It’s the most wonderful time of the year – but it can also the most stressful time of the year, regardless of whether you’re hosting, visiting or just at home over the festive period. It’s easy to forget to factor in time for meditation when there’s presents to buy, social occasions to attend and often complex interpersonal relationships to deal with, more so than at any other time of the year.
Being so busy, it can also seem impossible to carve out the the time to do the things you usually do to help keep yourself as cool, calm and well as you possibly can. But there’s actually no more important time to stick to exercise and meditation routines even if you have to streamline them a little to ensure you can fit them in.
It’s women who tend to feel the stress over Christmas more than men. An ipsos MORI poll found that one in four women feel their stress levels rise as December approaches. Neil Shah, director of The Stress Management Society explains: “There are some complex social issues to negotiate at Christmas especially when we invite relatives over that we might not get on with and cook what’s seen as perhaps the most important meal of the year. No wonder that one in twenty people considers Christmas more stressful than divorce or burglary.”
So what can we do to help make sure we nurture not only the people around us but also our own inner sense of wellbeing this festive time? Here’s a few tips on how to squeeze some important you time into Christmas.
A Minute for Me
However busy or harassed you are, everyone can find one minute in their day to dedicate to themselves. A great time to find this minute is in the shower. Jump in, wash and then stand there, with the warm water cascading over your body, and allow yourself sixty seconds just for you. Mindfulness coach Eve Warren recommends closing your eyes and slowly breathing in and out through your nose. Then start counting your breaths from one to 10, imagining the numbers as you count, flowing both in, and out of your nostrils. If your mind wanders, don’t worry, just notice, and return to your counting.
Whether you’re commuting to work, on the school run or to the shops for vital last minute present shopping, that time on the bus or train is perfect for de-stressing. Discard headphones and focus on a sense. Mindfulness expert Graham Doke recommends starting with touch: One of the most overlooked senses when you’re on your travels is touch. Think when you’re sitting there, ‘How do your clothes feel on you? How does the seat feel? Are you warm?’ If you’re on a jam-packed carriage getting hot, think about whether you can sense any part of your body that’s feeling the breeze, or try and isolate areas of space you have, rather than the elbows in your back.
Taking a moment before bed to actually dedicate to mediation not only allows you to tick the ‘Time for Me’ box before you hit the hay, but also ensures the quality of your sleep will be better, setting you up a fabulous tomorrow. The experts at sleep.org say bed is a great place to practice some guided mediations as you’ve turned in for the night and have nowhere to rush off to. In guided meditation, you listen to another person who leads you through your meditation practice. An instructor might tell you to focus on relaxing your toes, then your legs, and so on—all the way up your body. Or he or she might lead you through guided imagery, asking you to imagine, for example, a beautiful, white sand beach with water lapping onto the shore. There are many free apps and podcasts available such as Insight Timer and Headspace – which does guided meditation.