Taking time out over the busy holiday period
As I'm writing this it's only five days left to Christmas Eve. A scary thought ─ where exactly did this year go? I guess we all know this feeling. We hustle, we bustle, we do, we make, we break, we cope. Somehow we always seem to cope, no matter how much we have to deal with all the time. The only thing is that by just coping all the time, life is racing past us at an ever increasing speed and we don't get to slow down enough to enjoy the ride. And before we know it, another year has disappeared without us even knowing exactly where it went.
The lead-up to the holiday period in December is particularly busy for most people all over the world. Especially for women. We want to create a perfect time for our families and friends. So we hustle even more to get all those extra chores done, like Christmas shopping, baking, cooking, taking the kids to additional activities, such as their school nativity play or choir singing. Even people who don't celebrate Christmas tend to get sucked into the whirlwind of endless parties and festivities around them.
This added stress can take us to breaking point quicker than we think. Because it also comes at a time of the year when all of nature slows down and goes into its winter sleep in the northern half of the planet and is at its hottest, and therefore also slows down to cope with the heat, in the southern half. And this pattern also applies to humans. It's therefore particularly important to look after ourselves during this dark / hot part of the year. We need to plan in more breaks and rest to recover from rushing around. Grabbing a cuppa and a good book and snuggling under a cosy blanket is such a lovely way to spend a short and dark day! Likewise, just chilling by the pool or seaside and letting the world go by is another day well spent! We need these breaks to recover our senses, clear our heads from the daily chaos and make space for our true feelings and desires to surface.
In my "Reclaim Your Joy" course and one-on-one coaching sessions, I remind people time and time again of the importance of those little breaks. Without them we lose our personality, the very essence of ourselves. Much too often, we are so occupied with looking after and appeasing everyone else that we completely forget about No.1. The thing is, if we forget to look after ourselves we won't have the strength left to look after others properly anyway, plus we end up deeply unhappy and unfulfilled because we push our own feelings, desires and loves to the back of our minds. And one day we wake up realising that life is passing us by, we haven't done a fraction of the things that make our heart sing and we're full of regret of those lost moments and opportunities. Deeply unhappy and dissatisfied with life at this point, we try to fill the gap inside ourselves with hustling even more. After all, it's impossible to think about being unhappy if you keep busy! Or we throw ourselves head-first into addictions such as compulsive shopping, drinking, smoking or even worse. The whole thing is a downward spiral that becomes increasingly difficult to break free from the longer it continues. Yet the simple act of regularly taking time out could change all of this.
I regularly get asked how it's at all possible to take time out if our lives are so busy already? The answer, in my opinion, is quite simple. Do you watch mindless TV at night to chill out? Turn it off and go for a bath, or meditate or do both. Do you have a lunch break at work? Go for a short walk, even if it's only down the road in an industrial estate, and think of nothing but the wind, trees and other impressions on route. Do you sit on a train every morning commuting to work? Take this time to meditate or simply let your mind wander whilst looking out of the window. Time out can be as little as ten minutes to be effective if you do it regularly, but at least once a day. And no matter how busy we are, we can always find ten minutes. Myself, I always practice mindfulness when I walk my dog. Her walkies are inevitable so they are a fixed part of my daily schedule, they cannot be avoided. So I make use of this time. I leave my phone at home or turned off in my coat pocket and focus all of my attention on my dog and the nature around us. I admire the sea and beach, the woods and fields that we walk in. I play games with my dog. That way I clear my mind, get lots of time to think and clear my head for creative ideas and my dog adores it, too. A win-win all around.
Making time therefore takes a degree of creativity, thus increasing our creative thinking in itself. In the beginning this may all feel very overwhelming. I totally get that. I've been there myself. I've overcome burnout. Everything I've written comes from my own experiences in the past. But because I've been there, I also know that it's entirely possible to turn things around. The start is always the hardest. So go easy on yourself and choose something that is easy for you to do. Even if it means meditating in bed just before going to sleep or just after waking up. Once you start, the improvement will come with surprising speed. And once you're on a roll, you'll wonder what ever stopped you from being your real self in the past.
I also get asked a lot how to meditate correctly. Lots of people have problems with meditation even though they know it's extremely beneficial. The answer is that there is no right or wrong way to meditate. Meditation is highly personal and whatever works for you is right for you. As simple as that. In my opinion, the problem is that we have been conditioned to believe that in order to meditate the "proper way", we need to sit with our legs tied into knots in some position that for most people in the western world is highly uncomfortable, and sometimes downright dangerous if they have certain health conditions, and clear our minds of each and every thought until we're nothing but divine vessels. Whilst this all sounds romantic, and may be possible for people who have practiced this kind of thing from a very young age, for most of us it's a utopian ideal that we'll never be able to achieve. This kind of high expectation sets us up for failure. In truth, meditation isn't at all about any of these things. Meditation is about sitting quietly and observing your thoughts, then letting them go without judging them. It's about walking in nature, thus quieting the mind by focusing on the beauty around us. Meditation can even be practiced whilst exercising. In fact, certain practices, such as Chakra Dancing, Yoga, Pilates, etc., are specifically designed to encourage moving meditation. By focusing entirely on the chakras and body during movement, they clear the mind and are thus another form of mindful meditation. Most people find it easiest to meditate with the help of guided meditations. They provide relaxing music and give the mind something to focus on.
I love recording guided meditations because they are so beneficial and relaxing. Each month, I post a guided meditation in my free Facebook Group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/1000petalswellness, for my lovely group members to enjoy. So if you haven't joined yet, come on over to the group. All over the holidays, from 24 December to 1 January, I will also be going live every night in the Facebook Group for a casual get-together and short meditation with my great group. I want to provide an opportunity for everyone to take some time out from the Christmas hustle and relax. I also want everyone to know that there is a safe and nurturing place to go each day to just be, hang out, talk, or simply listen and forget the business for a little while. Having a good laugh is optional but highly encouraged!!! You can even hang out in your PJs and bring yourself a cuppa. So come on over to https://www.facebook.com/groups/1000petalswellness, I'd love to see you there!
For all of you who can't make it, please look after yourselves over the coming days and weeks and remember to take some time out for yourselves. You deserve it! Self-care is not a luxury but an essential part of life! I look forward to being with you all again in the new year. My next blog will come out just after the holidays and I will also be launching my own regular podcast in January for all those peeps who prefer listening to audio rather than reading. In the meantime, take care and go safely into a new year and decade which I hope will bring all of us peace, health and happiness.