Steve Smith, lecturer in Mental Health and Wellbeing, talks about how to take some time for ourselves in what can be a busy and stressful time.
I’m told that the lead up to Christmas is supposed to be a wonderful time; but for many of us it can be a very stressful time (possibly because it’s supposed to be so wonderful). For many of us the experience is one of dashing to shops, trying to keep track of ‘who wants what’ and ‘what have we still to buy’, planning get-togethers with a level of detail that would tax a military commander, and fretting that we somehow won’t live up to our own expectations this Christmas. These are often the signs that we have lost touch with the moment, with what is happening right now.
Fortunately, we don’t have to be in a temple or a church, or even a quiet space, to take a Mindful Moment. What is a Mindful Moment? It’s that time when we let go of all the stories we tell ourselves (usually stories about what we should do, or what we haven’t done) and bring our attention back to what is really happening right now. Getting caught up in the whirl and stress of these stories and the anxiety and panic they instil in us is the opposite of Mindfulness; is it too harsh to call that Mindlessness? If not, then how do we get from Mindlessness to Mindfulness? Take a Mindful Moment and take control of your mind again.
Next time you’re caught up in the Christmas Stress Zone in the middle of a busy shopping-mall, take a moment (you don’t even need to stop walking) and focus your attention on your breathing; in and out. Quietly tell yourself, “I am breathing”. On the next, slightly slower, breath; “I am calming”. On the next breath, “I am smiling”, and with the next breath, “I am back to the present moment”. That’s it, that’s all it takes to bring yourself back to what is happening right now. Forget about the stories, and remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing anyway, and repeat your Mindful Moment as often as you feel like it.
- I am breathing.
- I am calming.
- I am smiling.
- I am back to the present moment.
Have a peaceful Christmas and a happy New Year.