If you’re like me, Christmas can feel like a double edged sword.
On one hand it can be so joyous with lots of socialising, and a special time to get together with family and friends; Christmas cheer abounds, and the world just seems a little bit more sparkly.
On the other, it can be a stressful time of organization, tension with family members, blended homes navigating kids moving between two parents, over-indulgence, and often a lot of financial pressure to buy gifts that won’t break the bank and leave you in debt come January 1st.
All that on top of what is usually the end of a packed and busy year. Rather than winding down, it’s like we have to wind up first, before we can breathe a sigh of relief, put our feet up on the couch, done for another year, and finally relax.
It can feel exhausting just thinking about it all, and it’s only the start of the month!
How can we mindfully navigate Christmas, so that we can enjoy not only the day, but the lead up, and the precious time that we have to spend with our loved ones?
There is no more important time of the year to connect with others. Whether that be with friends or family, or taking the time to be aware of people who might be doing it a bit tougher at Christmas.
It can be a particularly tricky time for some, as it can trigger a lot of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. We’re expected to be joyful, and what happens when you feel anything but?
If this is you feeling that way, know that you’re not alone, that it’s okay not to be okay, and reach out for connection. Let people know you might be needing an extra helping hand, and if you don’t feel that you have those people around you, there are a lot’s of community groups that are available to give you that support.
Even if you’re full of Christmas cheer, take the time to really listen to others around you, notice any little cues that perhaps they might need a little assistance, and reach out.
It’s also a wonderful time of the year to volunteer if you have the means to do so.
2. Eat & drink mindfully (but don’t beat yourself for a little over indulgence)
Let’s face it, this is a time when you are usually surrounded by delicious food and wine opportunities. A little indulgence can be good for our state of mind, as it can be such a pleasure to enjoy these times with our colleagues at Christmas parties, and all the catch ups with friends to celebrate the year.
However, sometimes it can slip into one big excuse to let caution fly to the wind and drink and eat everything in sight… we’ve all been there right?
Rather than having to deprive yourself of the experience, or turn it down, after all this is a time to be enjoyed, take it slowly and mindfully taste what you’re eating and drinking.
Be aware when you’re glass is getting topped up again, and eat that pudding, savouring each mouthful with enjoyment. This way you also get the full experience of the moment, and you begin to notice your own internal cues when you’ve reached your limit.
When you eat and drink mindfully, you become aware when you’re full, and likely to feel satiated, rather than needing more.
And don’t beat yourself up too much if you slip into over indulgence, that increases your stress, and makes it even more likely to over indulge the next time. Remember tomorrow is a new day, and you can just begin again.
3. Buy with sustainability in mind.
I’m super conscious of how much is ending up in our landfill each year, and Christmas is a time where gifts joyfully received in the moment can be discarded not long after they’re given.
How about giving an experience, like tickets to a show, a well-deserved massage, a visit to a local winery for lunch, or even a gift for your loved one to learn something new? Salsa dancing anyone?
Or your family could consider doing a Kris Kringle, so that each person receives one gift for an agreed value. This also helps the pocket, not leaving you extended financially; and it means you’re not stressfully racing around for last minute gifts and fighting through the Christmas shopping crowds for hours on end.
When you do buy, do your best to be conscious of buying ethically, sustainably and locally.
4. Practice gratitude
Christmas can often bring up what’s missing in our lives, people that might not be around, or maybe we compare ourselves to others, or perhaps there is some frustration of where we are at in our life and what we’ve done, or not done, in the year that’s past.
Gratitude is about remembering all the things you do have, and now has never been a better time to get a gratefulness practice going. There are so many ways to do this, and one I personally like is writing down 3 things each day that I am grateful for, and why. It only takes a few minutes and can completely transform your outlook.
There will always be someone with more, or less, than you. Be grateful for all the wonderful things that are in your life right now.
5. Remember it’s okay to say no sometimes
You don’t need to say yes, and go to everything. It’s important to get some rest as well during this period, so you don’t arrive at Christmas Day a shell of yourself, with nothing left to give, because you’ve been so over extended.
It’s a busy time, and people are usually understanding when you can’t make something.
It’s a good opportunity to think of the people that do lift you up and make you happy, and lean towards time with them, rather than things you feel obliged to turn up to.
When we say yes to things we don’t really want to go to, remember your energy has a tendency to show up that way as well.
Choose wisely with your time, so you can be generous with your spirit at the events you do go to.
6. Appreciate every moment
“The things that matter most in our lives are not fantastic or grand. They are moments when we touch each other”. Jack Kornfield
A friend said to me the other day that she only gets in total 18 Christmas’ with her kids, before they grow up and leave home. When you start putting it like that time seems to move very quickly and makes you want to appreciate every minute.
Can you allow yourself to be fully present and enjoy each moment? Savour those good times, rather than allowing them to pass you by.
7. Be Kind
If you feel any frustration or tension come up, take some deep breaths into the belly, so you can see the situation with less reactivity. You might like to use the STOP acronym. Stop, Take A Breath, Observe, Proceed Mindfully.
Above all approach with kindness. Even with family members and friends that might appear a bit annoying in the moment, we may not be aware of what is going on for them underneath the surface.
Loving Kindness (Metta) meditation is a beautiful practice at this time of the year, and it’s a good time to remember that ‘just like me, everyone wants to be happy and loved’. You might like to try my Heart Connection, Kindness & Gratitude Practice on Insight Timer.
Mindfully practice patience, and acceptance, with your family and friends when you feel a little frazzled, and most of all cherish the time you do have with the important people in your life.
I wish you a very Happy (and Mindful) Christmas and a wonderful 2020.