Remember to take care of yourself in the run-up to Christmas this year. Many of us find it a busy and stressful time of the year. We can spend so long writing lists, ploughing through crowded shopping malls and thinking of what everyone else wants for Christmas, that we spend little time nurturing ourselves and ensuring that our own needs are met. Follow these tips for a sure way to simplify things:
1. Start and plan early. It's still not too late in the day to get organised. Make a list of all the things you need to do before Christmas, and make sure you don't leave too much to the week before. Make a list of all the things you need to do, allocate them to certain days, and don't give yourself too much to do in one day or it will seem too daunting. Decide what is most important and do those things first. Perhaps there are things that aren't necessary? Could you get away with sending a few e-cards instead of writing out cards to everyone? And remember to delegate as much as possible to even out the workload!
2. Learn to say no. It's the time of year when we can get invited to many different parties. Ask yourself if you want to go to them before you accept. This counts for the work party as well (they are not usually compulsory!) We may feel we have to attend a Christmas work do, but do you really want to go? Maybe you're one of the lucky ones with great colleagues, but I can remember some pretty awful work do's in the office I used to work in, having to watch my line manager do the pogo, and trying to make small talk with people I wouldn't choose to spend a night out with. If you don't want to go, make your excuses and spend the evening doing what you want to do.
3. Drop the comparanoia. Don't compare yourself and your Christmas with the Christmas that is represented in social media and on adverts. Adverts are fake, and people tend to share the best bits of their life on social media and hide any ugly bits. Christmas is just one day of the year after all, and we can ask a lot of it. You don't have to make a perfect home-made gingerbread house like Kirstie Allsopp, or have the perfect table decoration, expertly wrapped presents with ribbons and handmade labels for it to be a great day.
4. Have Christmas your way. Christmas is full of traditions but try and see them as guidance rather than being a slave to them. My attitude to traditions is: if you like it, keep it. If you don't, then make your own. If you don't like Turkey, then eat something else. One year my family had fajitas for Christmas! It was delicious and gave my mum a break from slaving over a turkey roast dinner. One of our Christmas traditions was going to the pantomime, but I can't force my teenagers any more (or my husband for that matter - I'd still love to go!) We now choose a film to watch at the cinema instead, followed by a meal out.
5. Be choosy about who you enjoy Christmas with. Do you feel obliged to invite boring Uncle Bert and awful Auntie Maud every Christmas evening? Perhaps they feel obliged to accept! If you find it stressful being with certain people over Christmas, either invite them round for a short visit at a suitable time before or after, or just don't bother at all. What's the worst that could happen? They may not send your Christmas card next year!?
6. Chill out. In between social arrangements and shopping make sure you put your feet up and have cosy nights in, sitting in front of the TV or reading a book. Light a fire or some candles, get your pyjamas/onesie on and snuggle in comfort. Ignore the phone and social media to make sure it is truly relaxing.
7. Remember fresh air. The cold, damp dark weather can make us feel like staying indoors, so make the most of it when it is sunny and get out for a brisk walk. It's a great way to combat the sitting around eating and drinking and a great way to destress and calm yourself. Take in the autumn leaves, the winter sun and breathe in the fresh air.
8. Don't forget yourself. Ask yourself what you would like to get out of this Christmas. Why not treat yourself in the run-up to Christmas, to a new outfit, or by booking a massage, manicure or haircut? Perhaps you'd prefer just to spend time reading a magazine or taking a day off work just to lounge and watch box sets. Just do it and don't feel guilty.
9. Take a bit of time out each day to enjoy being, rather than doing. Although connecting with others is great for our health, spending 10 minutes a day to pamper yourself or just be on your own simply enjoying being rather than doing is also vitally important. Just 10 minutes can make a difference. Do a quick breathing meditation (see my App/MP3 downloads on my website) or another mindfulness meditation, or simply just sip a cup of tea mindfully, taking in all the aromas, flavours and textures as you put everything else out of your mind.
10. Practice daily gratitude. As the Rolling Stones put it "you can't always get what you want… But you just might find you get what you need". Stop reminding yourself of all the things you don't have and remember things you do which often get taken for granted. Count 10 things, one on each finger to be grateful for. Don't forget to think of all the little things: the roof over your head, the bed you're lying in, the food in the cupboards, the fact that you live in a (mostly) peaceful country and be thankful for the people you have in your life.
Have a great Christmas
We all have negative thoughts at some time. Often we can be our worst critic, and we would never dare to say those things to somebody else.
When suffering anxiety, negative thoughts (as well as feelings) can overwhelm us. However, the thoughts themselves aren't in fact the issue, after all thoughts are just words, they are not the truth.
However, we tend to see them as real, true, and therein lies the problem. The more frequent the negative thoughts, the more we believe them. Often, our reaction to these thoughts is to try and ignore them or to try and push them away; and the more we notice that they are there, the more worked up we get.
Negative thoughts can make us feel stressed, anxious, depressed and hopeless. However, they can be overcome.
The other day I watching Easy Ways to Live Well on BBC1 and was interested to hear about how hydrotherapy (i.e. cold showers) helps to treat depression, stress and anxiety. This was news to me, so I had to look into it further. It's apparently an old-time natural cure, that actually does work. What's more, it has many, many benefits.
Read on to find out how it works, what the benefits are and a simple way to enjoy this cheap therapy!
Maria Hancock,, Hypnotherapist, Psychotherapist, Mindfulness Teacher, NLP Practitioner, MSc Health Psychology