What are your goals/ intentions as we look forward to Spring?
Did you set any New Year’s resolutions? Planning to become a “New You” in 2023? How’s that going?
I know in recent years I’ve become less focused on New Year’s resolutions and have instead written some intentions for what I’d like to achieve this year. Rather than putting myself under pressure to lose weight or cut out sugar completely (practically impossible for someone with a sweet tooth!) I’ve tried to come up with some more realistic, self-compassionate goals.
At the beginning of the year, I decided upon my work goals for the month. To be honest, I’ve already had to adapt these, but personally here are my goals:
- To pace myself more, listening to my body and allowing myself more time to rest as needed.
- Carry on with doing at least 1 mindful practice per day (usually after lunch). I’ve discovered the Balance app which is currently free for 1 year (in February 2023) which has a wide variety of meditations and plans including ones based on different emotions and for helping get to sleep. The free UCLA mindful app is also useful for its basic mindful meditations and weekly 30 min Hammer Museum podcast. I really enjoy their body scan for sleep when I need to switch off before starting the afternoon afresh.
- Going to the gym at least twice per week. I’ve built up to this gradually – starting once per week then up to twice a week or 2 later. I find this can really energise me and get those feel good endorphins going too. My aim is also to lose some weight.
Some people find SMART goals helpful, keeping them focused on:
but I know this may not work for everyone and maybe too much pressure. An example of a smart goal would be:
I aim to lose 5 kg over three months by going to the gym and eating healthily.
Five kg over three months sounds realistic and achievable , is set over a specific time and can be measured.
The Challenges of Winter
The winter months can be difficult for a number of reasons:
- Less sunlight can conversely affect our mood
- With the shorter, colder winter days, it’s harder to get outside and motivation can be less. This may result in us exercising less. This can also make it harder to get out to see friends and family
- When we feel down/ sad it may be harder to concentrate
- There can be a sense of anticlimax after the new year.
How can we address these problems?
Thinking about what we like about winter may help: for example my preference is for a warm drink (hot chocolate) and snuggling under blankets with a hot water bottle and candles burning nearby and ideally a fire burning brightly in the hearth.
Looking out on a sunny morning with clear blue skies or a glittering frosty moment when the world can look so beautiful.
Having a conversation with a friend or loved one- reaching out when we’re feeling low or in need of a chat.
Breaking down our intentions into smaller steps
What are the individual steps needed to achieve our goal? We may need to write these down and have them somewhere where we can see them to remind us of what our goal is and how to get there:
Using the earlier example of losing 5 kg in three months
Step 1. Weighing myself to record where I’m at now
Step 2. Making a plan of when I intend to go to the gym each week
Step 3 Thinking about the healthy meals and snacks I can eat to help my weight loss and so on…
….and finally to celebrate when I achieve my goal.
It’s good to celebrate the small wins in between e.g. losing the first kg.
Celebrating Small Wins
What is a small win? I would describe it as when progressing towards our goals, it’s important to recognise any progress along the way, no matter how small – and celebrate it! For me, making sure I stick to my work timings, particularly at the end of the day, and not going beyond these has been a small win for me. Being boundaried with my time is a helpful strategy. I know that structure also helps me stick to my plan.
Have you set yourself any intentions since the New Year? How are you progressing? Do you need to change anything to make your goal more realistic/ achievable? Are there any challenges you need to overcome or problem-solve? What are your small wins so far? And have you celebrated them?
Pop your comments in the box below – I’d love to hear how you are getting on.
Book Review: God Isn’t Finished with You Yet by Catherine Campbell
I love how Catherine brings each Bible story to life in her book. She discusses 7 different Bible characters in depth, using an almost Ignatian style, where you can imagine yourself in each scene, immersed in the sights, smells and sounds of those times, interacting with the people there. She helps you to better understand each character’s circumstances and the challenges they face.
