Christmas is dubbed one of the most wonderful times of the year … But for many of us, it comes with a feeling of stress, expectations and for some, even dread and anxiety.
“We create an idea in our mind what Christmas is meant to feel and look like and set huge expectations. If that doesn’t pan out, we feel like we’ve failed. Self-care is the super power at Christmas. If we look after ourselves, our body relaxes and we are more likely to approach situations positively and get more positive outcomes,” says Hampshire-based Life Coach Carolyne Bennett. Her top ten tips for a more relaxing Christmas are:
- Time out for you. Whether this is 15 minutes or an hour, make sure you factor in to be alone. Run a bath with your best bubbles or lavender oil, light some candles and try to relax. If baths don’t do it for you, sit in a quiet room and read a book, go for a walk alone or simply listen to some nice music in peace.
- Try a short meditation. Create a calm space – this can be in the house, in your car, your garden … Anywhere you can find. Sit up in a relaxed position and put on a short, guided meditation song. There are plenty online or download one for free on carolynebennett.com. Keep focussed on your breathing throughout. Inhale through your nose, into your mouth and into your lungs as deeply as you can. Then exhale.
- Visualise the best day ever! It may feel strange, but science has proven that if you think positive, you will get positive outcomes. You may naturally worry about Christmas Day thinking; ‘what if I burn the turkey’, ‘what if people arrive late’, ‘what if we argue’ … But try and flip these statements to positives; ‘What if the Christmas meal turns out to be really good’ and ‘what if we all laugh together’ and ‘what if I feel so relaxed and really enjoy it’. Changing your thoughts and imagining positive results can be really powerful.
- Have realistic expectations. As part of your visualisation, remind yourself that everyone is different. Remind and prepare yourself not to set expectations on how people will behave. Focus on some of their positive points. Do your best to accept them for who they are and not what you want them to be.
- Set your alarm a little earlier on Christmas Day for just for YOU. This may be tricky if your kids get up at 5am out of pure excitement, but if you can get up 10-15 minutes before the rest of the house this is a great way to start the day calm and relaxed. Take some deep breaths, relax your body and focus your mind.
- Put on some festive tunes. Nice uplifting music plays a massive role in releasing our feel-good hormones.
- Share the love … and chores! Planning is key. Set expectations by giving everyone the rough structure and timings of the day. Giving each guest a job to do on Christmas Day can be useful and stop any unnecessary resentment. Guests love feeling useful, so giving them each a job sets expectations and means you have a chance to sit down a bit too. Whether it’s emptying the dishwasher or making tea, allocate everyone a job. It makes you let go of control and them feel valued and be part of the team.
- When you’re about to snap – PAUSE and remove yourself from the situation for a short while. Go to the bathroom if need be and take in some deep breaths. Also plan in three moments in the day to stop, relax and remind yourself to enjoy it. Just before the guests arrive, as you’re pouring the gravy to serve the meal and when the Christmas present unwrapping unfolds.
- Take a walk – alone or as a family. There is nothing like fresh air to break up any stress and tension. Focus on observing what’s around you. Whether it’s the sound of the birds, the clouds in the sky or sound of the crisp grass flattening under your feet – being mindful gets us back into the present moment.
- Be light hearted and grateful. Remind yourself of the true meaning of Christmas Day. So, whether the turkey burns, potatoes get served cold or you didn’t get the present you’d hoped for, do your best to accept things as they are. Create something to smile about. Whether it’s a silly game, a Christmas cracker joke or some funny hats. Also try a round-table of positive and fun memories about loved ones that can’t be with you. Instead of feeling sad about them not being there, think of fun memories you had together. Feeling grateful is a great tool to shift perspective and appreciate the moment you’re in.