12 Ways to Stay Calm in the Lead Up to Christmas
Build your resilience and boost your happiness with these 12 simple tips to keep you calm over the next 12 days leading into Christmas.
1. TAKE A BREATH
Close your eyes and breathe deep down into your belly for 3-5 seconds, then exhale for slightly longer. Find your rhythm. As you do this try to re-experience a feeling of love you have for someone, something, a place or a recent accomplishment.
Breathe and focus on that feeling of calm and ease. It only take a moment out of your day to stop and breathe.
2. LISTEN TO MUSIC
Put on your favourite upbeat song... turn it up and dance and sing! Be mindful, enjoy it and really listen, not just to the music but to yourself. How does it make you feel? Why? What memories does it bring back to you?
Music is a great way to lift your spirits.
3. TAKE A WALK
Take a few minutes out of your day to get outside and go for a walk. Make sure to do it mindfully. Notice the nature around you, the sounds, the colours you see, and breathe in the fresh air. Focus on the steps you are taking and distract your mind. Block out that inner voice!
Walking helps release endorphins which will bost your mood and make you feel good.
4. STRIKE A POSE
Try a yoga pose and stretch for a few minutes. Tree pose, downward dog, sun salutation or just lie on your back for a couple of minutes in Savasana pose - this is my favourite! If you don't know any yoga poses just lie on your back on the floor with your bottom against the wall and your legs up in the air. Feel your body stretching.
Also remember to concentrate on your breath. Just give it a go! Yoga is great for respiration, energy and vitality.
5. SIT IN THE SUNSHINE
Spend 5-10 minutes sitting in the sunshine, either in the morning or late afternoon, and get some much needed vitamin D. This plays an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression. Sit in the sun with a cup of tea, or a glass of water and concentrate on the feel of the sun on your skin.
Let's hope it is a sunny day!
6. HUG IT OUT
Give someone a long deep hug today where your hearts are connecting (with consent of course). Research shows that hugging is extremely effective for healing sickness, disease, loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress.
Whether it is a mama-child embrace of a special squeeze with your significant other, hugs make us feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Close your eyes and imagine a peaceful scene, a dream holiday somewhere, time off work, spending time doing something you love. Imagine the feelings you will experience - joy, awe, relaxation. Take your time and really feel yourself there.
Visualisation is a powerful tool that can trick your brain into believing it is actually happening.
Grab a comfortable seat somewhere nice and quiet, close your eyes and ask your busy mind to listen to your breathing. Feel your heart rate slow down and your shoulders relax. Every time you start thinking of other things, simply notice and take your mind back to your breathing.
Try and do this for five minutes but even one minute is better than nothing.
9. GROUND YOURSELF
Take your shoes off and ground yourself with the earth. Walk on the beach or the grass with your bare feet. Feel the texture and energy radiate up through your body.
The scientific theory behind the health benefits of grounding is that your body absorbs electrons from the Earth through the soles of your feet. These electrons induce multiple significant physiological changes, including reduced pain, better sleep, and a shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic tone in the autonomic nervous system (ANS).
10. NATURE CONNECTION
Get yourself into your local green space and hug a tree! Research shows that hugging a tree boost your health in several ways, including improvement in cognitive and emotional ability. That is pretty amazing!
Even if you gave just five minutes in your day to mindfully notice nature and the beauty of it will help to put you in a more relaxed state. A 2019 study found that spending two hours a week in nature is associated with and overall increase in well-being.
11. PRACTICE GRATITUDE
It had to be included! Sit down for a few minutes and think about the people you love. Close your eyes and really feel grateful they are in your life. Just focus on how grateful you are for them and tell them "thank you" in your mind. You can do this for your pets, your friends, your job, the people working in retail over Christmas! Anyone or anything really! Just sit in gratitude.
Practicing gratitude can help make you more resilient, boost your self-esteem, increase your levels of happiness, lessen symptoms of anxiety and depression, make you less bothered by aches and pains and boost your immune system.
12. VITAMIN P for PLEASURE!
Give yourself a treat. Something that makes your heart sing. It could be a piece of chocolate, a pampering massage, a manicure, buying something you want or just some time out. Don't feel guilty about it. Enjoy every moment!
Small, pleasurable treats not only give you a hit of dopamine - those reactions in your brain that make you feel good - they are an important act of self-compassion and kindness. Showing yourself more compassion will improve your reactions to failure and your ability to pursue success, and will help to lesson symptoms of depression.
1. Chen YF, Huang XY, Chien CH, Cheng JF. The Effectiveness of Diaphragmatic Breathing Relaxation Training for Reducing Anxiety. Perspect Psychiatr Care. 2017 Oct;53(4):329-336. doi: 10.1111/ppc.12184. Epub 2016 Aug 23. PMID: 27553981.
2. Thoma MV, La Marca R, Brönnimann R, Finkel L, Ehlert U, Nater UM. The effect of music on the human stress response. PLoS One. 2013;8(8):e70156. Published 2013 Aug 5. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070156
3. Koselka EPD, Weidner LC, Minasov A, et al. Walking Green: Developing an Evidence Base for Nature Prescriptions. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(22):4338. Published 2019 Nov 7. doi:10.3390/ijerph16224338
4. Smith C, Hancock H, Blake-Mortimer J, Eckert K. A randomised comparative trial of yoga and relaxation to reduce stress and anxiety, Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 2007; 15(2):77-83 doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2006.05.001.
5. Penckofer S, Kouba J, Byrn M, Estwing Ferrans C. Vitamin D and depression: where is all the sunshine?. Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2010;31(6):385-393. doi:10.3109/01612840903437657
6. Holt-Lunstad J, et al. Influence of a ‘Warm Touch’ Support Enhancement Intervention Among Married Couples on Ambulatory Blood Pressure, Oxytocin, Alpha Amylase, and Cortisol. Psychosomatic Medicine, 2008; 70(9):976–985 doi:10.1097/psy.0b013e318187aef7.
9. Chevalier G, Sinatra ST, Oschman JL, Sokal K, Sokal P. Earthing: health implications of reconnecting the human body to the Earth's surface electrons. J Environ Public Health. 2012;2012:291541. doi:10.1155/2012/291541
10. White, M.P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J. et al. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep 9, 7730 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3
11. See the science here.
12. Neff, K. Self-Compassion: An Alternative Conceptualization of a Healthy Attitude Toward Oneself. Self and Identity - Self Identity. 2. 85-101. (2003). 10.1080/15298860309032.