I’m not knocking Christmas (deck the halls!), but even the most wide-eyed Santaphile has to admit that it can get a little overwhelming from time to time….
For most of us, this break in December comes at the point where what we need most is to step back, take stock and find a little space. The combination of the year ending and winter setting in can mean we feel frazzled and in need of a recharge and yet we feel compelled to dive into a fray of excitement, buying and organisation. None of these things are ‘bad’ in isolation, but if they dominate our energy and prevent us listening to our mind-body needs, we run the risk of meeting the New Year with Christmas burnout. So with the help of some wise words from some esteemed folks, here’s a little Christmas perspective and ways to find peace amongst the festive tinsel storm:
- Less is more
‘Christmas doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more….’ – Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
It can all get a bit much can’t it?! If you have the sneaking feeling that this Christmas consumerism stuff has all got a bit out of hand, always remember you have a choice. It’s pretty easy to get whipped up by the frenzy of more stuff, but present giving, food shopping and amounts of food consumed can always be simplified. Consumption is more accessible than ever now and if we’re not staying mindful, it is so easy to get swept up in what I call a getting what we want, not being as happy as we thought we would be and wanting the next thing cycle, whether this be money spent or food bought and eaten.
The antidote: firstly and simply, buy less. Yes Christmas did used to be simpler, with less money spendand it was just as good, if not better. Downsizing to enjoy good company and cheer is the best tonic. A simple gratitude practice to punctuate moments of ‘want’ can cut through any false ideas that more stuff makes us happy; sitting quietly and noting what we are truly thankful for helps us to regain connection the true spirit of Christmas.
noting what we are truly thankful for helps us to regain connection the true spirit of Christmas
- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlewomen
‘A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.’ – Garrison Keillor, Leaving Home
There’s just so much to do isn’t there? The extensive lists can get longer and time to just be isn’t likely to get an inclusion between the present buying and the Brussels sprouts. Much as I hate to gender stereotype, there can be a tendency for women to take on the management role in the Christmas production, feeling high personal expectations to get everything just right, responsible for how good a time others have and/or do it as well as your mother did. With all that noise in our heads, what we actually want and need from the holiday can get lost. Time out, time with people we love and time away from holding the fort could be the most important luxury on the list.
The antidote: if you’re the giving kind who tends to do lots for others, ask for help and let people know you’re not going to be doing it all.
Time out, time with people we love and time away from holding the fort could be the most important luxury on the Christmas list.
Family and friends may well welcome the opportunity to feel helpful, included and part of a community. Women tend to compassion fatigue more than men and it is crucial you get to rest and feel supported over your holiday.
A simple practice if you’re feeling overwhelmed or even taken for granted, is to find a quiet spot, put a hand on your chest and focus breathing nourishment into your heart. If you are feeling narked by someone, feel enough space to offer them compassion too and if that proves difficult, take yourself off for a five minute walk!
- Laugh and be merry
‘The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.’ – Jay Leno
Remember the scene in Scrooge, Scrooged or even The Muppet Christmas Carol (all excellent cultural references) where Scrooge is amazed to see Bob Cratchett’s family laughing together, even though they are poor? A simple and profound message from Charles Dickens, reminding us that nothing we have is more important than fun, laughter and merriment. If this Christmas is the last stress on top of a stressful year, finding some joy can help remind us that everything changes and this is a time when we can prepare for the new beginning of the coming year.
The antidote: laugh! If that’s feeling a little locked away or the chores just aren’t feeling that funny, meet up with or phone someone who helps you see the lighter side of life. A great physical way to release laughter and let your body is to stand with feet apart comfortably and shake your body down to ripple out tension. Breathe in deeply and make great big guttural sounds from your belly to drop beneath the outer c#@p and reconnect with your soft and gooey centre. Then put on your favourite Christmas tunes (with optional reindeer antlers) and make some moves….
And a few last wise words from the inimitable Bob Hope: ‘My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?’
CHARLOTTE WATTS’ is nutritionist and yoga teacher whose work has focussed on how nutrition and yoga can meet to help people cope with the type of demands we face in the 21st century. Her practice and teaching of mindfulness weaves these together and has culminated in her new book The De-Stress Effect: Rebalance Your Body’s Systems for Vibrant Health and Happiness. She has also authored The De-Stress Diet (with Anna Magee), 100 Top Recipes for Happy Kids, 100 Best Foods for Pregnancy and 100 Foods to Stay Young.