The present of presence...
Despite being surrounded by decorative wreaths and twinkling lights, it's quite easy to feel down at this time of year. And it's not just those of us in bad situations that can find it difficult at Christmas; not one of us are exempt from those feelings that can swirl around our minds and bodies at this busy time of year, telling us that it's all too much. It's a time of year when the ads on TV tell us that we should be soaking it up. We've got places to be, people to meet, deadlines to reach, money to spend, carols to sing, mulled wine to guzzle - out of breath yet? - and parties to plan. But what if it all feels a little overwhelming? What if all we feel like doing is curling up with a good book, a hot brew and a onesie? That's normal, you're not alone.
Whether it's that our personal problems feel all the more pronounced at Christmas or that some of us are feeling the pressure of getting into the swing of things at a time when, if we were to follow patterns of nature, we should really be settling down to hibernate, today we're going to take a moment to practise some mindfulness and remind ourselves of some helpful affirmations.
1. One minute of mindfulness.
Take three points in your day and give yourself even just one minute to become fully present. Whether it's before you get out of bed in the morning, before you get into bed at night or a moment at your desk when the emails are coming through thick and fast, taking a breather can make the world of difference to your overall wellbeing. It's quite simple really, take a slow, deep breath in, and try to breathe out for twice as many seconds as your inhale. 4:8 is a nice one. Become aware of your feet on the floor, rooting you to the ground, your palms placed comfortably on your legs.
2. Attend what you fancy, screw the rest.
From as early as November, it seems our calendars fill up with events, be they personal, work related or those catch ups with people you haven't seen in years, and let's be honest, haven't seen for a reason. It's never possible to do EVERYTHING but just because it's Christmas doesn't mean we have to squeeze it all in before December 25th. Why bother if it's more stress than it's really worth? Choose the social appointments you quite like the idea of and ditch the rest. You can always catch up with friends in January, when there's little else to be doing anyway.
3. Do something good for someone who needs it.
While the rest of us are smuggling mince pies in our pockets, there will always be those worse off at Christmas, those for whom Santa can't quite afford to visit and those who face this time of year alone. Can there be such a thing as a selfless act if, as a result, you feel a little bit better on the inside? Probably not, but hey, it's a win win. Whether you gather up unwanted gifts and deliver them to a charity for kids who needs it, or you send a meaningful card to a friend who's had a hard year, do something good this Christmas. That's what it should be about, after all.
4. And don't forget to do something good for yourself.
We know, money is always tight at this time of year, but putting aside a few euro, even if it's just to treat yourself to some cosy PJs from Penneys, it's totally worth it. You deserve it. If you feel funny about buying yourself a present (but who knows you better than you?), make a date with yourself to set the immersion, fill up the tub, pour a glass of wine and unwind in a sea of bubbles.
5. Don't look back, don't look forward, be present.
At Christmas, we tend to find ourselves a bit of an existential crossroads. You're looking back over the year that's been, either patting yourself on the back or thinking 'hmm, that could have gone better'. With the new year looming, we're also guilty of projecting too far forward, telling ourselves will be perfect human beings in 2015. Ultimately, the past is in the past, it's a reference point but not a place we should be living. The same goes for the future. We can while away the hours imagining what might or might not happen in the future, but this is rather futile. It's the here and now wherein life is happening.
6. Slow down.
Seems impossible at a time when everything feels as though it's speeding up, right? But as we go through our days connected to wires, refreshing our social media pages on the hour every hour and checking our emails in bed, our minds have little chance these days to slow down and just be. This gets harder at Christmas time when we've got so much else crammed into our calendars, but it's never more important. So give it a go. Take your time. Don't panic about being late to the party, who cares? Give yourself the extra ten minutes to enjoy your porridge, hug your children for a few seconds longer, enjoy the hot water as it heats up your limbs in the shower. If you don't slow down to actually enjoy the Christmas season for what it is, it'll pass you by.
7. Don't take Christmas too seriously.
So the turkey's fallen apart and you have ten hungry guests waiting to get stuck in. So what, you'll live, and so will they. There are worse things that can happen. And the shop sold out of that one gift your boyfriend really wanted. So what. He'll live. Christmas should be about this and this alone: taking time out to reflect, taking your foot off the gas (when it seems we do the opposite), enjoying some down time with those who matter and blissfully passing out from (dry) turkey sandwich overdoses.
8. Hold your breath and count to ten.
If you live out of home, you'll probably be spending a bit more time back at the family ranch, and as much as we love them, sometimes our nearest and dearest can really do our heads in. Again, this is rather normal. In fact families who get on like the Brady Bunch make us feel uneasy. But this year, instead of landing yourself in the eye of the storm, embroiled in arguments over who ate all the smoked salmon and who forgot to pick granny up from the train station (she's lived through the war, she'll be grand), just breathe, consider whether this is a worthwhile row and approach things in a calm and measured manner. Or ignore it all together, sit back and watch as your siblings pull each others' hair out. Probably more entertaining than what you'll find on the RTE guide anyway. Elizabeth Gilbert has some enjoyable words on this here.
9. Set a reasonable intention for the future.
Yes, we did say it's not a good idea to spend too much time with our heads in the future, but setting a realistic and positive intention for how you mean to go on can frame how you experience the year's end quite nicely. And we're not talking about those resolutions involving green liquid diets that last all of ten minutes. We're talking about the stuff that counts, such as 'I'm going to practise more self-compassion' or simply 'I'm going to be nicer to myself.' Life is hard enough, we'll come up against obstacles all the time, and that, dear friends, is for sure. But if there's one person you've got to rely on to have your back, it's you. Why would you be harder on yourself than you would be to anyone else? You're doing great, keep it up.
10. Gratitude is attitude.
We read this once on Mind Body Green, and it's true. Having gratitude for all that is good in our lives is an attitude to life that we all should adopt. If we focus on the things that are missing, we lose out on what we do have. This Christmas, take some time to consider what you're grateful for. And we don't mean this in a cheesy, Thanksgiving kind of way, but in a very real way that reminds you of the stuff that counts. With that attitude in mind, you'll feel a lot happier about Christmas, without that happiness depending on parties, sparkly things and expensive yet forgettable presents.
Have you any affirmations you'd like to include?