Christmas. As the well-known carol says, it’s the most wonderful time of year. And it is…when you finally get there and can relax knowing the lead-up rush is done and dusted and turkey turned out just fine. However, we all know that the lead-up can be stressful, and instead of it being the season to be jolly, it can be the season where anxiety levels soar! Extra financial and time demands can take their toll, and even the idea of having all of the family together can be a source of stress and anxiety for many. Don’t hide away behind the Christmas tree just yet…. I’ve put together a few mindful hacks you may want to try in the coming weeks to help ensure the lead-up to this Christmas is as chill as the summer days beyond:
- Limit Spending: We’re all inundated with marketing messages that encourage us to spend, spend, spend in the lead up to Christmas and it seems to level-up each year. Unfortunately this means financial issues are one of the leading causes of stress during the holiday season. It therefore makes sense to prioritise budgeting at this time of year. This can sometimes take a shift of focus. Do your kids really need both of those gifts, or would they be happy with just the one and a more chilled parent giving them focused attention enjoying that toy together? Also, never underestimate the power of a cheap and cheerful homemade gift. Love and thought trumps material possessions and excess any day. Overspending can quickly overshadow the true meaning of christmas. Slowing down the spending on the credit card and spending time with your loved ones is where it is at.
- Have Fun: It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the must-dos in the lead up to Christmas. Remember when you were a child, and it was all just such a magical time? Obviously as an adult, we have a host of responsibilities leading up to Christmas, but why not try and consciously embrace that inner-child’s festive joy along the way. Pop on some nostalgic tunes, choose to decorate the tree on a day that’s not already crammed with activities, and give yourself permission to surrender the to-do list for an hour or so to soak up all the goodness that the month of December can be.
- Help Someone Else: Christmas is traditionally a time for giving, be it gifts or more importantly, time. It’s way too easy to get consumed by our own busy lives year-round, and so Christmas is a good time to step out of our everyday hustle and bustle, to slow down and consider helping others. Maybe you could make a tradition out of the time you give? Perhaps you and your family spend 2 hours every Christmas helping out at the local mission, or maybe it is just a matter of deciding to stop and have a cuppa with your elderly neighbour next door? A little or a lot…consciously deciding to step out of our own lives for a moment to be of service works two-fold. Of course, you are helping others, but from a mindful point of view, being of service to others less fortunate than ourselves also helps put into perspective all that we have to be grateful for. Other ideas that don’t take a lot of time and sometimes just a little love and consideration can include inviting a friend over who is alone on Christmas, donating some festive food items to a food bank or just smiling at a stranger. Chances are your presence at that moment will brighten their day. You could even combine this mindfulness step with number 2, and have fun getting creative baking some festive treats for someone in need. Turn up your generosity over the festive season, and you’ll inevitably get and give more joy than any ticks on a To-Do list can provide!
- Create a Christmas Mantra: A mantra is simply a phrase or set of words that are written in a positive way. The intention is to repeat or be reminded of the mantra frequently as a reminder to stop, observe, breathe and take hold of your feelings and emotions. Choosing or creating a mantra specifically for the Christmas period can really help to keep a hold of stress levels and put things in perspective. With the busyness of Christmas, choosing a mantra that brings you back to the present moment and reminds you of what is truly important to you over this season could be a good way to start. Some ideas include…
“Nothing has to be perfect to be beautiful”
“I am present, I am mindful, I am calm”
“Slowing down won’t hold me back”
“I give myself permission to say no”
Repeat your mantra to yourself as a calming and grounding reminder at times when you feel the overwhelm creeping in. You may like to jot it down on a post-it note and pop next to your desk or on the fridge. Whatever it takes for you to remind yourself to pause and take a moment to reset and reprioritise!
Presence over Presents: Drop the expectations. The best Christmases are the ones where we can be fully present with our families. If you bought all you nieces and nephews the same small matchbox car each, they’ll no doubt have the best time ever with those simple toys, especially if you get down on the ground and play with them all! The Christmas season can trigger all kinds of feelings – but making a few changes to your mindset and routine can go a little way in helping you to manage which feelings the season triggers. Remember that your healthy mental wellbeing is your biggest gift – to yourself and everyone around you. Focus on dropping the expectations and picking up some mindfulness habits to help you happily navigate the season.