Christmas – “the most wonderful time of the year”. Also, the time many of us are most vulnerable to depression, anxiety, overwhelm and exhaustion. Gone through any crises this year? Any family-related issues? Feeling lonely? No doubt ALL the feels will rear their heads big time right around now. And when emotions are running high, to combine them with increased socialising, a couple more drinks than usual, and plenty of time with our families (or, possibly worse, without them…) can spell disaster. As Ram Dass reminded us, “If you think you’re enlightened go spend a week with your family.” Ah… yep. Here are the things I do to look after myself and give myself the best possible chance of smooth sailing through the holidays.
5 Minute Miracle Check In: sit down. Close your eyes. Spend a minute noticing how your body feels, walking your attention through from your toes upwards. Don’t linger on any one sensation, just notice the sensations without judgment, and move on to the next one. If you notice tension, consciously relax that place. Notice your breath – is it free and slow and easy, or tight, fast and erratic? Allow your breath to slow and deepen. Then notice the quality of your mind: is it calm? Chaotic? Focused? Disturbed? Dreaming? Sleepy? Again without deciding if it’s good or bad, just noticing. Then notice your emotions: how do you feel? This one might be obvious, or you might have to dig a bit. With all of this, we’re practicing equanimity: creating new neural pathways to meet discomfort with calm. Which is the most magical of all magic tricks. And now, considering all of those things, accept them completely, tell yourself “it’s totally ok to feel sad/angry/frustrated/however I feel” – then consider what you might do to balance those feelings out. Do I sit longer for meditation? Do I move my body? Do I go have a chat to my partner/mum/child? Do I scream / cry / paint a picture? Anything goes – choose your medicine, then administer it in exactly the right dosage.
Do your practice – whatever it is that connects you to yourself, to the Universe, to consciousness, to God. Whatever it is that lifts you. It might be meditation, or a great asana class, or time spent in the ocean or walking in nature. It might be cooking. It might be sitting and watching the baby magpies play (is that just me?) Whatever it is, find it, and do it. Daily. Commit to it like your life depends on it. Because it kind of does. The world needs you happy and healthy and generous. Do the things that make that happen.
You know what you need to eat to feel good. Do that, but don’t freak out about the Christmas cake and champagne for breakfast (again, is that just me?). Those things are nourishing in a different way – if your mind sees them as nourishing, your body will follow suit. If your mind freaks out, your digestion will too. Simple.
Opt out: if all of the self-care in the world can’t save your sanity, make a different choice. My teacher Rose sits for Vipassana over Christmas every year, without fail – here’s a link for courses in Australia http://www.dhamma.org.au/ . My teacher Tara runs retreats and teacher trainings in Bali through the holiday season: http://www.tarajudelle.com/portfolio_category/calendar/ .
This Christmas, give yourself the gift of outrageous self-care - whatever that looks like. Love Bess x