Do you find the run up to Christmas stressful? Do you find it hard to make healthy choices with so little time, and so much to do? If so, this article is for you as it contains five easy tips and practice to help you bring a bit more calm into Christmas.
The lead up to Christmas can be busy and stressful for many people. It can also be challenging to stick with our health goals. Offices are often full of chocolates and mince pies, and for many the lead up to Christmas involves a lot of socialising and over-indulging. This, combined with the Christmas shopping, can result in the feeling that you have not had any time for yourself. Often when Christmas day arrives we already feel stressed and overwrought.
Sadly, as well as simply overindulging, Christmas can be a difficult time for many people. When I think of this time of year, I always think of the spiritual teacher Ram Dass´s saying ´If you think you’re enlightened go spend a week with your family´. From an environmental and economic perspective, Christmas can sometimes be a wasteful time of year, in terms of discarded food and unwanted gifts. There is the pressure to consume more with adverts telling us show our love through gifts. I have a large family and for the last five or six years we have done a secret Santa. In our version everyone writes a wish list (often with just one bigger present), so the person receiving the gift gets something they really want.
To help you bring some calm into your Christmas I suggest five simple practices which can be done in as little as 15 minutes. Some of these techniques can be practiced on the go, and some at home. Even trying just one or two of them should help bring some ´calm´ me time, to help you rest and rejuvenate this Christmas.
1. Legs up the wall combined with three-part yogic breath
For me, after a day rushing around on my feet, whether it be Christmas shopping or a busy day at work, there is nothing better than 15 minutes of legs up the wall. Here is a link to an article by Lisa which explains how to practice, along with some another great poses for relaxation. It is very beneficial to stay in legs up the wall for five to 20 minutes. I personally love combining legs up the wall, with the three part breath. This helps me to settle into the pose, focus on my breathing and leaves me feeling calm, relaxed and rejuvenated. Here on our Relax and Rejuvenate retreat I often notice the difference in our guests after doing this pose.
2. Candle gazing
The second practice I would like to share is a simple candle gazing technique. I first learnt this technique over ten years ago just before Christmas. I was going through a quite stressful period in my life and this practice really helped me to clear my mind. I find it particularly relaxing to do just before bed.
How to do the practice:
- Sit on a chair at a table, or comfortably on the floor, with the spine straight
- Arrange a candle so the flame is in the centre of your vision, at or below eye level about one metre in front of you
- Make sure there are no cross winds and the candle is secure
- Settle your body and then begin to softy gaze at the candle flame
- Try to solely focus on the candle flame, letting go of distractions and outside thoughts
- When your eyes get tired, close them and observe any ‘after image’ of the candle. You may notice a small white or dark spot and sometimes this might move
- When the after image of the flame disappears, open your eyes and once again gaze at the candle
- You can continue opening and closing the eyes slowly for 10 or so minutes
- After the last time you close your eyes, take a bit longer with the eyes closed noticing how you feel and the effect of the practice
- Finally come out of the meditation slowly, carefully put your candle out and let your eyes adjust.
3. Mindful walking
The next technique is a simple way of bring a bit of calm into your life when you are out and about in the lead up to Christmas. While you are walking somewhere see if you can begin to notice the feeling of your feet moving on the floor. Try to bring all your attention how you are walking, the movement of your body, which muscles you are using. You can practice this just for a few moments.
If you have a bit longer you could take 10 minutes from your shopping to find a nearby park to do this practice in. In this link Lisa explains in more detail to how to do a walking meditation.
I love practicing outdoors, particularly at this time of year as it helps to make the most out of the limited hours of sunshine. When I used to work in an office in London I would enjoy taking moments in outside, maybe by choosing a more scenic route to work, or between meetings. These felt like ´stolen moments´ and I found them so much more rejuvenating than a chocolate moment. For more ideas on calming practices you can do outside check out this article: outdoor yoga for your lunch break.
4. Yoga Nidra
Another of my favourite practices for when I am busy, or stressed, is Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is sometimes called yogic sleep and it helps you to move into a state of deep relaxation. Here is a link with instructions on how to do it: yoga nidra for inner peace. If you would like to listen to an audio of a Yoga Nidra, I recommend the Yoga Nidra Network (external link) This is a free treasure trove of recordings (which you can download) that I use on a weekly basis to help bring a bit more calm into my life. If you benefit from the Yoga Nidra network you can make a donation to the running and upkeep of the site on-line.
5. Eat one piece of fruit mindfully
In the lead up to Christmas we may be tempted to make bad food decisions and eat things just because they are there (those bumper boxes of Christmas chocolates, or office mince pies). One way to help reset our eating habits is to practice some mindful eating.
Here at La Crisalida Retreats we run a Mindfulness Workshop. As part of this guests try an exercise to eat a raisin mindfully. In this version, I recommend eating one piece of fruit mindfully. It could be a satsuma or an apple. If you chose a satsuma, see if you can really feel it, notice the smell as you peel it, take time to peal it thoroughly and remove the pith. Savour the taste and texture and try to chew each piece thoroughly. After you have eaten it reflect on the goodness contained within the satsuma.
Other ideas to bring calm into Christmas
To help make my Christmas a bit more mindful and calm I have also done a few different things this year. When thinking about my role as a consumer, I realised that I have the power of choice over where, and how, I spend my money. This year I chose to support some local artists and small businesses. I love the Just a Card campaign (external link), which encourages people to buy cards from small businesses and Designers/Makers. These small purchases can add up and make a real difference to independent shops and artists. I plan to use some of my beautiful greeting cards to write heartfelt messages to people I feel grateful too.
Book a relax and rejuvenate retreat
There are loads of other great ideas on how to relax and bring some calm into Christmas on our blog. Also, you might like to think about booking into one of our Relax and Rejuvenate Retreats where you can practice some of the calming techniques mentioned above, and many more.