Why You Should Practice Mindfulness During the Festive Season01/12/2016
As we head into December, we here at VOYA want to continue on with our mission of mindfulness and talk about the importance of looking after yourself during such the busy festive season.
For many people, Christmas is a time for celebration and enjoying the company of family during some time off. However, for some of us there can be elements of stress caused by work, logistics, planning, cooking and anything else that might pop up. Here are some tips to help you manage stress, take time out to get perspective and most importantly enjoy the occasion with family and friends.
If ever there was a time to not leave everything to the last minute it’s December. Grab a pen and paper and write a list of things that need to happen before Christmas — grocery shopping, gift buying, social events, work deadlines and more and then find appropriate time in the calendar for each activity. It goes without saying that the best way to reduce stress is to avoid getting yourself in stressful situations to the best of your ability. With this in mind try and get the more complex and time consuming tasks out of the way first.
Keep the Routine
If you are used to keeping up your meditation practices and exercise routine year-round, then don’t use December as a cheat month. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, in such a busy month you’ll need these releases more than ever, and secondly, it’s a lot easier to kick off your ‘new year, new you’ in 2017, when you don’t interrupt your routine.
Breathing, Meditation and Mindfulness
If you find yourself slipping from your routine of stress relieving activities, or are new to mindfulness, you can refresh your memory about the benefits of mindfulness by reading our mindfulness talk with Dr Paula Martin.
One of the great benefits of mindfulness, that seems particularly appropriate at Christmas, is that it teaches people to live in the moment. This is an important thing to try and do at Christmas, even if sometimes you might wish certain events would pass by quicker, it’s important to make the most of time with loved ones while you can.
As we’ve said before, for those looking to get going with guided meditation or breathing techniques for the first time, without having to join a group or class a great way to get started is with the Head Space app. This introduces people to guided mindfulness and is free to trial. It takes 10 minutes per day and is a great starting point for beginners. Find out more here.
Of course, things don’t always go to plan and it’s possible that you might find yourself stressing in a shop queue, frantically looking at your watch and worrying that you are going to be late for your next appointment. In moments like this it’s important to use the STOP exercise to bring yourself back to the present and calm yourself.
Stop: Pause for a moment before you say or do anything as an impulsive response.
Take a breath: Take three deep breaths and count to 5.
Observe: If you can, ‘take a step back’ in your mind, and if it helps you focus take a physical step back too.
Perspective: Take a critical look at the situation, see it from the other person’s perspective (if someone else is involved) and then harness the positive events of that day or something you are looking forward to soon and now continue with your actions.
The most important piece of advice we can give you at Christmas is to remember to enjoy it.
When you are writing out your calendar for the month, be sure to include three fun activities that are just for you over the festive season. They don’t have to cost a lot of money, they can be as simple as a drive out to a beach you love for a stroll, or a massage or treatment at a spa or an evening put aside to watch that boxset you have been looking forward to catching up on.
Enjoy the festivities for what they are — a chance to catch up with family and friends and to wind down from the everyday stresses that might have accumulated over the year.
Remember to use the S.T.O.P. technique where appropriate and keep going with your mindfulness/meditation practices. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from loved ones over the holidays, whether you need to talk about something that’s on your mind or you simply need help with something on your to do list.
Be sure to keep an eye on the VOYA Facebook page for our annual 12 Days of Christmas giveaway.