As someone who can struggle with concentration whilst reading sometimes, I was surprised at the depth of detail she goes into as she explores how the story is relevant to us in our own individual lives. I tried to use this as a daily devotional but concluded this would work better in a group setting where there was more time to prepare and read the suggested connected Bible passages in the study questions. There would be more time to discuss the themes Catherine brings to light.
However the encouragement her writing brings, in turning around characters’ difficulties and sometimes their self-inflicted situations, is palpable. It shows how God can work through our failures and is an inspiration and hope for all of us in using these shortcomings for His glory.
This book will delight those who can identify with the difficulties each character endures Seeing the transformation of its characters to demonstrate how God moves in our broken lives. Those low times that aren’t the end of the story. It’s also for those looking for more in-depth study of the some less known characters in the Bible.
I’m grateful to SPCK who kindly allowed me to read a pre-publication of this book. This is my own honest opinion of the book.
Guest blog: How to find motivation for goals set before Christmas
As Christmas creeps closer, Jo Robinson, life coach and writing for wellbeing facilitator talks about finding motivation as part of the lead up to my Coping with Christmas workshops:
“It was good timing that Anita asked me to guest blog about motivation, as I could feel my motivation flagging halfway through November as we approached the Christmas season.
Blocks to Motivation
As soon as talk of Christmas starts and the festive adverts come on the television, a voice inside me says, ‘Oh, maybe I can leave that until the New Year?’ whenever an unresolved goal or life admin task rears its ugly head. However, the trouble with putting things off until the New Year is that those annoying tasks I’m dodging tend to mount up and spoil Christmas. They’re looming over me so I can’t relax and then January turns into an anxiety-inducing ball of avoidance.
Thankfully, I’ve finally become more aware of my self-sabotaging habits, and this year I’ve promised myself that I’ll avoid these by getting going on my ‘to-do list’ before my Christmas break starts.
‘How do I get the motivation to do this?’ I hear you ask.
How to find motivation
1. Do a brain dump. Write a list and get everything that’s bothering you down on paper – that can be a longer free-write/brain dump to start with, which can then be used to create a numbered list of things that you want to start work on.
a. Write and post two blog posts on my website
b. Prep for a workshop for late January
c. Do research into funding opportunities
d. Get more decluttering done in my flat.
2. Find your why. In order to get motivated to do a goal it’s always best to start with why you want to do it. For me, I want to slow down in December to spend more time with friends and family, then be totally work-free over the Christmas week rather than thinking about those things that I need to start in the New Year.
How to make your list achievable step-by-step
The ideal way of deciding if it’s achievable is to look at your diary and decide a deadline. My deadline is Friday 17th December, so I have just over 3 weeks left. Can I realistically do all the things on my list in that period and if I can’t, can I do parts of them, or cross them off my list?
My Blog: I’ve already drafted two posts, so it would take two days max to get them finished and posted.
My Workshop: I’ve got a meeting set up next week to discuss a potential new workshop
Funding plan: I’ve discussed a funding grant with a friend and discovered that the deadline is Friday 5th December
Decluttering: When am I next going near the charity shops?
The reason I work out my deadline is so that I can ‘reverse engineer’ my tasks – I look at where I have slots of time available and put them in my diary in advance. This enables me to break my goals down into manageable steps, prioritising them in order of importance, which also helps to prepare the different projects.
Just going through this process has increased my motivation; I mentally feel more ready, and it seems to have boosted the proactive part of my brain. It’s conquered the procrastination which was hindering my motivation, which is a reason to celebrate!
I also find talking my plans through with a fellow entrepreneur friend like Anita, or having an ‘action partner’ to check in with helps to keep me accountable and on target. If I’m feel stuck or overwhelmed, it’s good to have a supportive ear to give me a new way of seeing things, or to just listen to me.
Now that I have a plan in place, I have put the items in my diary around my current plans. It’s easy to get distracted, or say yes to last minute invitations in December, so having the tasks in my phone and paper diary, will help to keep them at the forefront of my mind.
If I’m tight for time, or not in the mood, I use the Pomodoro Technique. I set a timer for 30 minutes and get to work on a task. Then I have a five-minute break, and, if I have time after that do another 30 minutes. I use this technique for dealing with emails as it focuses my mind and enables me to use my time more effectively.
