It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but are you feeling merry and bright or is it more a case of bah humbug?
There’s no doubt that Christmas can be a most magical time of the year but there’s no getting away from the fact that for many of us, it can also be stressful.
From the pressure of hosting, the aching gnaw of bereavement, the battle of mental health, feeling lonely, having a drunken row, or just trying not to bite the head off of that one relative who seems intent on winding us up, Christmas can be more challenging than joyful!
Well, here are five powerful ideas that could top up your Christmas spirit and make the holidays happy:
1. Learn to deal with tough relations.
Top of the list of Christmas stress has to be spending time and socialising with people and that includes family members who, dare I say it, we hate (or at least couldn’t care less if we never saw again).
Here are some quick and effective tools to help:
Practice the pause. Pause before assuming, judging, accusing, responding, or reacting in a way you might later regret. When in doubt, angry, tired, drunk, or stressed, pause first!
Manage your stress with your breath. Breathing can center, connect, and calm us. Close your mouth and breathe slowly through your nose. Notice the flow of air as you inhale and exhale.
Put them down. Quite often, we carry something or someone long past the moment. If you realise you are carrying something that you should have put down hours ago, try this powerful creative visualtision: in your mind’s eye, imagine yourself pulling the event out of your mind, put the thought into a balloon, and watch the balloon drift up into the sky. Watch as you let it go.
And smile. Science has now shown that smiling makes us happy, even fake smiling! Yes, that’s right. Fake smiling has just as big an impact as a real one because both of them trigger the brain to release dopamine and serotonin. Basically, you can fake smile your way into actually lifting your spirits and feeling happier. Smiling might also throw off those around you who love to provoke a reaction so it’s a win-win all around!
It’s only a problem or a pain if you choose to see it that way. Yes, I know that can be a tough concept, but trust me, it’s also the most empowering one that you can adopt.
Here’s how it works. Instead of focusing on “why” think, “what can I learn?” Instead of focusing on the problem or being caught in your head, flip the issue around—what is this situation or event teaching you? Everything that annoys, frustrates, and makes us cross or stressed has the capacity to teach us something about ourselves.
This is a hugely powerful reframe that lifts you out of victim mode and a suffering mentality to being empowered and in a growth mindset.
3. Dump the picture-perfect and go with the flow.
We are bombarded with romanticised images of the festive season. Multimillion-dollar marketing companies have sculpted and honed their promotions to encourage us to buy into the concept of the perfect Christmas, and in doing so, buy their “must-have” product.
From food and drink to baubles and sofas, we are sold the concept of an idyllic Christmas and that we can buy ourselves a piece of it. Let’s be real here though—no sofa, no melting chocolate pudding, and no house decorations will make Christmas perfect. The perfect present, the perfect meal, the perfect get-together doesn’t exist. Take the pressure off yourself and accept this truth.
Next, consider the word “perfect.” There is no such thing as perfect. There is just the illusion of what we each perceive perfect to be and our projection of that perception onto the world around us.
The best gift you can give yourself this yuletide is to put down the picture-perfect marketing pitch and adopt the mindset of going with the flow. Let “it is what it is,” be your mantra this Chrimbo and feel the stress fall away from your shoulders.
If we give ourselves permission to flow with each and every moment we stop the struggle—there is no battle anymore between how it is and how we want to control how it is. It is the path to peace and contentment.
4. Be present—it’s a gift.
It might sound corny, but doing your best to be present in the moment is actually a gift. Instead of being distracted with thoughts about yesterday, concerns about tomorrow, or planning out this afternoon’s meal, try your best to be in the here and now.
Turn off your phone, switch off your brain, and be present. Stop multitasking and doing three things at once and instead, grant yourself permission to do one thing at a time. When we slow down in this way, we tend to enjoy the moment more and get a better result in the end.
Whether it’s watching the kids unwrap their presents, cooking the meal, or listening to the conversation around the table, take each moment as mindfully as you can and allow yourself to become absorbed in the moment. Christmas will feel richer and more rewarding as a result.
5. Putting the spirit in Christmas.
Whilst the words “Christmas spirit” might summon up an image of champagne or a tumbler of whiskey, I’m actually talking about that internal kind of spirit. Christmas can get so busy; it can come and go in the blink of an eye and we can miss out on that elusive “Christmas spirit.”
So, how can we have a meaningful time and enjoy the magic?
What brings you joy? What lifts your spirits? Make the most of your downtime to do what makes you happy.
Practice acts of kindness. From volunteering your time to donating to a local charity, think about ways you can reach out to others. Kindness begets kindness all around.
Relishing every moment. By being as present as you can, you will enjoy Christmas much more.
Gratitude. It is a wonderful way to make the most of the holiday season. To cultivate an attitude of gratitude start counting your blessings. What are grateful for (rather than what do you want to have)?
Start a gratitude journal that can become a part of your daily routine in the year ahead. Begin a meditation or mindfulness practice and nourish your soul.
Appreciate the small things. Focus on what went well rather than not going quite to plan.
So there you have it. A range of my favourite tools and techniques that help me to create inner calm and face the challenges of Christmas with a smile on my face.
I hope that you feel inspired to give one or two of them a go and that they help make your Christmas one to remember—for all the right reasons.