How to stay calm this Christmas season (or in life generally!)

Marie 11

I am the type of person who is prone to worry, anxiety and stress. I already have the kind of mind that moves at a speed too fast for my body. I am sure thats the reason why I require at least 8 hours sleep a night, 9 is ideal (yet somewhat impossible with a toddler who loves watching the sunrise).

Since I had my son 2 years ago I’ve had to take control of the worrisome trait to my character so that I can keep my head above water and enjoy my time with him and my time working. It was either that or live a life of exhaustion, crankiness and stress. Over the past few months I’ve written lists of what works for me and trialled different things with the only aim of enjoying the days, hours and minutes of my life.

I’ve managed to keep afloat using these techniques for the most part this year but December brings a new level of stressors to the mix. Financial, family and friends obligations, work gets mega busy and did I mention financial?! I can feel that familiar stressy voice poking me, trying to lead me back into it’s grasp. Trying to get my heart to freeze with worry and my mind to begin its 101 countdown of reasons why I should P A N I C . But I won’t let it. Instead I’m going to stick to my tried and tested formula, keep my mind and soul relaxed, my body nourished and glide through December calmly and productively, enjoying the glorious build up to Christmas.

I’d like to say that I know I am privileged. I have a caring and healthy family, a roof over my head and money to buy nourishing food. So I know that my suggestions only go so far to some people. I also know that when I am able to keep myself calm and grounded, I am kinder to everyone I come across.. my family, the cashier, the big issue seller. It’s the perfect time of year to care for yourself so that you can care for others.

So without further ado I’d love to share with you what works for me in case it works for you too. The more happier people on the planet there are, the happier the planet will be. And that can only start with you.. Simple :)

1. Begin your morning with a mediation. ***wait don’t go*** I know I know, you don’t have time… it’s not your thing.. been there. Our lives are so hectic and pressured, full of other peoples values, beliefs, requests, its hard to remember who we really are. When you meditate (and you practise, it’s hard to still the mind at first), you stop all the external voices getting in for maybe a second at first, several seconds, then minutes. It helps you ground yourself, work problems out without having to think them through, it’s more than just a few minutes of peace, it’s time truly with yourself being calm and being quiet. The simplest way I’ve found to slot it into my life is to set my alarm 10 minutes before my toddler tends to wake. I have my ear phones in my phone all ready by my bed, a guided meditation set up. All I have to do is stick my ear phones in and lie back in bed. I’m also trying to do the same as I get back into bed at night, or when I treat myself to a hot bath once the toddler is tucked up. If you’re opting for a guided meditation it’s quite a personal choice really. I like this one by Marianne Williamson, it energises and relaxes me at the same time. But if you want to hunt for one you like youtube has trillions. I can also recommend these by Ceinwyn Thomas at Hebden Bridge Therapy Centre. I’ve treated myself to her amazing reflexology in the past and she has a hypnotic, soothing voice. For £8 (not an ad!) you get 3 guided meditations. I use the 10 min one generally but a couple of times a week do the longer 25 minute ones too.

2. Reading. I love nothing more than curling up in front of the fire under a blanket with a good book. Or even better in bed at 8pm, cosy with the bedside lamp on. Reading the kind of book that reminds me that magic exists. Its so tempting to stick the tv on and loose your evening to it. I’m not saying thats worthless, I crave tv when I’m really tired, well I crave a good film (Harry Potter is my go to choice!). But an evening reading energises me, it opens up my world and is an easy way to never stop learning. At the minute I’m joyfully hooked to ‘Women who run with the wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. A book about the knowing of a woman’s soul. Its amazing.

3. Eating well. We all know how easy it is to grab food on the go, pre packed sandwiches with questionable nutritional value, salty and sweet snacks. I am far from perfect but this Autumn I have been making up batches of soups, dahls and kitchari. They are cheap, nutritious, warming and delicious and they keep my energy levels up and bring me out of any tiredness. I eat all my meals at home but if you have a microwave at work I can’t recommend a hot lunch enough. I have toasted flatbreads or rice or both with dahls and kitchari and they keep me really full. I settle any sweet cravings with these banana and date cookie bites and this coconut latte. (Notes: Add any veg you like to mix up the dahl and kitchari. The cookies are especially delicious warm and so easy to make. I use any milk I have in for the latte – often soy or oat and I don’t froth it because I’m lazy and its still delicious! I use date syrup instead of honey as I’m vegan but you could use any syrup or sugar. I buy my tulsi tea from the Singing leaf via Valley Organics here in Hebden Bridge but I’m sure most health shops would sell it).

