It’s a funny time of year. Routine generally goes out the window and work slows down or even stops for a couple of weeks. We eat differently, drink differently, see lots of people; and for many, this can be completely overwhelming.
I’m not a huge Christmas fan and don’t really feel the wild excitement that many seem to embrace. I know, bah humbug and all that. The pressure and expectation that we can, without intention, experience often takes away from the more subtle expressions of Christmas that is a preferred focus of many. Me included.
For those with elaborate plans and “by the minute” cooking schedules that are already stressful, how do you make sure to look after yourself?
I’ve been reading a lot about self-care these last few weeks so I wanted to share a few ideas and techniques for coping with the festive period and beyond.
Be patient and thoughtful of your own needs
It’s ok to say no, if it isn’t what you want to do. We can be so afraid of causing a problem that we often put other people’s needs and requests ahead of our own. It’s ok to prioritise yourself.
Respect your boundaries
Set time limits for how long you see family, particularly if you find it stressful. It’s acceptable to just want to go home and claw back a little normality.
Take time out
Hide in your room for a short while and remember to breathe. Do something normal and at least something just for you – read a few pages of a well loved book (this is one of my favourites), write some notes and just enjoy your own space.
Find a few mindfulness breathing activities and take ten minutes to focus on grounding yourself before a busy day. If it’s all becoming too much, move away from the chaos and focus on your senses…five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. Repeat until your heart rate has calmed and you’re back in the moment.
If you have family coming over for Christmas, don’t be afraid to ask for help. People are always willing but sometimes afraid of treading on toes so make the first move! Delegate one of the courses or hand over an element you find particularly bothersome.
Be sure to get some exercise during the festive period. Take walks, try out a little yoga online (there are so many fab videos on Youtube) or hit the gym if that’s your preferred method of keeping fit.
Make a self-care basket
Fill a basket with candles, hot chocolate, a book that makes you feel good, personal messages and pictures that bring out your smile. Use it whenever you feel the need and create some internal warmth.
Alternative self-care basket
If the above doesn’t take your fancy, you can always again focus on the senses. Fill a basket with things that smell comforting such as vanilla pods, dried lavender, scented candles, coffee beans, anything you love. For touch, it can be a soft blanket, a cuddly toy or embroidered scarf. Taste – maybe a biscuit, a carton of juice or sweets. For sight, perhaps photos, birthday cards or letters from a loved one. Finally, sound could be music, chime bells, or maybe a rain shaker. It’s all personal choices.
Eat good food
Find a beautiful recipe full of fresh, healthy ingredients and indulge yourself with the gift of time within the kitchen. Don’t rush in the creating nor the consumption. And enjoy every mouthful.
Baths cure so much
Take a gorgeously bubbly bath, dim the lights and embrace the warmth for as long as you need.
Make your own rules
I personally get really miffed when people try to define what you can or can’t do just because it’s Christmas. Your life, your rules. And yes, I take my Christmas tree down early. No twelve days for me!
Watch all your favourite Christmas films
We’ve already hit a few…my favourites will be spread out across the next few days and then repeated en masse.
Pyjamas are a justifiable outfit
Pyjama days are the ultimate act of self care. Wear pyjamas all day, eat bowls of cereal and don’t move from the couch unless it’s to get more snacks or to throw another log on the fire.
If you really are struggling, please ask for help
There are so many fantastic support services out there these days. Samaritans are one of the most famous. They also have an app which you can use to monitor your feelings and emotions. Similarly useful apps are those such as Calm Harm (for teens) or My Possible Self. The NHS has a great library of apps that you can check out to find the one that best suits your needs. Download onto your phone and use them as a check in service.
Alternatively, Give us a shout is a text support service for anyone unable to talk but who needs emotional support.