With all of it’s joys and demands, the festive season (at the best of times, let alone in the midst of a pandemic) is the most crucial time of year for everyone, but mothers especially, to remember to care for themselves.
With so much temptation on offer, things can quickly spiral out of control.
As a mother myself, I find it is also a time where if I did not have mindfulness, meditation and yoga, I honestly don’t know what sort of state I’d be in.
The mindlessness of Christmas is something all of us can easily get caught up in.
First of all, there’s the commercial aspect.
Urgh! That drains me enough.
Well, simply put, I’m not a huge fan of shopping. My days as a fashion stylist slowly destroyed any fun I experienced in shops.
Though give me a free hour of sweet solitude in Liberty’s and I’ll happily have a browse.
Generally though, I notice that I feel a lot of stress when I’m out shopping. I get agitated. And this was even before we had to wear masks, trying to socially distance.
Mainly because I don’t like crowds or feeling hot and stuffy. But it’s especially unpleasant to be in a busy shop with young children, when there is a deadline or a tight focus that I must be shopping for. The present moment just gets lost.
Such as is often the case with Christmas shopping. It’s all about budget, relevance and sustainability for me. I absolutely hate spending money just for the sake of it. This doesn’t make it easy as I want gifts to mean something – and not cost lots of money. And that requires time. Something that’s a bit thin on the ground as a mother of two.
And online shopping isn’t the salvation, not really, not when we think of the economic and ecological implications. I simply refuse to just Amazon-it!
Anyway, all the focus on ‘buying’ and ‘doing’ is a hard one to escape. It takes a conscious effort not to get swept-up by it all.
But I find it’s absolutely worth it. It’s crucial to take a step back. Not only does it make Christmas more enjoyable for ourselves and our families, but it sets a precedent for the new year, too. After all, you can’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm. Which is ultimately true generosity. To serve others and to truly love others, we have to pace ourselves in order to give our best selves.
December is one of my favourite times of the year because, when true space is made and protected, it can be a beautiful time to rest, to create and to play.
At it’s best, Christmas is a time of magic. Of imagination. Of inspiration.
Above all, it’s a season of love, generosity and forgiveness. All three to be showered on ourselves, as well as others.
But to make way for the good things. The things that fully demonstrate goodwill. We have to be mindful of the other traps and know how to keep them all in-check.
For instance, there is all the preparation, and knowing when to stop; when one has done enough.
Sure, I know that Christmas doesn’t just happen. It does take a lot of foresight and prep, even for a minimal Christmas – especially when juggling everything else that modern-day life entails. But I’m not sure I get the whole ‘so-super-busy getting ready for Christmas thing!’ I do and I don’t. I do because I’ve done it myself in the past. The thought of years gone by gives me the creeps. It really was unnecessary.
However, since becoming a mother, and practicing yoga, I strip it right back.
More often now, when I say I’m busy, I mean I’m busy at home developing my projects and practicing a little bit of self-care; in the form of yoga and meditation in my small and few in-between moments.
Having a little rest, even for ten minutes, amongst the work I do every day as a homemaker, wife and mother, is a sanctuary.
Let alone my commitment to my personal development and freelance work assignments.
But I know in order to manage those crucial aspects of my life, and to still be a pleasant enough human being towards my family and friends, I have to limit my diary, and I guard my down-time.
That often means that I say I am busy, and I am, I’m not lying. It’s just I’m not ‘busy’ galavanting around pleasing everybody else. Or shopping, shopping, shopping. Or undertaking all the ‘shoulds’ of the season.
So, with that in mind, and as an act of generosity, in the hope that we can all slow down a little, here are my top-tips for mothers everywhere.
Look after yourself like you do your children
Early bedtimes. Eating nutritious food. Limiting sugar (and alcohol). Drinking lots of water. Limiting screen time. Pamper yourself. Rest as much as possible. Know when you risk overstimulation. Play with your child as your inner child. Ha! I find treating myself as one of my own children is quite a good strategy for looking after myself.
Write meaningful lists
Like them or loathe them, lists are a wonderful thing at times. Writing things to do or buy not only stops us buying stuff we don’t need, but it can help us to stop over-committing ourselves, too. When I write a list, I ask myself: is that really necessary? Do I really need to buy it? Do I really need to do it? When do I suppose this will happen? Then I find I’m not running over things in my mind, and I feel organised. That’s never a bad thing.
