The lead up to Christmas can be a super busy time with a gazillion extra things on our ‘to do list’ as we’re also trying to juggle the usual demands of our daily lives. Navigating the shopping crowds as we search for the perfect gift, we are bombarded with advertising telling us what to buy and often enticing us to spend more than we intended.
Media images and portrayals can distort out expectations of the perfect Christmas. We may be feeling the stress of living up to an ideal of what Christmas ‘should’ be, or perhaps dreading a repeat of an earlier disastrous year when things didn’t go so well.
As we negotiate the often hectic and stressful journey towards Christmas, some of us may not be feeling as festive as all the Christmas carols and media would suggest. To avoid being overwhelmed or bogged down by the demands of the season we can take inspiration from the teachings of mindfulness.
The practice of mindfulness teaches us a different way to relate to our thoughts, feelings and emotions as they arise. Research shows mindfulness can reduce stress, depression and anxiety as well as improve attention and self-regulation (this is our ability to control our thoughts, actions and emotions). Mindfulness is a process of awareness. It involves paying attention to experience in the moment as opposed to being caught up in other thoughts. Without judgement, paying attention, with flexibility, openness and curiosity to what is here and now.
Give yourself the gift of Christmas presence by taking time to fully notice the smells, textures and tastes of Christmas. From the moment you wake up try to engage all your senses on Christmas day to be fully involved in savouring all the little pleasures of the season. Eat some favourite food slowly taking time to savour the taste and how it feels in your mouth. Notice the effort others may have made to give you a gift. What it looks like and feels like in your hands, how they wrapped the gift and what if feels like to pull off the paper. Be compassionate to yourself and others and if things don’t go according to plan or you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a few moments to just sit, breathe and focus your attention on your breath.