The run-up to the festive season doesn’t have to be stressful. Ali and Finn give their tips on how to arrive at Christmas Eve feeling that little bit more zen...
It’s supposed to be one of the happiest times of the year. The Christmas period is marketed as being full of glitter, tinsel and festive cheer, but not everyone finds the run-up something to celebrate. After last year’s serious flop of a holiday season, there’s also an added pressure to make this year really special. We know we’re not alone in often arriving at Christmas Eve at a screeching halt, tired and exhausted with zero enthusiasm.
It’s natural to want to keep everyone happy, but the knock-on effect of this is that our own needs are mostly left at the bottom of the laundry basket (and everyone knows you never reach that!). After being a passenger in your own life for so long, prioritising self-care might not come naturally, but the good news is that you have the power to change things for the better.
Small but significant self-care activities and shifts in mindset can help us create micro-moments of calm, which lead us to feel more positive. These are things we can fit into our schedules, even at the busiest time of year – read on to get started with our plan for the season ahead.
Our Self-Care Plan of Action
1: May the voice inside your head be the kindest voice you know
Our heads can be pretty noisy places and it’s important to remember that not every thought you have is true. Start acting as your own mind coach and ask yourself questions like ‘Is this really helpful?’ and ‘Do I need to be focusing on this right now?’ It’s a way of getting some perspective on your current reality. Try to act as a friend to yourself and always respond with kindness!
“Our heads can be noisy places. It’s important to remember that not every thought you have is true.”
You won't be surprised to know this is our favourite way to manage our mental health and wellbeing to find calm in the chaos. After all, our business started with our original Positive Planner which centres around journaling. The benefits of journalling are extensive – from being able to vent unvoiced feelings to finding direction and reaching goals. There are plenty of elaborate journalling tips out there but if you’re struggling to get started, we suggest going back to basics.
Set a timer to help you write faster and think less. Try writing a few sentences about how you feel about the day ahead, what tasks you have to complete and how you’re going to approach them. If you’re journalling in the evening, you could write about what went well today, the three things you’re most grateful for, or what act of self-care you’re going to do tomorrow.
3: Get help for the overwhelm
We’ve learnt to outsource work where we can, or find clever ways to win time. We project manage family life in a similar way to our business – if something is proving difficult, we sit down and work out what’s really stressing us out so we can get to the root of the problem.
One way we do this is through a Braintangle (see below) – we created this tool for our Positive Planner as a way to work through our feelings when you can’t think clearly due to overwhelm. It really is a fantastic way of finding out what you need and putting an action plan in place to achieve this.
How to do a Braintangle
If your brain's super busy and you’re unsure how to move forward, you’ll need a tool to help process what’s going on. We created the Braintangle after being inspired by an art therapy technique. It’s essentially a brain-dump to help untangle all your thoughts and feelings, leaving you with some clarity and more importantly a real plan of action on how to move forward. And it starts with just a scribble!
Take a pen and create a tangle pattern all over two journal pages, or one sheet of paper, then draw a cross dividing the page into four. You then write in the spaces of the four different sections:
- how you’re feeling
- why you’re feeling these things
- what will help
- a plan of how you can go about this
4: Take time out
This is a bit of a mantra for us and we make sure we use pockets of time when they come up. So if one appears, put the to-do list to one side and do something for you.
We all deserve treats and planning something special for these moments can give us an anchor to hold on to. You could even create what we call a Happiness Jar for these times: Think of all the little things you love doing – from an afternoon bath to just sitting with a book – and write them all on small pieces of paper. Fill a jar with them and when you find yourself with 10 minutes, pick one from the jar and enjoy!
5: Embrace The Magic Three
We suggest breaking things down into actionable lists that are achievable and help boost a sense of wellbeing, leaving you feeling accomplished at the end of the day. We use the Magic Three, which involves creating a to-do list of the three most important things you absolutely need to get done. Cross them off as you go for that feeling of satisfaction. Anything after those three is a bonus – then you’ll really feel like you’re winning!
6: Set your intentions
As well as a (realistic) to-do list, it’s also a good idea to set some intentions for your day.
We all have things we wish we could be more of. For us, intentions are like a ‘to-be’ list. If you’re feeling resentful, for example, perhaps you need to set an intention to be more grateful for what you do have rather than what you don’t. Many of us find we're subconsciously holding our breath throughout the day, in which case you might make an intention to be more mindful or simply just relax your shoulders and breathe more. If you're looking for some tips on how to introduce breathwork into your days, take a look at our blog here.
The realisation that we are the only ones who can take back our power was a huge light bulb moment for us. Others can help, but you are the only person who can take care of your own mental health. It’s important we understand that whilst our friends and family want the best for us, the only person who can implement daily routines to help you keep on track is you.
Self-care is just the beginning, but showing yourself love and kindness – not only when you feel you need to, but on a daily basis – is something you’ll never regret. We hope your run-up to the festive season is a happy, calm and most of all, positive one!
A version of this blog can be found in the November/December print edition of Planet Mindful Magazine.