Does Christmas feel frenetic in your family? While the excitement is joyous, too much of it can be exhausting. These winter months are a time when we would naturally be reducing activity, stocking up on sleep and calories (when they were hard to come by) huddling together for warmth and comfort.
The candles, songs and festivities should bring us hope and relief in the depth of winter. However in today’s overload of Christmas-gifts, food and social media pressure, we find ourselves wishing we could actually escape, hide away, skip the Christmas pud, turn all the lights off and experience some silence.
Especially when you’re a parent, “me-time” can be impossible to come by at this time of year. The pressure is on to be together, to create unforgettable experiences, to bring joy and merriment to those whom we love. It’s simply non-stop. The children’s excitement barometers are in the red zone, which we know will probably go from squeals of joy to tears of frustration and tantrums before you’re able to serve the mince pies you’ve so lovingly made. You might even wonder why you bothered.
If you ever finish the Christmas period feeling more spent and exhausted than you did coming into it, here are some tips for you on how to slow down and carve out some self-care this Christmas.
Hit the brakes!
Think about how you can hit all the levers to ensure that the machine starts to slow down. This might mean cancelling some plans, watching a Christmas movie in bed that the whole family will enjoy, going for a slow mindful walk (my kids love the exercise 5-4-3-2-1 as we walk), or preparing simple beans on toast for supper and putting your feet up. Tap into your selfcare toolkit at this time.
Also I can’t recommend highly enough getting an early night, organising for a lie-in, taking a nap or practicing yoga nidra. Getting the rest you need will immediately reset your body clock and help you recalibrate your pace. It’s only when we slow down that we realise how much we need it sometimes, so make a decision to slow down and do it consciously, or it simply won’t happen.
Connect with what you really care about
If you have just two minutes of peace and quiet available to you, or next time you are scrolling through Instagram, pause for a moment, and think about 5 things that you really care about. Just recalling your values can help to ground you very quickly and redirect your focus, when your mind is buzzing with anticipation.
If you have a bit longer, notice yourself breathing and sitting, draw your awareness into your body and feel your attention move from your head, gently down towards your heart space. Take a few breaths just imagining your heart filling up with love, light and gratitude, or simply just noticing what is present for you. When you feel calm and connected, you can ask the question: “what is most meaningful to you in this life?”. Without overthinking it, simply wait for an answer to reveal itself. You can repeat this whenever you need to reconnect with yourself.
Use physical cues to calm
Creating a calming atmosphere can have a profound effect on you and your family’s mood. Get into the original spirit of Christmas and make it magical by lowering the lights, put some relaxing music on and use festive scents. All of these physical cues will help you physiologically slow down too - yawning, lowered heart rate, breathing slows down, muscles release tension. It's when we feel safe and comfortable that we are able to fully relax.
You can also take a luxurious bubble bath to really put you in the right mood and headspace. Roll out all the clichés- relaxing music, lavender, candles indulge yourself just once and you will feel the benefits for much longer.
Be present, not perfect
If we are feeling the pressure for things to be perfect, it might be that the kids are absorbing all that stress and amplifying it in spades! That's why one of my favourite meditations and mantras from the Nourish App at this time of year is to remember to be present, not perfect. The important thing is that we are together, keeping warm and remembering, as much as possible, to be grateful that we get to spend this time of year with those who are present to share it with.
Ask for help!
As parents we feel a great weight of responsibility around this time of year. Communication is key - between you and your partners, your children, your in-laws and friends. Remember not to get so busy that you don't have a moment to discuss your needs, wishes and feelings for this festive period.
Make sure that you are sharing the responsibility with others, that you have a shared vision and that you are not pulling in different directions.
This is particularly important when it comes to making space for self-care. Ensure you have clearly articulated your needs and people will no doubt be happy to help.
And finally, as much as we try to slow the pace, we may fail and that’s ok too. Remembering to let go of expectations frees up precious energy and allows you to focus on what is present, what is real for us in this moment and to get some perspective. So be kind to yourself and cook up your own personal Christmas feast of joy, relaxation, excitement, fun and rest. Wishing you a restful Christmas this year!
About the author
Dot is a mother, coach, meditation teacher and passionate social entrepreneur. After a corporate career in strategic management consulting (Deloitte) and marketing for large clients (BBDO), Dot turned her efforts towards health and wellbeing, at first through the lens of sleep as founder of Sleepability. She joined Nourish in September 2020.
On the Nourish app, Dot offers meditations to calm the nervous system, to take a relaxing break, to fall asleep and reconnect with yourself.