This time of year can easily create an experience of being over-busy, and build up stress. For those with a long-term health condition, the demands of the season can outstrip the energy and capacity you have available and can lead to feelings of frustration and self blame. For those who experience stress, the season can edge you closer to feeling overwhelmed.
Many of us have a genuine and heartfelt desire to ‘get everything done’, and create positive experiences for those we care about. Or we may put ourselves under pressure to try to repair difficult relationships because it is a season of goodwill. These additional stressors (even when they may have pleasant aspects to them) can lead us to forget to also look after ourselves.
Small acts of kindness towards ourselves are particularly important. Finding ways to calm and soothe ourselves in the midst of busyness is important for our wellbeing. Even if you have never practised mindfulness there are mindful things you can do.
A breathing space
Before you start this practice find a quiet spot. You can do this, standing, sitting or lying down. All we are doing is resting our awareness on the breath. Our minds will inevitably create thoughts which will pull us away from the present moment and the practice – its just what minds do. When you notice this, just gently and without judging your mind for wandering, bring it back to rest on the breath once more.
So, take a few breaths, just normal breaths, no need to try to change or control the breath in any way. If you can, close your eyes, or find a soft focus on a steady spot. As you do this try to bring your awareness to rest on the actual sensations of each breath. Use your senses to notice the feelings inside your body as you breathe. Gently move your awareness around – notice feelings in the chest, the belly, the back of the body. Where do you notice your breath most strongly? Where are the very subtle sensations – almost the echo of the breath felt. When you have spent a few minute with your breath, just gently broaden your awareness to include the sights, sounds smells around you, and as you take the next steps into your day, try to take with you a sense of the breath as an anchor you can return to and rest with whenever you want to. It is always there.
Repeat, as often as you like. It’s a good idea to practice this at times when you are already in a more relaxed state, so that when you use it in more stressful moments, it is something your mind and body are familiar with and can recognise as a small space of rest and respite.