Christmas is an exciting and joyful time of the year, with endless festivities to attend, but it can also one of the busiest periods for many people.
Feelings of stress and anxiety are normal as Christmas Day approaches. Some experience fear that family arguments will break out, while others worry about their finances.
Putting some coping strategies in place is a good way to help alleviate this stress and anxiety.
To help you get through the day, Pauline McKinnon, a psychotherapist and anxiety expert has offered five key pieces of advice to implement meditation and ease those worries.
In the lead up to Christmas, everyone’s to-do list is packed. From buying presents and attending parties to planning and preparing food – you barely have time to think. So, it’s no wonder many overlook their personal needs.
McKinnon suggests giving yourself some time off where you can relax and put your feet up.
“It’s a good idea to make a few dates for yourself; some evenings when you just stop and relax,” she says. “After 9pm is ‘me time’. I forget about Christmas pressure and take some time to enjoy personal interests.
“This is not opting out – it’s self-care through planned procrastination.”
It’s not uncommon for old differences to be amplified at Christmas time. The combination of alcohol, stress and exhaustion can bring out the worst in people.
The obligation to spend time with family members who you don’t really connect with can be one of the most difficult things about Christmas. If you’re worried about being in this situation, McKinnon suggests avoiding that person altogether.
“Find your inner zen-mode and try to let things slide,” she says. “Being the bigger person isn’t just the mature thing to do, it’s the best way to avoid confrontation and ensure a happy Christmas Day for you and your family.”
Make sure you enjoy Christmas just as much as you want other people to.
“In celebratory mode, there’s no need to count calories or avoid the chocolates,” McKinnon says. “Just remember that over-indulging in food and drinks is never recommended.
“The whole point of Christmas is celebration – in fact, traditionally the celebration of Christmas is really all about love, peace and joy. Let’s treat ourselves with the spirit of Christmas in mind.”
McKinnon says stillness meditation is an effective tool which can be practiced in any environment.
Unlike other forms of meditation where you have to sit in silence, this style of meditation doesn’t involve complex postures, music, chanting or mental focus of any kind. Essentially, the purpose is to rest the mind.
“The practice of natural mental rest leads to inner calm, a necessity when managing the festive season with poise and grace,” McKinnon says.
There is no right or wrong way to engage in stillness meditation. You can be sitting with friends and family or sitting outside in nature.
Some enjoy listening to calming music while they meditate, while others can do it surrounded by background noise. The main point is just be still.
“One of the most challenging times to set aside the restfulness of stillness meditation is usually just the time when being still is most effective – and most necessary,” McKinnon says.
“That means especially in the lead up to Christmas and during the festive season itself. It’s really healthy to know how to clear your mind of any distractions and let your mind rest.”
Whether it’s a short walk to the park or a 30-minute weight-bearing workout, any type of exercise will help you relax and clear your mind.
“Exercise shares a lot in common with meditation,” McKinnon says. “It’s not only good for your physical health, but your mental health as well.
“And this doesn’t have to be vigorous either. Walking is the most naturally beneficial form of exercise, so spend some time out in the park.”