage Christmas more mindfully.
We might be good at the practical preparations of Christmas such as wrapping presents and buying far too much food – but what about emotional preparation? One practice that I find really helpful is to prepare for any big family or social gatherings with a five minute on-the-spot kindness meditation. Before any social interaction, take five minutes out (even if it just means escaping to the bathroom!) to just sit and reflect on the people you are about to spend time with and all of the things that you appreciate about them.
Negotiate Time for Yourself. All families have traditions and Christmas Day can often be so full of activity that we don’t realise how exhausted we are until we snap. Why not negotiate half an hour or so out? This might be making sure that you have a nap in the afternoon, or requesting that you are not disturbed during the Dr. Who Christmas Special! Don’t feel guilty for allowing yourself a little time to recharge – especially if you tell people in advance – then your family will know what to expect!
Body Awareness: Body awareness is an important part of mindfulness. It is particularly important when we are busy and likely to be over-eating and over-drinking. Take a moment regularly to check in with yourself and your own body. Are you feeling tired? Are you feeling stressed? Do you feel bloated? Are you getting too tipsy? Can you feel irritation brewing? Sometimes listening to our own bodily sensations can tell us what we need before we are aware cognitively and we can decide how to respond – be it taking a breath, leaving the room or having a glass of water! The difficult thing is remembering to take a pause!
Set a mindful reminder. Make use of technology! Set an hourly alarm on your phone or use a mindfulness timer app on your smartphone. Nobody need notice, but just having a regular beep in your pocket might be enough to remind yourself to take that breath.
Practice Mindful Activities: We might not get much alone time during the festive period and unfortunately when we do, we are often busy thinking about what is happening next and all of the things we may have forgotten. Each day of the holidays, choose one activity to practice more mindfully. Maybe take the opportunity during your shower to smell the products that you are using (and not just the new ones!), and feel the sensations of hot water on your skin. If you are stuck washing the dishes, see if you can turn this into a mindful activity rather than a bone of contention.
And finally… Practise gratitude! In the whirlwind of people and activity we often forget that there is so much to appreciate about Christmas. We can appreciate any gifts we have received – even the dodgy Christmas jumper! We can appreciate the food, and all of the effort of everyone involved in preparation. And don’t forget to appreciate yourself for all the effort you have put in – and for making it through another year!