This month can feel hectic and pressured, maybe you have lots of social engagements, presents to buy, or managing children’s excitement. On the flip side of this maybe you have the complete opposite, this time of year can highlight our lack of family or friends or our difficult relationships with them, we can feel everyone else has the perfect “advert” life.
It can also be a time when the gap left by the people who are no longer with us seems larger. This is definitely the case for me since my husband died, I feel there is a missing part in all the usual festivities.
With all of this going on at a time when it is also dark and cold it is not surprising, we may struggle at times or feel ungrounded from ourselves.
Can you take a step back to notice what is happening in your mind and body, begin to build awareness of your thoughts and feelings, notice the impact these have on your body and behaviours?
There is a connection between our inner thoughts – “I’m boring” physical reactions – headache, stomach ache and our behaviours – avoid Christmas parties. Understanding this triangle can help us see where we could change the narrative, we can begin to see that our thoughts are just a story and we do not have to believe that story.
Awareness means we are moving from trying to distract, ignore, or “fix” ourselves to a place of acceptance of the current situation. Once we let go of fighting our emotions we can begin to understand them, allow them to be, and move towards new ways of being. This is not about losing who we are or feeling bad for our reactions it is about living our life aligned with our values.
So how can we bring a mindful approach to the festive season and align this with our values?
Firstly, you need to understand what values you want to bring to this season, for example, connection, compassion or fun. If you are not sure of your values try these values exercises to explore what is important to you or check out this values list.
Once we know our values we can begin to see the areas that may be a struggle over Christmas. If for you Christmas is about connection but for your family, it is about the size/cost of presents and being seen as affluent this may cause an internal conflict.
Now you understand why this may happen, can you make peace with it, rather than fight it? You may not be able to change your family but can change how you respond. Could you respond with compassion and kindness? Acknowledging and respecting their values doesn't mean you agree with them, we can sit with opposing values in peace if we allow ourselves space and self compassion.
There are many exercises you could utilise to begin your practice for a more mindful Christmas. I love this practice from George Thompson:
“Every morning I physically write down some values help me approach the day in a balanced way. Some of the values I write: Simplicity, humility, compassion. Integrity. Joyful!” Is this a practice you could start?
Mindful breathing anchor
Use your breath as an anchor that is always there whenever you need it. At any point whatever is happening, you can focus on your breath. Ground your feet on the floor, and notice where you feel your breath, just notice, no judgment. Follow your breath as it rises and falls in your body. Notice how it feels to just be you in this moment. You may wish to rest your hand on your body or say some kind words to yourself. You are doing your best and that is ok.
Capturing your experiences, thoughts, or feelings is an effective way to "objectify" them and stop getting caught in the story. You can also monitor how your reactions evolve—don’t just look for improvements, but the "why" behind those changes. You could journal about a difficult conversation, challenging relationship and different ways you could respond to situations.
What gives you energy? What takes it away? And what, for you, is a waste of time?
Take a pause before you answer, take a breath and listen inside. These may be more challenging at this time of year, but are there some actions you can take to restore energy and some things you could let go? For me it is being in nature and meditation and letting go of too much time looking at a screen.
Hopefully, with some mindful moments and self awareness this Christmas will be one of peace, joy and time and a time to re focus on what is most important in our lives,