In my experience, setting myself rewards a long way ahead isn’t a good motivational tool. I have found that daily bite-sized rewards work more effectively than weekly or monthly rewards as they keep my motivation going. I use simple things like ‘If you get this post finished today, you can watch Netflix for an hour,’ or ‘If you tidy up after dinner, you can have an extra half an hour in bed tomorrow.’ The sort of things a parent might say to a child to make them do their homework!
Another effective technique is to write down what the consequences will be if I don’t get my list done:
- How will I feel if I don’t get my tasks done by 17th December?
- How will it affect my time over Christmas?
- Who else will it affect?
Answering these questions is usually all the motivation I need to keep me going!
I hope these tips have helped you as writing this post has already boosted my motivation!
What is your procrastination list for December? Write this down and choose at least one goal to work on, breaking it down into smaller steps if needed? Feel free to share yours below…and banish those January Blues.”
Jo Robinson is a Writing for Wellbeing Practitioner and Life Coach. She leads therapeutic writing workshops for people who want to increase their social engagement and use writing as a tool for creativity, stress management, and self-expression. A member of the Lapidus Therapeutic Writing Community, Jo has run workshops for several major organisations, including Mind, Hestia, and homeless charity St. Mungos. From her own lived experience of mental health issues, she is passionate about the transformative way that therapeutic writing can help people change the way people think, feel, and act, in order to live happier and more engaged lives.
Find out more about her business on her website or check her out on Instagram @thisisjotoo .
How to Take Life at Your Own Pace in a Post-lockdown World
The past 18 months or so have seen us constantly adapting to the changing rhythms and expectations that life has thrown at us. There have been some real positives to taking life at a slower pace and being able to reassess what are the most important things to us. However there have also been some huge challenges to our mental health, family relationships and adjusting to a restricted daily routine whilst locked down.
What have been the things that you’ve most appreciated from lockdown? And what are the lessons you’ve learned that you want to keep applying now that life has become crazy busy again? It may be helpful to think about the current pace of life and whether this is suiting you?
My Own Recent Experience
For me, I know that the pace of life has become too fast at times and I’ve had to choose to step back and reflect on what I want to do differently. What is a manageable level of busyness and what is too much? My warning signs have been letting go of my usual self-care as I’ve been too busy and the odd moment of overwhelm where the level of activity feels like too much for my brain to manage.
The wake up call for me particularly was my catching the freshers flu a few weeks back and suddenly being forced to stop and rest for a week. I’d been attending several large scale in person events over 2 weeks and hadn’t been planning too far ahead. Before I knew it, my energy levels dropped as I fought off tiredness, achiness and a stuffy nose. I couldn’t concentrate for long and knew I had to stop.
There was a relief in acknowledging this and giving myself permission to rest. It was only then that I realised I’d been pushing myself too hard and that I wanted to slow down my pace.
Another warning sign was feeling I didn’t have time to do some things and was rushing – a sign anxiety was setting in. As I took some well-earned rest, I enjoyed watching The Good Wife on catch up TV whilst munching on some favourite snacks. I felt my mind unwind and I was able to breathe easy again; just be without having to think much about what to do next.
As I started to prioritise ‘me time’ and planned to catch up with a few friends, I started to get my energy levels back. Also I began to realise that a rest day per month would be beneficial to my wellbeing. More than that, I began to reflect on my recent business projects and saw that I’d been spreading myself too thinly. I was able to step back and reassess what my priorities were and where attempts at certain work streams were unproductive, an inefficient use of my time. Having discovered some free printables, I used the brain dump sheet to write down all of the work tasks that had been swirling around my head. I began reprioritising , focusing on what was urgent/ important now, whilst letting go of the other tasks for a later date.
I found the courage to action some tasks that I’d been afraid to confront, that had made me feel fear of being a failure before. As I addressed these , a new sense of purpose arose and I let go of unhelpful mindsets that had kept me stuck. I started to recognise the hard work I’d been putting in and praised myself for taking that much needed break.
