Mindfulness and 'Elf Care Over the Festive Season
The festive period can place big demands on time and energy, throw in with that the unchangeable challenges of a Parent Carer and there could be the recipe for burn out. We know all too well that you cannot pour from an empty cup, so how can we manage that stress and keep a sense of calm over the festivities? What can you do when the demands of life are not just going to change? The answer: Ruby Wax. Well, maybe not Ruby Wax (although she is hilarious and a good giggle is great for endorphins) something that she is very passionate about; Mindfulness.
Not just known for her acting, comedic shows and script writing, she is actually an Oxford Graduate with a masters in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapies and has been on hilarious and breathtakingly honest tours speaking openly about her own mental health issues and how Mindfulness is for many the key to calm and happiness.
Ruby studied under Professor Mark Williams who is the former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. He explains how in life and particularly when times are stressful, we can:
“stop noticing the world around us. It's also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living 'in our heads' – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour,"
Does this sound familiar? Rushing from an I.E.P meeting, to work or to another appointment or having annual reviews, EHCPs, DLA forms swimming in our heads, not to mention worries for the future, it is easy to ‘live in the attic’ as one therapist once put it to me. Not a good place to be as my attic is particularly cluttered. Coming down from the metaphorical attic and being present in your body, noticing how it feels and different sensations takes you away from the whirling thoughts and allows you to enjoy the present more. Something we all say we should do more here at SGPC HQ.
Sounds wonderful, but how can we as super busy super parents and carers find time for such a calming practice? Dedicating some time each day to developing the practice is beneficial but as Professor Williams states
"An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.”
This might just be doable. So what are the top tips for Mindfulness for the super busy?
- Take 5 minutes to do nothing. Just 5, more if you can, to sit still and focus your mind on the sensations your body feels. How it feels to breathe, is there a breeze upon your skin? Sunlight or heat? Look at those Christmas lights, really look and notice them. Sounds super simple but you might need to let others around you know you are taking that time and leave the phone elsewhere.
- Are you guilty of cramming in too much? It’s ok to put a space between activities or obligations.Slow down your pace by reducing the rush, don’t move from one activity to the next, have a break in between those Christmas visits or receiving guests so life doesn’t zoom by. It is ok to not accept every invite and cram, give yourself permission, we give all of you permission!
- Deliberate doing. The responsibility of care is always with us, but deliberate and mindful doing of the everyday tasks can turn cooking and cleaning into a mindful activity. Really focus whilst chopping or washing on what you are doing and give the task your full attention and you will see how your mind drifts away from the swirling thoughts we carry, back to the moment helping your body relax.
- Thoughts will come to you and that is ok. As you try to focus on the present sensations or activities, if a thought intrudes that takes you away from that moment, as they will, notice it and send it on its way as though placing a flower in a stream, let it flow away.
A few of us here at SGPC HQ have tried Mindfulness and it works for us, no harm in giving it a go and see if you can make it a practice that you can find time in the day over the festive period, whether it is whilst you are peeling spuds and sprouts or if you are lucky enough to get some time to yourself (we wish).
For more information on Mindfulness: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/mindfulness.aspx
or watch this, Ruby talks about her book on Mindfulness, but a word of warning, Ruby does use a potty mouth word in this interview.
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