Looking after ourselves in the festive season (focus on the present, not the presents)
3rd November 2017
It’s 25 days until Christmas. How do those words make you feel – happy/excited or anxious/overwhelmed? Or a mixture of all of these emotions and more?
I love Christmas and this year is special, as, for the first time in our adult lives, all four siblings (two of whom live in the States) are spending it together with our families. Having lost both our parents in close succession last year, it feels important to be together.
So, this year more than others, I have been thinking about how to stay healthy and happy, minimise stress and tiredness, and not do the classic coming down with flu on Christmas Eve.
One of the problems is that during this period our thoughts and energies are directed to the future – the forthcoming date of 25th December (and all the preparations in the run up to it). This means that we remove ourselves from the present and can find ourselves not concentrating on things that are important in the moment such as our general well-being.
I am finding following things helpful – all focused on being in the present (and not stressing about the up and coming weeks):
Breathe – We don’t not breathe if we are alive…. however, the quality of our breathing is not always good and can become shallow when we are stressed instead of energising and relaxing.
This lovely 3 minute breathing space from mindfulness guru Mark Williams is great to do a couple of times a day. My 16 year old has also got hooked on it – you can usually persuade a teenager to do anything if it’s short enough!
Get in touch with the land – Over the Christmas period, we can spend a lot of time indoors – whether it be in supermarkets, in the car (getting to supermarkets) or at parties. But keeping in touch with nature and being in fresh air helps us feel in the moment.
The importance and the life-affirming qualities of connecting with nature really came home to me when I read about the gardener Anna Pavord who, after being treated for stomach cancer and still in recovery had such a need to connect with the earth that she “crawled”and dragged herself along the hospital corridor to connect with a piece of grass outside.
Connecting with the land doesn’t have to be a major expedition – we can take a walk in a local green space, spend 15 mins clearing up the leaves in the garden or even just listen to the birds and feel the earth under our feet when we hang out the washing in the garden.
Play a game or do something creative – Watching my children play basketball – whatever the weather – I feel so strongly their concentrated absorption in the present moment. During that time they are in the “flow” – something Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as “the sense of effortless action (people) feel in moments that stand out as the best in their lives”.
We all have things that take us to that place, where time seems to stand still and we are completely enjoying and absorbed in what we do. For me, swimming is one of those things. Another is writing. I’ve decided that throughout the festive period, I will carve out a bit of dedicated time each week to do these things as they give me positive energy and keep me centred.
So, rather than focusing on that list of presents we need to buy, battling traffic to get to the butcher before it shuts or wondering what to wear for that party next week, we can all find ways to step into the present moment and keep well in the festive season.