As I recovered, I gradually started to focus more on work tasks again, doing only what I had the energy for. Slowly I started to feel better and had more energy to focus on the priorities. A sense of enjoyment surged inside of me and I felt ready to move forward.
Now when I start to notice I’m putting myself under pressure, I ask myself if I really need to. Using positive self-talk, I recognise what I’m doing well and think about what self-care I need instead. As I do this , my energy levels improve and my mind starts to relax somewhat, ready to face the new challenges ahead.
Dr. Kate Middleton, in her book, Refuel, talks about the importance of self-care, especially when we are looking after others around us. It’s easy to forget our own needs in all of that. Having recognised what activities tend to deplete our energy levels, finding other activities that re-energise us helps to compensate. Diarising rest times in also means we’re more likely to apply these if we’ve committed them to paper!
Finding Your Own Pace
Take some time to reflect and ask yourself:
- What level of busyness works for you?
- What are the warning signs to look out for when you’re starting to do too much?
- What helps you relax and switch off from being busy?
How to Manage Anxiety Better Post-Lockdown
Have you noticed that the pace of life seems to have sped up since the lifting of lockdown restrictions? Does it feel anxiety-provoking, adjusting to meeting up in person again after such a long break? Or have you chosen to ditch social distancing and mask wearing in public?
What are anxiety and stress?
Anxiety is a stress response to a situation that can bring on flight/ fight or freeze reactions when our bodies sense a possible threat. Hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are released to help us respond quickly and put our nervous systems into a state of high alert.
Stress can be defined in numerous ways but the Mind UK website describes it as “being pushed beyond our usual emotional / physical capacity.” Small amounts of stress can be beneficial but if experienced over a longer period, known as chronic stress, can become difficult, such as we’ve experienced during Covid. It can lead to burnout if not addressed in the long term.
After nearly a year and a half of lockdowns on and off here in the UK, restrictions have all but completely lifted here in England. For me, the start of lockdown easing initially filled me with dread. We’d become so used to staying at home in relative safety, wearing masks in public places and being restricted in the numbers of people we could legally mix with. Suddenly the public was back out in force on the streets and I couldn’t quite get my head around being out there again. I tend to process situations a bit slower so my brain takes a tad longer to adjust to changes. My flight response started to kick in when finding myself amongst crowds, and the beginnings of a panic attack, shallower breathing and high anxiety, would cause me to remove myself from the situation, hopefully before overwhelm reared it’s ugly head. I’d only go into the town centre when at its quietest, usually first thing in the morning as the shops opened & limit myself to buying priority things only.
Being out again socially has been more tiring, exhausting even, at times. The first bigger gathering I went to was an outside prayer event at church. I’d underestimated how much it would impact me! It’s important to give our minds time to accommodate being more social again and do so at a level that feels comfortable and achievable to us.
Risks from Covid
Perhaps for some of us the fear of catching Covid is still very real, especially if we’re clinically vulnerable and feel more at risk. Some friends have shared how uncomfortable they were to go to church when singing was allowed again which meant they were more likely to stay home and watch online, missing out on the face-to-face fellowship. Mindset plays a big part in how we see ourselves in relation to the world around us and it may be helpful to reassess our current circumstances as to the current risks.
I had to do this a few months back as Freedom Day, when everything fully opened up, crept closer and closer. My friend really helped me address what my fears were around going out and to reframe them to be more realistic, particularly:
- Most of the population that’s been offered the vaccine have had at least 1 dose, increasing herd immunity for now.
- The risk of being hospitalised with Covid decreases with having had the vaccine.
- Covid is a disease that is here to stay. The risks are lower than when the virus was first recognised and continuing to apply good hand washing hygiene rules and mask wearing inside and in crowded places continue to be good preventative measures to catching the virus. See this BBC news article that discusses living with Covid after lockdown eases for further advice. I have heard some scientists say that it is the number of deaths that we should be more concerned about rather than the current number of cases as an indicator of COVID-19’s current status. This doesn’t deflect from those who are currently ill with Covid though.
