There’s only a week to go until Christmas, and everyone is feeling… well pretty damn exhausted actually. If your house is anything like ours, December has been a hotchpotch of winter bugs, a handful of late nights with no chance of a lie in thrown in afterwards and afternoons that get dark at 3.30pm leaving you wondering what on earth to do with the children until bedtime. I’ve also been boycotting Amazon, which has made the business of Christmas shopping much more baffling than it really should have been.
So in the interests of actually enjoying the festive season and making it through to 2014 in a positive, optimistic and graceful manner, here are a few of the mantras I’ll be using.
1. Practice your gratitudes
For when the house is a state, the extended family have outstayed their welcome and the kids have woken you up at 5am yet again… It’s easy to get irritated by the small stuff, even if deep down you are lucky enough to know that the big stuff is just fine. So, when you find yourself getting irritated by, and irritable with, those closest and dearest, find some time to practice your gratitudes. What are you truly thankful for? What is great about your life and your family? What do you really love about your partner? Mind still blank? Grab yourself some chocolate and think a bit harder. Training your mind is a bit like training your body – the more repetitions you do of something, the easier it becomes. In fact, think of it like your pelvic floor exercises. You really need to be finding some time everyday just to quietly practice your gratitudes (and no-one else need know). Your mind will soon begin to take a more appreciative outlook rather than getting caught up with minor irritations.
2. Remember that you are ‘enough’ just the way you are.
Don’t let that voice in your head that is telling you that you are not good enough ruin your festivities. You know, the one that says you are not good enough at cooking or organising Christmas, that you’re not fun enough, thin enough, pretty enough, have a big enough home, have a Christmassy enough home… Insert your own bossy ‘not good enough’ voice here. How about for the next two weeks, you just give yourself a break? You are enough, exactly the way that you are. And as soon as you hear that voice, recognise it for what it is and politely tell him / her that he / she’s not invited to Christmas this year
3. Find yourself some space
One of my favourite parts in the film ‘This is 40’ is where Phoebe from Friends’ husband frequently spends his time on the toilet, pretending he is, erm, going to the toilet. Except he’s not, he’s just getting a bit of space. Seriously, his wife (in the film, not Phoebe. Obvs.) comes in and demands to see evidence he’s actually been going to the toilet, rather than just sitting there mucking about on his ipad. It’s hilarious. And probably a really effective strategy for blokes (who, in my experience, don’t seem to mind people knowing they are going to the toilet and spending considerable amounts of time in there). The point is, how are you going to create some space for yourself over the Christmas season? Develop some strategies in advance so that you can be sure of the odd quiet 5 minutes without a child or in-law moaning in your ear. I’ll give you some suggestions for free: Don’t shower first thing in the morning so that around 11.30am when it’s all getting a bit much you can legitimately say ‘I need to go and shower now’. Pretend to take up smoking. ‘Realise’ you’ve ran out of bread / milk / vodka and valiantly offer to walk to the shop in the rain to get some more supplies. Walk the dog. Chuck some milk on your top and pretend the baby’s been sick on you so you need to go and change outfits (xref running out of milk). See it’s easy once you start thinking about it.
4. Reflect on 2013
Take some time to think about 2013 so that you can ‘close’ the year on the 31st and be ready to start 2014. What have been your successes this year? What has been challenging for you? What have been your key learnings? What do you know about yourself and your family now that you didn’t 12 months ago? If 2013 was to be a chapter in your autobiography, what would you call it? Rather than rushing in to next year, find some time to breathe and to reflect on the year that has passed. Spend some time on this, write things down, push yourself to come up with a bit more than that which comes immediately to mind. Often you’ll be surprised at what comes up for you when you delve a bit deeper.
5. Enjoy! (and be joyful)
Deep seated and true joy can be one of the most difficult emotions to bear. You might think ‘who am I to be this happy?’. Or (my own personal gremlin), as soon as you find yourself feeling truly happy and content, you might start thinking ‘well, this isn’t going to last’ and start imagining future possible catastrophic events which are going to take away everything that is making you happy. That is because there is a vulnerability inherent in experiencing true happiness. Brene Brown (Daring Greatly, 2012) has written some important stuff in this area and so I’ll hand over to her; “Once we make the connection between vulnerability and joy, the answer is pretty straightforward: We’re trying to beat vulnerability to the punch. We don’t want to be blind-sided by hurt… so we literally practice being devastated or never move from self-elected disappointment’. Her tools for stopping this head f*&k (my words, not hers) are 1) to realise that joy comes to us in ordinary moments, 2) to be grateful for what you have (see mantra no. 1) and 3) to not squander joy (That is, lean in to the joy, feel vulnerable and scared, and then stay there). Make a commitment to yourself this Christmas to allow yourself to enjoy it and to feel joyful.
6. If all else fails, book a flight to the Southern hemisphere asap.
Happy Christmas everyone.