It is certainly going to be a very different Christmas this year for all of us. The stereotypical chaos around the holidays will likely be replaced with much more subdued celebrations. The usual stressors of late nights, parties, dashing around for last minute presents and travelling to various relatives might be less but that doesn’t mean we won’t experience other factors that can leave us with heightened amounts of anxiety and feeling pretty frazzled. With this in mind this month’s blog is designed to give you some tips to help you have a calm and content Christmas whatever you are up to.
MAINTAIN SOME ROUTINE
It doesn’t need to be a meticulous one, but having a relatively consistent routine can bring in some familiarity and help to calm mind and body. Mealtimes typically tend to be the first to become more haphazard when stress hits, especially over the festive period, so with this in mind try to stick to a pattern of three meals a day, giving adequate breaks between rather than skipping them or constantly grazing. This will provide dedicated pockets of recovery in the day, which is crucial, giving our guts a rest too. For me, my Symprove shot is a great way to ensure I start the day in my regular routine, even during a holiday period.
SMALL ACTS OF KINDNESS
In times of stress we tend to neglect ourselves. Little acts of kindness and self-care sends a subliminal message to ourselves to be kinder and gentler with our thoughts and actions. In doing so this supports a calmer mindset. Simple things can help such as indulging in a long soak in the bath, making our favourite supper and taking time to present food on a lovely plate with napkins and perhaps a candle alongside, or perhaps dedicating time to listen to music that lifts us up. Planning things like these into the week can provide a positive focus.
Whilst the holidays can be a time to gather friends and family together, this year that won’t be possible for many of us. It is also a time of the year that those who live alone can feel very lonely. With this in mind it is important to maintain some connection with loved ones and make dedicated time for video chats. Even some festive games can be played together virtually!
MOVE A BIT EVERY DAY
Getting some kind of movement in our day can help enormously with worries and woes. Walking is wonderful for this and can be enjoyed with family and friends as a nice way to connect and catch up, which is also good for the mind. Just 20-30 mins a day can help to get some of the feel-good endorphins flowing and result in a calmer mind, body and gut.
Acknowledge that we cannot always influence the stressors in our life. Whilst we can be aware of them we can also learn to let go of the emotions around them in order to alleviate feelings of worry, stress and anxiety. It is also important to accept that its absolutely okay to not feel okay all of the time. Knowing that can also help with feelings of overwhelm and uncertainty.
Breathing has formed the basis of many ancient practices such as yoga and it is the deep belly breathing (aka diaphragmatic breathing) that helps the nervous system switch into the parasympathetic mode of ‘rest & digest’. Think of it almost like putting on the calming brakes. What’s more this is something that requires no previous practice, but simply involves sitting and breathing from the top to bottom of the lungs, filling up the diaphragm. Breathe in for a count of 4-5, holding the breath for the same time, breathe out SLOWLY to the same count and hold on ‘empty’ before you breathe in again. Aim to do this for at least 5 minutes per day, as it is the cumulative effects that are the most powerful. Whilst we can’t always change the stressors, we can nourish a mind that can cope better with them. And don’t forget that the gut-brain connection is an incredibly powerful one, so your gut microbes will also revel in and benefit from the respite.