- accepting that there’s only so much of our environment that we can control. We can’t control whether people around us will still choose to be cautious and wear masks in public areas, especially indoors or on public transport. We can only be responsible for our own actions.
- Not judging others for having different standards to our own particularly now that restrictions have almost ended. Some people have embraced all that freedom day has brought in England. However others of us are more cautious and are still limiting our behaviours, e.g. how far we may travel and avoid public transport as much as possible.
For some people, agoraphobia, the fear of people or going outside, has settled in, leaving them housebound or very anxious to go out. If you’re struggling to adjust to being around people again, a constructive way to do this is to gradually expose yourself to new situations over time.
If it’s about getting out socially again you might want to start by:
- Just going to your front door and breathing in some fresh air.
- Try walking around the block near your house.
- Go to a busier place in terms of numbers of people, e.g. your local park at a quiet time.
- Try somewhere a bit busier like a shop. (Have an escape plan in place in case of overwhelm or the start of a panic attack).
- Then keep building up your exposure to larger groups of people until you feel confident again in crowds or socialising with a group of friends.
For me, I’ve used this technique to handle busier places, e.g. my local town centre. After getting used to quiet times at the shops, I’m slowly building up my tolerance of crowds. Spending time doing my work in a local café has helped, starting in a quiet period e.g. early morning but gradually getting used to busier times and making decisions as to what I can and can’t tolerate at the time.
If you do find yourself getting panicky or needing to escape, be kind to yourself. So maybe it didn’t work out as planned this time but you can try again. Being self-compassionate and recognising your limits is also important and you’ll get there at your own pace. As restrictions started to lift several months ago, I attempted to do several tasks whilst out at the shops. I’d underestimated how long long the queues would be in one shop that had only opened the previous week, and then realised I wouldn’t have time to do all I’d planned. Being kind to myself, I had to choose to miss an online activity after and leave some of the shops out to take the pressure off myself as I was feeling overwhelmed and on the verge of tears. By deciding on this more realistic schedule, I was able to just get the most important tasks done and escape the busy shopping centre, taking time to give myself some positive self-talk and let go even of the online Pilates which had been really important to me. Some deep breathing also calmed me down in the moment & talking to someone about what had happened when I returned home.
What is causing you anxiety post-lockdown? Can you need to break it down into smaller steps to gradually overcome that fear? The examples above may help guide you.
Needing further help and support? Get in touch with me to set up a 30 minute discovery call to discuss how I can help you put together your own anxiety toolkit to better manage your anxiety better long term.
How to say No: establishing healthy boundaries in an age of perfectionism..
Do you find it difficult to say no when asked to do something you don’t have time for? Or something that doesn’t quite sit with your own values?
This is something that all of us have to face and some of us seem stronger in being able to say no than others. It can be especially hard if you’re a people pleaser by nature, I know how this feels from personal experience.
For example, this morning, I found myself starting to clear surfaces around our old sink, ready for the new one to be fitted. I’d already promised myself to not do anything more, that it was my husband’s responsibility. But tiredness, a need to do things perfectly and keeping some sense of control temporarily took over. Particularly when the workman turned up & there was still gunk in the old sink! However rational brain took back control and I was able to walk away, just about!
If there’s anything this Covid season has taught me, it’s that I need to do less and keep things simple. But as our economy starts to open up and social expectations rise, I’ve found myself exhausted and alarm bells have been ringing at the back of my head. “Hang on, what happened to taking things slow and steady? How did I get back to this headless chicken state?”
It’s at this point I had to do a reality check. What am I trying to achieve here? What are my priorities and what are other people’s? A friend of mine has recently found herself diagnosed with a condition that means her energy levels change from one day to the next. We’ve been meeting to support each other’s creativity and she has taught me a lot about slowing down and taking things at my own pace, even in my business.
