How to reduce Christmas stress the mindful way
Take time out from festive hustle and bustle to relax your body, calm your mind and balance your emotions. Gemma David explains how to reduce Christmas stress with five meditation practices
Christmas can be stressful at the best of times, but this year you might be feeling understandably more anxious than usual. If you're in a crowded house the hustle and bustle can be overwhelming – and if you're spending the festive season by yourself then loneliness can take its toll on your wellbeing.
Christmas can be a sad time for many people, even under normal circumstances. Christmas traditions often stir memories of lost loved ones, leaving you feeling out of kilter with the celebrations around you.
Our five meditations can bring in some calm, and have been tailored to help you manage the emotions you might feel over Christmas, so you can find your inner balance again.
Read on to find out how to beat Christmas stress and feel more relaxed this festive season…
5 meditations for a stress-free Christmas
Mindfulness for Christmas overwhelm
This practice will help you connect with your breath and invites kindness to flow through your body. It can be used at any time when you feel stress, as it sends signals to your brain and nervous system that allow your body to enter a state of calm.
Begin with a slow intake of breath, hold it for a moment then release. Repeat this, and notice your breath filling up your lungs. Don’t force your breathing. Take another slow breath in, and notice your body expanding gently. Now pause, then allow yourself to feel like everything is slowing down as you breathe out. Feel your body flow with the rhythm of your own breath.
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Allow your breath to return to its natural rhythm and notice the areas of your body that feel tense or uncomfortable. Take your awareness to these parts and allow yourself to feel but not judge the sensations. Imagine you’re sending your breath and softness to that part of your body. If it feels okay, place your hand on the part of your body that needs comfort. Let yourself stay here as long as you need, repeating to yourself: “I am capable, I am calm, I am enough.”
Finding comfort when you feel sadness
If you’re feeling sadness at Christmas, coping with these emotions can feel challenging, so be gentle with yourself. Find a place where you feel comfortable sitting, and allow yourself to honour any feelings or other emotions that may arise once you become still.
Find a position where you can give yourself permission to rest into the warmth of your own body. Be as gentle and compassionate to yourself as you are able, don’t force breath, or movement, simply follow these instructions and go steady.
Take a deep breath in and a deep breath out. Again, deep breath in and deep breath out. And as you let your breath return to its natural rhythm, know that you are not alone. Find comfort in these words as they guide you, allowing yourself to soften and let the rhythm of your feelings flow through your body.
Allow your body to surrender to the gentle rise and fall of your breath, letting yourself feel any emotions that come up. Know that you are not alone, and that this pain will transform once the dark clouds lift. Remember that the sun will return once more to warm and guide you. Feel the warmth of your body now and allow your breath to gently support you.
Mindfulness to soothe big emotions or conflict
Unresolved conflicts, resentment and tension can feel heightened during the festive period. Use this visualisation practice to come back to yourself. Find a quiet place and take a moment to get comfortable. Breathe gently into your chest.
Take your breath a little deeper into your body and feel yourself becoming more open to an awareness of the space within you. Keep breathing until all this space feels soft. As you breathe, take your awareness to the part of you that feels tender and gently repeat: “I am safe, I am safe, I am safe.”
Now imagine someone you love is close to you in the place you are in. Feel the energy of this person as you breathe gently. Think about the situation that brings up the big emotion for you and allow a picture to form. Once you are ready, ask your imagined person for guidance on how to be or act in the situation, to help you feel safe and calm.
Allow the words to come to you. Thank this person out loud or silently, knowing you can use their energy to help you whenever you need them.
Mindful breath to help remember your own needs
This practice will give you relief from the weight of your obligations over Christmas. It will help you connect with and care for your own heart, and to remember that your needs matter and that you are important.
Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Close your eyes and feel your breath as it flows with the rhythm of you. Feel your feet, legs, hips and pelvis soften, and your abdomen, solar plexus, chest and back soften with the fluidity of breath. Feel your hands, arms and shoulders and head, alive with energy. Imagine you are breathing into your heart, allowing it to rise on the in-breath and lower on the out-breath. Feel it rest towards your back, embraced lovingly by your lungs.
When was the last time you stopped to find stillness within yourself? When was the last time you remembered your own feelings, and the fact you are so good at giving to others? Repeat the following, allowing the answers to flow after: “What do I need? What do I need? What do I need?” Repeat these words whenever you are feeling lost within the sea of other people’s emotions and needs.
Mindful breath for your body love
During Christmas when we celebrate with an abundance of rich food, alcohol and periods of inactivity we can lose connection to our body. Use this practice when you need to reconnect with any part of you that needs love, attention or peace.
Take a few moments to settle into a comfortable space. Allow your palms to face upwards, then take some deeper breaths in and out. Don’t force them, just let your own natural deeper breath become more present in your body. Now let your breath return to its natural rhythm.
As you breathe, imagine your breath reaching all the corners of your body. Now imagine a wonderful energy of love filling the palms of your hands. This can be a light, a colour or a feeling. Bring this light or energy from your hands up and onto your heart, allowing it to pour into your heart and chest.
Let your hands feel the energy of your breath and your heart, rising and falling, and repeat the following to yourself: “I am here, I am enough, I lovingly accept and trust myself.”
Stay here as long as you need, receiving and leaning into the healing from within your own self
This article was first published in Mindful Christmas issue 2. Illustration by Matilda Smith.