5 STEPS TO REDUCE STRESS THIS CHRISTMAS
BY AMY DAWES
Put your hands up if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed in the lead up to Christmas?
I’m going to throw a curveball and make one little wish for you - slow down. I know that probably makes you choke a little on the eggnog. I, for one, often wish there were more hours in the day. I know it’s not always that simple and there are a million things to do as you’re swept away in a sea of shopping, food, drink, parties and endless preparations, but I also know from personal experience and from the mamas I work with that it is possible. You just have to realise that you are worthy of your time!
The chaos in the lead up to Christmas can manifest itself as many things that aren’t so fun: anxiety; short-temper (aka your man or the kids feeling the brunt of it); your energy beyond low, then being fuelled by coffee. Or perhaps you notice it manifest in other ways: skin conditions; low libido; insomnia; digestive issues; even weight gain?
Based on my experience as a mindful-motherhood trainer, adopting some principles of mindfulness into your daily life is one of the kindest, most important, things you can do for yourself. The great thing about mindfulness is that you don’t need to shop up a storm in Lululemon (although that would be fun) for special equipment and fancy workout gear. Instead, it’s exercise for your mind and you can tune in at any time of day, which means it can fit even in the most jam-packed schedule!
Mindfulness counters stress by intentionally focusing a person’s attention on the present moment – and accepting that moment without judgement – just being.
Is mindfulness the same as meditation? Yes and no. If you are being mindful you could do a meditation exercise. There are some great apps out there to dip that toe into but here’s the thing - you don’t need to be sitting for an hour in the lotus position chanting ‘Om’. The good news is that studies suggest that short bursts of mindfulness can be beneficial to your overall wellbeing.
By incorporating mindfulness into your day, you create space for more connectedness throughout the whole household which could result in decreased stress and anxiety, enabling you to manage your emotions better and be more present for your kids and your partner – now that’s a true Christmas gift! Below you’ll find a few tips on where to start. I’m not promising you’ll become a zen mother who remains calm at all times, because we all have our moments, but you will be more open to recognising the joy when it’s there and hopefully worry less about the past or the future.
Here are my top 5 suggestions:
1.Practice Gratitude | What better time of the year is there than now, to be grateful for all that we have? Lego blocks under the feet and all! Find yourself a notepad or journal and at the end of each day, take a moment to write down three things you are grateful for. Once you become oriented to looking for reasons to be thankful, no matter how small, your appreciation for simple pleasures will grow and you may notice more things that you previously took for granted.
2.Remove Judgement | Our minds are constantly chattering away at us, assessing whether things are good or bad, right or wrong etc., and this is normal – that’s what they are designed to do. Yet, if you find your mind being critical of other parents, how their children behave, what they should be doing etc., here’s the catch: your mind is no less harsh on your behaviour. Simply put, judgement provokes thoughts that create stress.
3. Connect | There are so many opportunities to connect: as you hustle and bustle through the streets; when you are queuing for your coffee fix; at the park. Try complimenting another mama, maybe? Remember, not everyone has family close by and this is the time of year when they feel it most. You could try practicing active listening. When you are talking to someone, really focus on what that person is saying. Notice what you feel about what they’re saying and notice how your body feels when you want to respond but don’t interrupt. Hear them. Often we are so caught up in what we want to say, we don’t tune in fully. This is a beneficial practice for you and has a seriously good side effect – you become great company!
4.Practice Acceptance | This is fundamental to the work I do as a Mindful-Motherhood Trainer. It takes some serious work but in my opinion, based on both personal and professional experience, it’s worth the effort. One of the greatest causes of stress is the resistance to what is, maybe an opinion you wish to change or a situation you’d rather not be in. Feeling agitated changes nothing; getting swept away with your internal chatter (as mentioned above) changes nothing. Instead breathe deeply and remind yourself that everything is exactly as it should be.
5. Just Breathe | If you do nothing else, do this. One of the best skills I learnt through participating in a MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) course is the STOP method. If you try to remember this and practice several times a day, you will be able to call on STOP when you need to handle a really stressful situation.
STOP what you’re doing and put things down for a minute;
TAKE a few deep breaths, focussing on the in-breath and the out-breath;
OBSERVE your experience – ask: what are my thoughts? Remember that thoughts are not facts, they are simply part of your whole experience – What am I seeing? What am I hearing? What am I touching? What is my body doing?
PROCEED and reconnect with your surroundings, with your activity, with your relationships.
Amy Dawes is a Wellbeing Consultant and Mindful-Motherhood Trainer. You can learn more about her pregnancy and motherhood solutions at Mummy Manifesto.