Brene Brown, in her book Daring Greatly, talks a lot about the quest for perfectionism in our society and how it’s linked to shame, particularly in women. Her research shows that shame can be a result of not meeting society’s expectations around body image and women being kept in their place. I found these revelations a breath of fresh air, in the sense of realising the impact these pressures were having on me. She talks about naming perfectionism when she sees it in her own life to overcome the shame barrier. To say that it’s ok to do things to a good enough standard and let go of control when it’s not perfect.
So where do boundaries come into it all? It’s all about putting healthy limits on what we do. In a relationship, this may mean only being available at certain times or contacted in a certain way e.g. email if we supporting someone in need. See Dr Kate Middleton’s book, Refuel, for further info on this.
In a work scenario (this is particularly pertinent if you are still working from home WFH) – putting boundaries on your time. For me this means I only look at my email during my work hours and keep my workload to said scheduled work days. I know it’s not easy especially when we might still be home-based, but it’s important that work and home life don’t become too blurred.
A big help I’ve found is being able to step back from the situation when asked to do something and first say “I’ll think about it,” rather than an immediate “yes.”
Then I ask myself:
1. Do I realistically have time to do this activity? If that means looking at my schedule for the next week/month, so be it, to help me to decide.
2. Does this fit my values? Especially in business, I may find myself offered something which doesn’t sit right with me, in which case it’s also a ‘no.’ This is something that Nisha Vyas, life coach, taught me in a SEIDs seminar.
These questions can be life changing, because it gives us a framework from which to set up boundaries from.
If you want to read more about Boundaries, check out Townsend & Cloud’s book on the subject (see image above).
Boundaries take time to establish and be prepared for some kickback with those you set them with. They won’t like the status quo being changed. As you stick to your boundaries, things will get easier and the new limits will become accepted.
Is there an area of your life where you need to establish a new boundary? How can you put that into place? Will you need anyone or anything to help you reinforce it?
I wish you well in embracing this new boundary. It may feel hard at first but it will pay dividends in the long run.
3 Things that are helping me survive Lockdown 3.0
Happy February, well, that sounds more timely than Happy New Year, as this is my 1st blog post of 2021! I’ve been a bit torn as to what the topic would be, but I think that as we are drawn into a new month of lockdown, it’s important to share what may help you get through.
Last week, Jo Robinson & I led our workshop on Winter Wellness, and part of the session included discussing what our mental health challenges are in this season, as well as what helps us to overcome them.
1. A small, but powerful, action for me has been getting out for a daily walk. Yes, some days they have been quite short when I’ve felt tired or it’s raining, but getting out into daylight exposes us to natural light, which in turn can generate Vitamin D in our bodies. I also supplement this with 30 minutes sitting in front of my light box, that simulates daylight to compensate for the shorter days, and hopefully tops up my Vitamin D.
2. Staying social connected is another essential for me, and part of our social wellness. I realised when I left my previous education role that I really missed working as part of a team and how important social stimulation is for me. This was really brought home to me in the first lockdown when I couldn’t just meet up with a friend for coffee or a walk. So I have made a commitment to myself to reach out to someone daily, whatever that looks like: phone call, zoom call or a socially distanced walk (although this is happening less as we’re on such a high alert level for Covid). Research has shown that by looking outward towards others helps promote happiness and takes us away from unhelpful inner ruminating or self-centredness. With #TimetoTalk Day last Thursday, it’s more important than ever that we look out for each other and be prepared to be more honest about our mental health.
3. Being creative at least a few times a week, ideally daily. Back in lockdown 2, doing some kind of Christmas craft kept me sane and focused me on something constructive aside from work and managing the home. I made Christmas decorations for friends’ Christmas presents, worked on a wooden tree Christmas sign and designed a nativity stained glass window for our front window as part of our church’s advent light festival. Ok, I’ll admit that post- Christmas we mightn’t have the motivation to do so much, but just trying out even a simple card making activity or writing some thoughts down can help our minds to switch off and stay concentrated in the moment. I’ve started bullet journalling and am currently doing a doodle art course with Mind in Harrow which is helping me to manage my stress and anxiety better.
