As I write this actual real-life snow flakes are falling outside and I have twinkly Christmas lights and baubles right by my head. I am an unashamed lover of the festive season – and while the snow might get a bit slushy and perilous, it most definitely gets me in the right spirit.
But for me, like so many people, this is also one of my busy times of the year and it can be hard to stop and enjoy the snow and the lights. Christmas calm sometimes feels a million miles away. Rushing from one event to another, one bit of chocolate making to the next, and trying to decorate the house, see my husband, get some good sleep, well, it can be challenging.
I also had the joy of an extremely perilous snow-filled drive into London yesterday. To say I was a bit scared is an understatement. As an Aussie from a warm city, snow driving is not one of the skills I gained when I was growing up. It certainly put all my calming meditation practice to the test.
However it also got me thinking about simple ways to bring about a little calm in stressful situations, including dodgy driving conditions. And it all starts with the breath…
Some simple tips for cultivating Christmas calm
1. Don’t forget to breathe…
Your breathe is a very powerful tool and it’s something that’s always available, wherever you are and whenever you need it. When things get a bit hectic, it’s what I turn to again and again. And yes, it was one of the tactics I used in trying to manage my scary snow drive.
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by busyness and ‘too much Christmas to do’-ness, try this little breath pattern: breath into your belly for three, hold your breath for the count of three and then gently releasing for three. And repeat until a few times until you feel a little less harried. You might even want to bring a little smile to your mouth for some extra lightness.
2. …and breathe in some Christmas aromas…
I’ve mentioned it before, but a big part of our taste is actually down to our smell, which is another good reason to take note of your breath. And this time of the year is one of the best to make the most of your nose. Cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger – mmmm. Cook with them, smell them and taste them.
Baking can be incredibly therapeutic at the best of times, but is even more so when you add in the mix of heady Christmas spices. Put aside time in your festive schedule for some Christmas baking and linger by the oven as your biscuits, buns or bread cook, breathing in the aromas.
3. …and fresh air
Cold weather isn’t always conducive to getting outside, but feeling cooped up, especially if you’re in a small house with lots of visiting relatives, can put a strain on your emotions. A short walk (or a long one) can really help clear the cobwebs and any tension. If you have nature nearby that’s even better.
While you’re walking take a little time to notice the details of what’s going on around you, how your feet feel as they hit and push off the ground, how the cool breeze feels against your cheek or your mouth as you breath in… It’s something very simple that can make a world of difference (as anyway who regularly works from home can tell you!).
4. Plan for some quiet time
It sometimes seems impossible in the middle of the Christmas period, but planning in a little quiet time can really help balance out the craziness. I really enjoy being sociable, but I also find that my energy levels can really dip if I’m around people lots. I find I need to carve out a bit of space for quiet to manage this.
You may even want to put an actual invite (with a reminder) in your calendar so you don’t skip your switch off slot. This might be a bath with candles on a Thursday night, going to bed 30 minutes earlier one night and reading or, one of my favourite things, getting in the kitchen for a little baking and making.
You could also combine this quiet time with my previous suggestion and go out for a walk on your own, enjoying the peace of a solitary wander.
5. Enjoy a mince pie (or two!)
I know this can be a season of overindulgence and all its associated eating guilt, but it’s also a very special time to enjoy special food. Food is a great connector, a great pleasure and something to enjoy. I also find the principles of mindful eating are really helpful as a way to slow down and savour these treats, rather than scoff.
One of the very simplest ways to manage a breakneck pace of eating (a sure route to indigestion) is to put down your mince pie – or your cutlery – between mouthfuls and not pick it up until you’ve eaten what’s in your mouth. But actually even before that, and this is going to sound familiar, pause and breathe in the delicious aromas of what you’re about to eat. You don’t have to fall into a gluttonous stupor, nor do you totally have to restrict yourself; there’s a happy in-between that lets you enjoy the lovely Christmas treats that abound at this time of the year.
So how would I summarise my tips for Christmas calm?
Take a few breaths, inhale all those delicious Christmas aromas and take time to enjoy a spot of Christmas baking (and eating). You might even find yourself laughing at some bad cracker jokes along the way…