7 top tips to deal with all the usual challenges of the festive season with the added complications of Covid.
After months of Covid derailing life Christmas feels like it’s come round super quickly and for most of us it’s going to be far from normal! Instead of our usual traditions we are dealing with bubbles, tiers and social distancing. Who’d have ever imagined that hugging family and friends would be a no no and that kisses under the mistletoe a rather horrifying thought!
I’ve spoken to many people, some have been bereaved, some are feeling low, others are missing the usual social gatherings and a surprisingly large number are wishing it was all over, before it’s even begun!
So we thought you might like some top tips for having a happy Christmas which will not only help you navigate all the usual complexities and challenges of the festive season but that will also boost your spirits with the unwanted complication of Covid. So in no particular order:
1. Flow with how it is
It’s our attachment to how we want things to be rather than how they are that is, according to Buddhist philosophy, our biggest cause of suffering. Christmas is a real hot spot for this, let alone when Covid is present! So our first top tip is to keep yourself focused on HOW IT IS rather than HOW you would LIKE it to be. Every time you realise that your mind is taking you down the rabbit hole of day dreams, wishes or disappointment (to name but a few) pause, breathe slowly and refocus. Say to yourself, ‘I flow with how this is.’ No matter how many times keep bringing yourself back to acceptance for how it is. When you stop the push pull of wanting and set the intention to flowing you will find yourself in a much more harmonious mindset which in trun will make Christmas much easier.
2. Take a breath
We often refer to breath work in our blogs because it has such a profound effect on the mind, body and spirit. You can ease stress and strain, calm your nerves and neutralise all sorts of aggravations and frustrations instantly with breath work! All you need to do is close your mouth, and become aware of the flow of breath in and out of your nostrils. That’s it – no training and Buddha like enlightenment required! You can add to this if it helps by counting the breaths – inhale for 5-9 seconds (whatever works for you and doesn’t leave you gasping), hold your breath for the same count and then exhale to the same count. Do five cycles. And remember breathwork can be done anywhere and anytime, even when you are in front of the most testing of personalities.
It’s easy for tensions and frustrations to rise steadily and surely over Christmas especially with all the added strain of Covid. Instead of letting your emotions and stress building up pay attention to how you are feeling. As soon as you realise you need to reset your mindset try this:
- Stand up straight.
- Relax your shoulders.
- Release the tension in your jaw.
- Let your tongue loosen in your mouth.
- Focus on the word, peace. You can hold the word in your thoughts or if it’s easier repeat the word in your mind or say it out loud. Imagine the calm soothing energy of peace as a golden light. The more you focus on the word ‘peace’ the brighter this light is, the more it glows. Imagine it filling your mind with golden light, then this light spilling over and pouring down into your heart and flowing through your whole body until you are lit up like a lightbulb.
This exercise need only take two or three minutes (longer if you enjoy it), repeat it as often as necessary. Research has proven that creative visualisations are an incredibly powerful way of working with the mind and body, we would also add in spirit!
4. Re-charge and re-set
It’s easy to be very busy, work non-stop and to feel overwhelmed during Christmas. Making time for some mindful moments is an ideal way to combat this. Here’s how:
Step outside into your garden, a park or go for a walk. The restorative powers of nature are immense. As you connect with the outside world focus on what you can hear, smell, feel and see. Use your senses to tune in with the world around you in as much detail as possible. It is like a meditative walk and helps you to re-set and re-charge.
If you can’t get outside stand at an open window and look at the view and the sky and see what you can hear, sense, feel and see. Alternatively sit on your bed for five minutes and enjoy some quiet reflection time, or maybe listen to some music that lifts your spirits, write down your thoughts, feelings and observations in a journal or even download a meditation app and do a simple five minute meditation. Mindful moments allow you to recharge and reset which in turn helps you to be calmer and more centred both of which are a win, win.
5. Peace over perfection
Christmas is a nightmare for unrealistic expectations and picture perfect dreams especially when Covid has compromised our usual activities. Now more than ever it’s clear to see that perfection is an illusion and that it’s time to make way for peace. Now for some, of course perfection is a big thing but whoever you are, and however big or entrenched your perfection drivers are change is possible even if that starts with baby steps. Notice and be aware of your expectations and your standards. Keep aware and be mindful of your thoughts and what you’re doing. If you realise you are pursuing perfection and unrealistic dreams give yourself permission to be human, stand down and regroup. You could say to yourself, ‘I choose peace over perfection.’ You could write the letter, ‘p’ on your hand, or leave post it notes in useful places to remind you. You could also try the traffic light approach – the red light means ‘stop,’ amber means, ‘I need to pause,’ and green means, ‘right I’m doing this differently.’
6. Be all there
Whether you are going to be all alone or in your family bubble there is one thing you can do that will make a huge difference to the quality of your Christmas and that’s to be fully there. This Buddhist practice, known as mindfulness is quite simply about being fully present in what you are doing. It might sound easy but most of us have very active minds chatter to us non-stop.
So whatever you are doing start exploring the power of being mindful in that task. If you are washing up focus your awareness and attention on washing the dishes. If you are making a coffee focus your awareness on that. If you are showering, cleaning your teeth, even sitting listening to someone talk to you keep practising being fully present and in that moment. The moment you realise your mind has wandered, and it will, then bring your awareness back to the task.
This Christmas put down your phone, close your laptop and see what happens when you begin to explore being mindful and fully engaged in the present moment. According to Buddha only when we connect with the present moment that true happiness can be found.
7. Christmas can be a time when we neglect ourselves.
Here are some ideas:
- As well as the naughty indulgences make sure you eat some good quality nourishing food.
- Avoid social media and people’s picture perfect photos – remember people seldom post the bad bits!
- Turn off your phone and laptop and have some downtime.
- Go take a long, relaxing bath.
- Go to bed early if you have a very busy household and need some quiet time – and do this guilt free.
- Listen to your favourite music.
- Read a good book or an audio book.
- Go for a brisk walk.
- Call that friend who makes you laugh.
- Meditate (download an app and start today!)
- Start the day with some stretches or some yoga.
- Write a list that prioritises what you must, should and could do in the day ahead, set realistic goals.
- Ask for help, accept help remember you don’t need to do it all and exhaust yourself in the process.
- Watch a movie (and don’t pick your phone up at any point).
- Be mindful of moderation. Avoid those excesses that will ultimately leave you feeling more unhappy in the long run.
For anyone working through this Christmas these suggestions are even more important to consider!
So there you go our seven powerful ways to surviving our Covid challenged Christmas 2020 and hopefully you will find some tools and techniques here that you enjoy so much you take them through with you into 2021.
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May we wish you a very merry and happy Christmas
Fiona and Gavin