The lead up to Christmas is one of the busiest and potentially the most frantic periods of the year for many people. As a result, this can be one of the most demanding and stressful times, where blood pressure rises and worries and challenges surface.
Melbourne based psychotherapist and anxiety expert, Pauline McKinnon, has been a leader in the field of therapeutic meditation for over 30 years.
Pauline specialises in the unique Western-style Stillness Meditation, the work of renowned psychotherapist, Dr Ainslie Meares. This natural style of meditation has been life-changing for countless people and once mastered, can be done almost anywhere, at any time. This style of meditation does not involve complex postures, music, chanting or mental focus of any kind. Essentially, the major purpose of this style of meditation is all about rest for the mind!
"The practice of natural mental rest leads to inner calm, a necessity when managing the festive season with poise and grace," Pauline McKinnon said.
"If there's ever a time when meditation is important, it's Christmas. While I'd like to see the majority engaging in stillness meditation throughout the year, it is especially important to incorporate relaxing practices of any kind into your daily regime at Christmas time."
So, based on that meditative practice, and from one who generally manages stress very well, Pauline offers five key pieces of advice on other ways to get through Christmas in one piece:
1. Give yourself the night off
In the lead up to Christmas, everyone's to-do list is packed! "Amid buying presents, sharing celebration time with family and friends and planning and preparing special occasion food, we sometimes overlook personal needs," Pauline added.
"In the lead up to Christmas, I aim to give myself some quiet nights. It's a good idea to make a few dates for yourself, some evenings when you just stop doing and relax. For me, after 9 o'clock is 'Pauline time'. I forget about Christmas pressure and take some time to enjoy personal interests. This is not opting out. – it's self-care through planned procrastination!"
2. Beware of stressful family members
Christmas is the time of year that traditionally brings family members together. Very often people see each other for the first time in a long time and old differences tend to be amplified under these conditions. This can worsen when people are tired, under the influence of a few drinks or already feeling a heightened sense of stress and anxiety.
"The obligation surrounding socialising with certain family members with whom we don't really connect is one of the more difficult things about Christmas. If you think certain others may affect your mood, it may be best to graciously avoid them. Simple as that – and an excellent way to generate a peaceful party," Pauline said.
"Find your inner 'zen-mode' and try to let things slide. Being the bigger person isn't just the mature thing to do, it's the best way to avoid confrontation and ensure a happy Christmas Day for you and your family."
3. Treat yourself… it's Christmas!
"If you're going to work so hard to make Christmas fun for your kids and your family, you should get some joy from it all, too. Relax into the spirit of it all and have some fun as well. After all, it's not Christmas unless you let yourself indulge just a little," Pauline said.
"In celebratory mode there's no need to count calories or avoid the chocolates. Just remember that excess indulgence in food and drinks is never recommended. The whole point of Christmas is celebration – in fact, traditionally, the celebration of Christmas is really all about love and joy and peace. Let's treat ourselves with the spirit of Christmas well in mind."
4. Stillness Meditation
"One of the most challenging times to set aside the restfulness of Stillness Meditation is usually just the time when being still is most effective – and most necessary! That means especially in the lead up to Christmas and during the Festive Season itself. It's really healthy to know how to clear your mind of any distractions and let your mind rest," Pauline said.
5. Remember to exercise!
"I honestly can't think of a more important time to exercise than during Christmas. People often forget to exercise when they're really busy, despite busy-ness also requiring the balance of exercise," Pauline added.
"Exercise shares a lot in common with meditation. It's not only good for your physical health, but your mental health as well. And this doesn't have to be vigorous, either. Walking is the most naturally beneficial form of exercise so spend some time out in the park!"
By contrast though, the value of stillness meditation lies in its effortlessness. In this practice we gain physical and mental rest, beyond distraction or disturbance of any kind. In this there is no trying or striving to 'do' anything – no breathing technique, no chanting, no music, no focus of any kind.
"Stillness meditation allows rest for body, mind and spirit leading to self-healing. Those who travel this path discover life transformed. And I hope my other tips for handling Christmas may help readers to enjoy the festivities with ease and a great big chunk of happiness," Pauline said.
Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash