How are you getting on with your To Do list?
Our brains are very comfortable in ‘doing’ mode, planning, solving problems and making choices. This is useful at Christmas, as it is in life; but ‘doing’ mode is no good when it comes to managing our emotions. Emotions are not logical – we can’t reason them away; and judging ourselves for having a negative emotion only makes us feel worse.
Doing and Being
It’s important to combine two modes – ‘doing’ and ‘being’ – especially at Christmas. ‘Being’ is the opposite of ‘doing’. We are not task focussed, no judgements are required and we are not thinking about the future. Instead ‘being’ involves slowing down and focussing on what you are experiencing right now. Try to accept what IS, because that is what is there anyway.
A lot of people call this Mindfulness – a mental state which is achieved by focussing on the present moment only. By letting go of things we can’t do anything about right now, we are more likely to relax and reduce our stress. Mindfulness has been shown to reduce anxiety levels by 58% and stress by 40%. Good for parenting and even better for Christmas.
5 tips for being present
Give yourself some moments during the day, to move from ‘doing’ to ‘being’. Be still for three minutes and just notice what’s going on around you, without trying to change it. If you get distracted by your ‘to do’ list, that’s OK. Just bring your attention back to what is happening now. Focus on what’s happening in your body – what can you hear, see, touch, feel, taste – right now?
If you feel stressed about anything, stop and breathe.
Ask yourself ‘how are things right now?’ My shoulders are tense, my head aches and my heart is beating fast.
Then take your awareness to your breathing. Notice the movement of breath through your nose and mouth (cool air in, warm air out), your chest expanding and contracting, the gentle rise and fall of your stomach.
If you’re distracted by thoughts or feelings, that’s OK. Move your attention back to your breath. Do this for about three minutes – or for as long as you can/want/are able to.
In moments when you feel tension rising, say to yourself, ‘be who I am, want what I have, do what I can’.
Accept that there are some things (and people) you can’t change – the only thing you can do is change the way you react to them. Try listening to them, even if you don’t like what you hear. Avoid jumping to conclusions and see if you can concentrate on their story more. Keep conversations about them, so that there is less chance of you taking what they are saying personally. If it gets too much, be respectful and find a reason to move away.
Be grateful for what you have. Shelter, warmth, food, love, laughter. Pay attention and look for the good bits. Tell those you love how grateful you feel.
‘Being’ present with your loved ones at Christmas is, by far, the best present of all.
This article was previously published in the East Anglian Daily Times (Archant Newspapers) Family Section on Friday December 21, 2017