It’s been a stressful year. In fact, it’s been a stressful two years! As we head into the holiday season, it’s important to take the time to not only reflect on a turbulent 2021, but also to focus on finding ways to slow down. Christmas decorations, shopping madness, carols on repeat, and general end-of-year craziness, can take their toll, often leaving you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Here are some ideas on how to stay grounded these holidays so that you can get the rest you need, before taking on the new year ahead.
- Be mindful
Mindfulness is about bringing your attention to the present moment with an element of non-judgment and acceptance. Being mindful is when you notice that you are get caught up in thoughts about the past, or the future, and returning your attention to the present — the only reality. This is so important at a time when emotions can run high. You can practice mindfulness by:
- observing your breathing and consciously focussing on lowering your stress response
- going for a walk in nature and noticing the small details that you ordinarily wouldn’t
- starting a journal to reflect on your thoughts and feelings in a safe way
- connecting more with people and your surroundings, and less with technology.
- Be still
Finding calm in a world of chaos can be a tall order, but your mental health has never needed it more. The constant overload of news, work and social media can often lead to anxiety, fear and depression. While you can’t always tap out of life and avoid these things altogether, you can approach them in a calmer way. Ways you can do this:
- Listen to music, which calms the activity in your brain. Listen closely – the more you notice, the less your mind will race.
- Go outside. Being in nature is a natural mood booster and can also lower stress.
- Get creative. Simple, repetitive actions (e.g. kneading dough) can help you redirect your thoughts and tune out the chatter in your head.
- Be kind
It’s the season of giving, so this year, why not focus on giving kindness. Committing an act of kindness activates the ‘reward’ area of your brain, which means that you will feel good by doing good for others! There are lots of little acts of kindness you could do:
- Say hello to someone as you pass them in the streets or in the mall.
- If you see someone in the line at the till buying a single item, why not offer to pay for it.
- Return your shopping trolley.
- Support local by buying gifts from a local designer or shop.
- Volunteer your time at a local charity.
- Make it a point to help lift others up.
- Put away your phone.
- Be patient.
- Think about what others may be feeling, and allow them to express themselves however they prefer.
But most importantly, be kind to YOURSELF. Only you will know what kindness you need most. Maybe it’s a massage, an evening at home with popcorn and a good book, a swim in the sea, or a luxurious bath instead of a rushed shower. Changing your self-talk is also a lasting gift you can offer yourself. If you find that you’re saying things about your looks or abilities that you would never say to anyone else, stop immediately. Replace the ‘abuse’ with a reminder that, like everyone else, you’re a work in progress, and you’re doing your best. Forgiveness is another great gift to yourself. Letting go of regrets and self-blame make us feel lighter and better able to appreciate all that we have.
No matter how you feel about the holidays, injecting some extra kindness is a great way to make the season more restful, more joyful, and to start a new year on a positive note. The world needs more kindness. Spread what you can!
- 4 November 2020. How to quiet your mind. Website. https://www.webmd.com/balance/ss/slideshow-how-to-quiet-mind.
- 27 December 2018. 6 ways to practise mindfulness. Website. https://headspace.org.au/blog/6-ways-to-practise-mindfulness/.
- Johns Hopkins Medicine. 4 mindful tips to de-stress this holiday season. Website. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/4-mindful-tips-to-destress-this-holiday-season
The science of kindness
There is a whole area of science dedicated to understanding more about the impact of kindness on mental and physical well-being. Studies have found that showing kindness improves energy and happiness, and may even help you live longer. It works it’s healthy magic by lowering levels of stress hormones whilst increasing levels of ‘happy hormones’.
Kindness is one of the only things in this world that, when shared, doubles. Showing kindness to others not only benefits your receiver, but you yourself too. Here’s the science behind kindness. LET YOUR HEART BE TOUCHED HERE