The Christmas/new year period is usually a hectic time of busy activity, fun, frivolity and…stress. Emotions tend to creep up when our nervous systems are highly-strung, which can result in household tension that effects the whole family. Here I give you some tips to help navigate the silly season more mindfully.
Presence not presents
The greatest gift you can give anyone is your full attention. In our increasingly busy world, so many of us are constantly being pulled in different directions as we attempt to multitask our way through our days. Whether you are a working mama who is preoccupied with an impending work deadline; or a stay-at-home-mum who is trying her best to meet the relentless demands of your littles while coordinating Christmas lunch with the grandparents; motherhood during the festive season can be challenging. And while giving your kids your undivided attention 24/7 isn’t realistic, creating pockets of presence is an achievable goal. The key is to ditch distractions and tune into the moment with as much conscious awareness as you can. Practice the art of mindful listening while people talk and dismiss the chatter of your busy mind by focusing on the present moment. After all, precious memories with your family and friends are more valuable than any gift or social media post.
Bite your tongue (figuratively!)
Christmas is usually a time for family reunions. As wonderful as those can be, it can also be incredibly triggering and draining if your wider family is dysfunctional, or has any unhealed issues that tend to rise to the surface after a few glasses of bubbly. This is particularly relevant at the moment, with so many divisive and polarizing opinions about the pandemic. We are living through unprecedented times and your parents may hold different opinions to you, but diving into a controversial vaccine debate is going to ignite hostility at the dinner table rather than festive cheer. So…if/when you feel triggered by contentious conversations or old family dramas, do one simple thing: pause. Take a deep breath, count to 5 and mindfully consider your response before adding fuel to the fire. There is a huge difference between reacting and responding. By pausing, your response to any situation can be more considered, which diminishes the chance of feisty family flare-up’s.
Curb your gluttony
Christmas is typically a time for overindulgence. We often let our diets, fitness routines, sleep patterns and daily rituals slide during the wayside as we eat more than we need, drink one glass too many, and sleep & exercise less. The result? Hangovers, weight gain, exhaustion and potential mood swings when we hit the first week of January feeling less than optimal. To avoid this downward spiral, be mindful of your daily habits and respect your body as it carries you through the festive season. This doesn’t mean you have to be super strict, it simply means drinking lots of water to flush out your system, having an early night if you’ve been burning the candle at both ends, limiting social engagements if you’re feeling wrung out, and heading to the gym to burn off the Christmas pudding if you’ve been over-eating. Practice moderation if and when you can. Your body will thank you when January rolls around. That said, while you are indulging, savour every moment.
Practice self care
The festive season is particularly tiring for parents who are caring for their children around the clock. Kids who are used to being in a classroom for 6 hours a day tend to crave fun activities when they are ‘free’ on the break. And while teens are able to go on some unsupervised outings, school holidays can be exhausting if you don’t pace yourself properly. Which is why it’s important to practice self-care. This might take the form of a ‘time-out’ as you tag-team parenting with your partner and steal an hour to yourself for some exercise or a nap. Or it may mean creating clear boundaries with friends so that you don’t overexert yourself socially. Most importantly, it’s imperative to express your feelings to your children so they are aware of your limits. It’s perfectly ok to tell them, ‘Mama is feeling tired today. We’re going to have a quiet day at home.’ After all, modelling self-care teaches your children valuable lessons about mindful self-preservation.
One of the best ways to calm a frazzled nervous system and quiet a busy mind is to simply BREATHE. Regulating and deepening your breath triggers the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn induces calm and relaxation. Especially when you practice diaphragmatic (abdominal) breathing – slowly breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. The key is to make sure you are breathing into the belly, not the chest. Ideally, the inhale should be shorter than the exhale (inhale for 4 counts, exhale for 6). Practising mindful breathing is something you can also teach your children so they can join in with your during times of stress.