Just before Christmas we got in touch with founder of Mindful Kids and mum of 3, Ciaran Ivanovic on how to keep ourselves as relaxed as can be this Christmas holidays. Huge thanks to Ciaran for sending us some helpful hints below!
Christmas can be the most wonderful time of year yet it can also be one of the most stressful times as we juggle keeping our kids happy with shopping decisions, deadlines and the pressure of having to please everyone. This year due to the pandemic we have the added strain of keeping everyone safe and healthy as well as coping with the disappointment of not seeing everyone we would usually see freely during the Christmas period, be it grandparents, friends or other family members.
One effective way of staying grounded and calm through challenging times like these is by practicing mindfulness. By weaving a few mindful moments in to your daily life you will be supporting your own mental well-being as well as those who practice with you. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Begin your day with my ABC breathing (also known as 3 minute breathing) to ground yourself, boost your mood and bring your attention to the present moment (away from past thoughts or future worries). Each step only takes one minute so this practice will appeal to even the busiest of parents. Here’s how it’s done:
A: Awareness of how you’re feeling right now – perhaps tense and tired or loose and relaxed. Notice any sensations in your body (warmth, coolness, tingling hands…). Simply observe and accept your feelings just as they are.
B: Breathing. Focus your attention on your in-breath and out-breath. Each time your mind wanders gently bring it back to the breath.
C: Cloud. Expand your awareness of breath to your whole body. As you breathe in imagine floating up on a cloud and as you breathe out imagine sinking down in to the cloud letting everything go.
Try not to be too hard on yourself. Some days you might feel like you’ve achieved little, but if you take a moment to focus on the things that you have managed to do, you’ll find that you’ve actually achieved a lot (and yes – unstacking the dishwasher and feeding yourself and the kids absolutely counts!)
Some other helpful hints:
* 1 mindful minute. With eyes closed, focus on the sounds around you for one minute. What can you hear? Really listen….perhaps the sound of a clock ticking, passing traffic, birdsong, people talking….This practice is a fantastic way of bringing your attention to the present moment, taking your mind away from anything that is causing you stress or worry. Try practicing this at different times throughout the day.
* Get outdoors! Being in nature reduces the stress hormone cortisol and makes us feel happier as we reconnect with ourselves and nature. Build a den with your kids, climb a tree, cloud watch…..engage with your senses to appreciate the natural world around you (what can you see/smell/touch/hear?). TOP TIP: if you find that your mind is wandering all over the place and you’re finding it hard to be present, try focusing on your breathing as you walk – breathe in for five counts as you take five slow strides, and breathe out for five counts with the next five strides. Keep going until your mind is clear and back to the present moment.
* Mindful hot chocolate meditation (a coffee or tea works well too). Take some time out to quiet your mind, breathe, taste and connect with oneself during this calming and enjoyable mindfulness practice. Simply engage with your senses as you enjoy your hot chocolate: what can you feel (a warm, comforting mug in your hands) see (perhaps steam rising up in to the air; look at the colour of your hot chocolate – what shade of brown is it?), smell (breathe in that wonderful aroma). Try to give this practice your full attention without any distractions (such as the tv on in the background, or phones on the table…). This is a great one to do with the kids and will give you around 10 minutes peace and quiet!
Again huge thanks to Ciaran for sending us some helpful reminders. For further videos on ABC breathing, the hot chocolate meditation & many other helpful resources, click below.