I could talk about other areas that I’ve found helpful but keeping things simple is important at the moment too, especially if we’re struggling with motivation. See my previous blog on Managing your mental health for more ideas.
So what things are helping you to survive lockdown? What not have a go at writing them down, so that when you’re bored or at a loss as to what to do, you can look at your list to remind you of what helps and to inspire you?
Merry Christmas from Flourish!
Peace like a river.
Exhaustion like a smothering blanket
Yet there is escape,
There is freedom.
No longer weighed down
By the chains that bound me.
Inexplicable relief & joy,
Stepping out of the shadows
Of the person that I used to be.
God, You are good.
Thank you for your healing work,
Yet here in the moment.
Though the doubt tried to divert me
From Your Truth, it hasn’t succeeded.
Even when it tries again to tie me down
I say, “No! Enough is enough!
Unafraid now to stand up to the lies.
They fall like tin soldiers,
Rat-tat-tatting to the ground.
There is space,
A place again to breathe.
No more critical inner voice to pull me down.
Freedom. Peace. Time to be ME.
No more put downs
Just a stronger inner voice
That speaks in a calm, clear voice :
“No more, no more punishment.
Peace on Earth, mercy mild.”
The Good News brought to us by the Jesus Child.
So many years trying to fathom it all out
Yet there it is before me,
Within my reach,
Mysterious yet profound.
Copyright © AT Kelly 2020
I just wanted to end the year by sending you my new poem , partly on a Christmas theme. It’s been such an odd year, no one could have predicted what was to come.
But I’d like to wish you all a wonderful Christmas, whatever that looks like for you. I pray you’ll be able to take the day as it comes and remember the good things, no matter how small and simple they are.
I look forward to greeting you again in the New Year, and just wanted to make you aware that I’ll be running an online Winter Wellness workshop on Thursday 21 January in the evening. Please email email@example.com to register your interest. More details to follow…
How to reduce Christmas stress this year and find some joy…
As we draw closer to Christmas, how are you feeling? Do you feel prepared and have a plan ? Or are you filled with anxiety or worry or even dreading it?
A few weeks back I attended my local Recovery College ‘s “Coping with Christmas” online course. This has helped me to think about how practically I want us as a family to do Christmas this year & in a way that brings some joy rather than mainly stress.
Some tips to manage stress :
- Breaking tasks down into small steps, e.g. cooking Christmas dinner.
- Make a Christmas budget so that you don’t overspend. Include presents, food, travel, trips, donations, etc. & any extra costs you may have over the Christmas period.
- Think about the things you find most difficult over the Christmas period., e.g. finances, relationship, emotions, health wise). Write them down. For each one, come up with how you can overcome this difficulty.
- What are the good things you enjoy about Christmas? List them. Look at them when you feel stressed, overwhelmed or anxious to remember the positives.
- Boundaries : Think about what is manageable & what’s not. Be clear with family/ friends and stick to these.
- Self care: What activities will relax & recharge you ? Diarise time to do them, e.g. exercise, quiet time, have a hot chocolate or chat to a friend.
- When you start to feel stressed, what helps you to destress? For me, doing some deep breathing or mindfulness really helps in the moment.
- Be kind to yourself. How is your self-talk in your head? Is it negative or self-critical? Stop yourself if you notice unhelpful thinking and write it down. Would you speak to a friend like this? What’s a more kind way to speak to yourself? Say this to yourself instead. If you notice these negative thoughts are constant or your mood has been low for more than 2 weeks, this is the time to get help. Make an appointment with your doctor. Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT) may help.
As a Christian, I also find reminding myself that what we’re really celebrating here is the birth of Jesus. He came down to earth, fully God, yet fully human, to restore our relationship with Him. Putting my focus back on God can put all the other tasks into perspective.
Reflecting on what you’d like Christmas to be like this year, after such a different 2020 to what we expected, how are you going to prepare for Christmas? How can you put your focus back on God?