The festive season is often the busiest time of the year for many of us, which means being on your organisational A-game is crucial. Your mind may feel as if it’s constantly on high alert with too much to think about or plan, or perhaps it’s a sudden lack of time you’re contending with to get work finished early. Then there’s the family to think about and cramming in all those extra social events. Add to that low energy, possible money worries and dealing with potential family conflicts around the table on Christmas Day, it’s no wonder the most wonderful time of the year can start to feel like the most stressful time of the year. With so much going on, it’s hard to know how to switch off at Christmas.
I get it! With so much going on, it can feel impossible to switch off and relax, but I’m here to help you show you that there is a different way. The thoughts will come and go of course (we have 60,000-80,000 of them a day) but there are ways to handle them and find pockets of peace even during the busiest of times.
How to switch off at Christmas
Meditation is a mindtool I have found not only hugely beneficial for stress management and all manner of situations, but it has also become a vital part of my everyday life. In my experience, it can – especially during the busy festive period – help to relieve stress or anxiety; bring more focus, discipline and clarity; help you sleep better and improve mood to encourage a positive mindset. Meditation can also benefit your physical health by lowering blood pressure and even easing chronic pain.
Another helpful set of tools I harness during times of stress is ‘The Four Ps’. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, remembering these four pillars can help you:
Plan as much as you can ahead and schedule little moments when you can reset and recharge. Even just planning in a long, hot (uninterrupted!) bath, a walk in nature or a quiet 15 minutes with a cuppa to just be will allow you some much-needed space to help settle your mind. I have learnt to always book in some rest time, even if it’s 30 minutes for a quick power nap between events. I find this so helpful.
Work out which tasks and events in your diary are absolutely necessary and also those that are not. Put them in order of importance and see if you can drop any altogether. Which ones will bring you the most joy and which ones are you dreading? Of course, some of the ones you dread may be absolutely necessary! But by prioritising by importance and making your list more manageable you’ll also be prioritising your mental health.
- 3 [Stay] Present
Stress and anxiety intensify when our minds go into the future – we worry about what needs to be done. Instead, stay here in the present and only do the tasks required for this very moment. Deal with what can be done now. As the saying goes, be where your feet are!
- 4 Peace
As you work on the first three pillars, the fourth – peace – will begin to come more easily. Keep tapping into, connecting to and cultivating inner peace once a day and it will be there within you all day when you need it. The more we keep serving up an alternative, peaceful option to the mind, i.e., peace rather than stress, whether by using meditation or a quick breathing exercise, the easier it will become to practise this in our daily activities.
The key thing to remember is that we don’t meditate to get good at meditation but instead we meditate to get good at life. When you start your day with 5-10 minutes to centre yourself and connect to that calmness within and the slower breath, you will find that during the hectic moments that may later come, you will have more patience and clarity, and be able to take a breath and connect back to that centred space.
This space is what meditation creates between ourselves and our thoughts, enabling us the capacity and patience to respond to things rather than react. We are way better equipped to navigate the tough stuff if we have a calm mind. Plus, a short meditation each day can not only help lower your stress level, it can support better sleep too – never a bad thing if you’re spending more time with family during the festive season!
A calming, mindful exercise
This is one of the most helpful exercises to have up your sleeve when life gets busy, too many thoughts are swirling around and you’re feeling overwhelmed. What often happens during those times is that we start labelling everything, using increasingly negative words and before we know it we have spiralled down a rabbit hole of discomfort.
Instead of letting these thoughts and tasks drag us down, we can catch and help ourselves by using this mindfulness exercise, which can be used both as a meditation and when you’re on-the-go. You may want to sit down and close your eyes to do this, or simply continue what you are doing and just label the thoughts as they come.
1. Set an amount of time – let’s say, the next five minutes – to label every thought that pops into your mind.
2. Label these thoughts using only these three words: Pleasant; Unpleasant; Neutral. For example, if you think of a conversation you had earlier that upset you, say ‘unpleasant’ in your mind. If you remember something you need to add to your to-do list, that may just be neutral. Thinking of that hot bath you will take later? Label this as ‘pleasant’ and so on.
3. How do you feel after your five minutes is up? Calmer? More in control? During this time, you have caught yourself from going down that spiral of discomfort, and you’ve instead acknowledged your feelings and moved on to the next thought.
This mindful exercise is such a powerful way of redirecting your stress, anxiety and negative self-talk towards a more positive mindset and encouraging a calmer, empowered you!
Want to learn how to meditate with ease? Download the Zenme app for guided meditations, self-discovery courses, enlightening podcasts and more – it’s your all-in-one wellness companion. For more information about coaching with Camilla, visit zenme.tv