4. Exercise. I’m not necessarily talking about joining a gym, running, fast paced exercise. That may be your thing which is great but it doesn’t work for me. I start it and quit very quickly. I quit especially quick if theres any sort of strict routine associated with it, like a class at the same time every week or I announce I’m going to run twice a week. I thought I was lazy but I’ve finally worked out that if I keep it loose, relaxed and not in the slightest bit intensive I end up with a really lovely seasonal exercise program. It helps that I have a dog so that gets me out for a 30 minute minimum walk in the woods, up the hills and along the rivers every day. The effects of being out in nature don’t need to be shared here, and when I can team my walk up with quiet moments of reflection and clearing my mind I have the best 30 minutes of my day. I used to go to a lovely yoga class here in Hebden Bridge but didn’t stick to it but now I have joined Gaia and it has tonnes of yoga programs for different levels too (plus meditations). I squeeze in a couple of times a week, sometimes more and sometimes less. I love ‘deeper wisdom through yoga’ and ‘here comes the sun’ by Steph Schwartz and ‘balancing into bountiful energy’ by kreg weiss. I pay a monthly fee but if you didn’t want to sign up to anything just yet there are lots of free yoga videos on youtube too. This is about as energetic as I get through Winter. In the summer I was enjoying a walk up the hill to Pecket Well and a run back down twice a week in the evening sunshine and by the time it warms up I know I’ll be itching to do that again. Anyway in a long winded way I’m saying to find exercise that works for you, its not a one size fits all. Our bodies differ, our energy levels differ, some people are refreshed by a 10 mile run, others with a walk in the woods and a mindful stretch. Know your own body, mind and its needs and find a joyful way to exercise it. It loves to move, its muscles to be put to use, the tendons to stretch, the neck and back to stretch..

5. Mindful moments. This one is definately one in progress for me at the minute. The word ‘mindful’ can seem so vague and hard to apply to daily life and then theres remembering to be mindful. Here are a few ways I am trying to apply it at the minute. Firstly when I am brushing my teeth I am standing still, I’m not racing around the house toothbrush in my mouth, tidying with my spare hand. In between toddler demands I catch a couple of seconds of mindfulness, concentrating on my breathing only. Secondly when I’m in the shower instead of allowing my mind to race with the to dos for the day I spend those minutes thinking of things I am grateful for and thinking about how those wonderful things make me feel. thirdly when I’m washing up instead of rushing the task thinking about what needs doing next, I concentrate on my breathing and gratefully enjoy the hot water on my hands. Finally if I catch sight of a bird out the window, or a rustling tree, I treat myself by encouraging myself to watch it, not thinking about anything else. These 4 things give me only seconds/minutes of mindful moments but they make a difference to all the tasks that follow them throughout the day.

6. See your friends. I’m not talking about tonnes of social engagements and expensive activities. I’m talking about something relaxed like a coffee with a good friend. My favourite social meet up recently was a walk in the woods with a good friend and both our toddlers. It didn’t cost a thing, we were out in nature and we chatted about our lives, hopes and dreams freely with only the trees listening in. You might be a social butterfly who enjoys company regularly or you might be like me who loves a quiet meet up a couple of times a month with one or two really good friends. We all have differing levels of hermit needs! But I do know that the company of someone who has your best interests at heart is a precious jewel to be appreciated and treasured.

So thats my 2 pence worth. Hope it helps. I by no means live a perfect lifestyle where I adhere to every word I just wrote. I dip in and out of things, my life like yours ebbs and flows. But these are the things I keep coming back to time and again. They are optional tools and not a ‘you must do all these otherwise you will fail!’ I’m not particularly close to a life of perfection, I’m not even sure what that would look like. I’m not actually sure I want to. For now I’m enjoying the chaos of working everything out, step by step.

Wishing you a calm (ish) December,