Breathe. Be still. Be present.
As is often, if not always, the case, remembering to breathe is a wonderful tool. Sure the month will be busy. There’s all the school stuff to remember and so many bits to organise, but with a list, all we really have to do is breathe. In and out. Smile. It will all get handled.
Diarise free time
It’s all too easy to be so overly focused on the extras that we can soon forget the basics: Connection with our children, a functioning home, and nutritious food in our bellies. This is why I always diarise time for nothing. Time for being. As well as time for doing the everyday stuff. I find then, there is actually limited time for doing anything extra – and this is a wonderful thing. There’s nothing better than waking up on a Saturday or a Sunday with no plans. No chores to do. Nobody to see. I relish days like these, and I everything within my power to create them. Before making a commitment that goes in the diary, make sure that (a) you have the energy, and (b) you really want to do it, and that it won’t leave you feeling resentful. Otherwise, just politely say: no, thank-you!
Prioritise regular self-care
Meditate/practice yoga/exercise/pamper – as well as the free time, it’s really important to try and make space for treating yourself. So that means doing something, anything, that will help you to feel well and healthy. For you, it might mean going to the hairdressers and asking for a head massage! Or practicing yoga every day at a time when it’s doable, with or without children present. It could be meditating while in the shower or making dinner. Or while out walking the baby on a nap. Making space for yourself, mental space, will help. I promise there’s always a time to do this. Sometimes we just have to be present. No matter where we are. Be present. Notice the feelings. Notice the demands. Then let it all go.
Shop online, but then turn devices off
I don’t have to persuade anyone about the benefits of online shopping, but seriously, even if the cost is slightly more, I’d rather use online shopping for the big, bulky things and the listed stuff that I know I need or want. Then a day spent at a Christmas market or a bit of light festive shopping (even if that’s just a trip to Poundland) isn’t half as stressful. No one wants to feel that they’re dragging their kids round the shops, again, let alone with Covid.
Though, do be careful. Spread the love online, rather than just using one supplier for everything. Think about the small producers and independent shops. Screen-time should be limited. As should mindlessly consuming via the internet. Lists are really important here. Endless scrolling is such an energy-sucker. As for social media? Limit it.
Find ways to minimise the pressure
Every year our extended family all do Secret Santa (Poundland-stylee). We use a names generator app and then we go to Poundland to buy a present for one person. As well as this, we often choose a day to meet up, aside from Christmas Day (I like to spend this day at home with my children with minimal fuss) and we eat together, but we all bring prepared food to help. We take turns to host. No pressure. It’s not all about one day. Relieve the pressure on the 25th – it’s the best thing you’ll ever do.
Another great way to minimise gift-buying is to all chip in and donate to charity. More about this below.
Remember what is most important
Is Christmas really determined by how clean the fridge is? Or how luxurious the gravy is? There’s room for debate here, as I fully appreciate that we all get pleasure from, and place importance on, different things.
But if those things are stressing you out and making you miserable, then please know that is not what Christmas is about.
With children around I think it’s so important not to feel wrung-out. These little faces are dreaming of wonderful things. These days are their treasured memories. Their substance. Let’s not taint them with stresses over the non-important details.
Your best is always enough. Please, give yourself a break.
Be grateful for so much fortune
Even though I’m far, far from being a millionaire, I know I have so, so much to be thankful for. If we are meeting friends and want to avoid all the present exchanges, and let’s be straight, it’s all excess. We don’t need it. Any of it. We don’t even want the stuff. So, as an alternative, we chose a charity to donate to and we all do that instead. We may have a few small, handmade and personal pressies. But grand shows of wealth are not what we do. Usually it’s a refugee or homeless campaign that we get behind. It certainly puts a lot in to perspective. If we have shelter, warmth, food and love, then we are so unbelievably fortunate.
When I do these things, I find I have stacks of energy when I’m not just mindlessly drinking and eating and doing and buying.
I’m much more me.
And that’s all my little people really want, and need, the most at Christmas.
Especially this year!
I’d love to wish everybody a peaceful, beautiful Christmas. And I’m hoping for a happy and healthy 2021 for all.
Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu.
May we all be free!