Battling Anxiety: How To Be More Mindful This Christmas



  1. The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
  2. A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Christmas is coming and with it, giddy highs and stressful lows, as we strive to make things absolutely perfect for our loved ones, including our precious children and other family members.

Is my eggnog good enough for hard-to-please Aunt Myrtle? Will everyone get along this Christmas, or fight over the turkey? What if my toddlers misbehave? Agh!

RELATED: Top Five Christmas Stress Busters

So, in order to combat such anxieties, relationship psychologists say it’s vitally important to be mindful and enjoy the present.

Mindfulness is a hot topic and buzzword at present, but it has long been recognised as an effective way to reduce stress, increase self-awareness, enhance emotional intelligence and effectively handle painful thoughts and feelings.

So, how on earth do we practice mindfulness?

Some simple tips to live in the moment, as advocated by Buddhists, include consciously focussing on the present. Practice staying in the moment, focusing on the here-and-now and putting worries and concerns aside to be dealt with at a later time.

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In addition, pre-planning and setting aside time to be organised can help us to relax on the big day, knowing that we’ve done our best to have things “just so” as we want them to be for Christmas lunch. And, as any psych will tell you, it’s important to be kind to yourself, be realistic and don’t expect perfection!

Unexpected problems and issues will always arise, but we have to try to be happy with having done our best.

Using relaxation techniques such as slow, deep breathing, not letting yourself worry about things that you could have done –  instead, visualising a scene of peace happiness and tranquillity – can also help you to be mindful and relaxed during the festive season.

As well as combating anxiety, another great goal this Christmas is to develop a sense of gratitude, or appreciation for what you have, or towards a particular person who has done something good for you.

For having a strong sense of gratitude can act as a strong antidote to counter depression.
Writing a list of the good things in your life can a cool, fun place to start and experts say this is also a great habit to teach the kids.

Another idea is to write a gratitude letter – a letter to someone who has done something for you that has changed your life in a good way – especially if you’ve never told then how much you appreciate what they did. You don’t even have to actually send the letter!

Peace out.

mindfulness, Buddhism, appreciation

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December 24, 2014

How To Manage Holiday Stress

I admit I find the holidays stressful. I even secretly feel bad about it. After all, isn’t Christmas supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year? Then why, instead of feeling joyful and relaxed, I want to run and hide?

Here’s my answer – I’m an introvert. While I can have fun being social, it takes a lot out of me and I need time alone to recharge, something I don’t get much of at Christmas time. Other sources of holiday stress can be taking on too much responsibilities, family members you don’t get along with, finances running low and having high expectations that don’t always turn into reality.

RELATED: How To Survive A Family Christmas

Here’s the good news. If you’re feeling stressed out, you don’t need to grit your teeth and wait until the holiday season is over to take a breath. Here are some things you can do to help you feel better immediately.

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Often we’re running around too busy to examine if we really need to do everything we’re trying to do. You probably don’t feel that you have time to stop and simplify your Christmas, but do it anyway. You’re bound to find a few things on your schedule that you can skip and no one will notice.

Take a break

It doesn’t have to be a week-long retreat (although it would be nice). A cup of tea by yourself, a simple mediation or a short walk can do wonders, just allow yourself to stop worrying about the holidays and think about something peaceful instead.

Ask for help

As much as having people around me at all times exhausts me, there’s a good side to it.  There’s always someone to ask for help, whether you need a listening ear for something that’s on your mind or you want to leave the kids to take a few minutes to yourself.

Look after yourself

Getting lots of sleep, drinking water and taking some time to exercise can definitely help you keep in good spirit. Even if making it to the gym is out of the question, a quick stretch at home or a game of soccer with the kids can make you feel happier in no time.

Count your blessings

There’s always something good happening around you to be grateful for – a child’s smile, a reunion with an old friend, not having to get up early in the morning to go to work. Challenge yourself to look for the positives in everything and you’ll have a collection of beautiful moments by the end of the holiday season.

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December 16, 2014

How To Survive A Family Christmas

Family reunions at Christmas are supposed to be a joyful time, right? Unfortunately, not everyone’s family gets along well. More often than not, there’s the sibling that hasn’t outgrown childhood feuds, the aunt that never stops complaining or the uncle that always dishes out unwanted advice, confident that he’s the expert on how people should live their lives. Add the stress of too much to do and the pressure to get the perfect present for everyone, and you have an explosive mixture on your hands that usually doesn’t fail to blow up at some point. How can we make this year different and move through the family Christmas with joy and grace or at the very least escape unscarred?

RELATED: How To Deal With Difficult People At Christmas

Have realistic expectations

When we try pumping ourselves up with positive images and affirmation, saying to ourselves that everything will be different this time, our determination to have a great Christmas crumbles at the first glimpse of reality. The people you’ve known for years will not have changed. Instead of visualising the perfect holiday, know what to expect and accept that there will be challenging situations.

Pretend that everyone has good intentions

Your aunt is telling you how to raise your kids, because she genuinely loves you and she wants the best for you. Your brother always jokes about that event that you’d rather forget, because he has fond memories of you. When you believe (or at least pretend to believe) that people mean well, it’s much easier to just smile, say ‘thank you’ and not let things get to you.

Get busy with the kids

This is my favourite escape plan – when things get too hard, I can always remember that my kids need me and spend some time playing, chatting about Santa and looking at their presents. Even if you don’t have kids of your own, you can always borrow someone else’s. Kids never say ‘no’ to attention, so the plan works without fail every single time.

Focus on each moment as it comes, especially the positive

It’s easy to dismiss the whole family gathering as something horrible that you just have to get through, but don’t let the one argument or the tension you have with a family member ruin the whole event for you. In each family holiday there are also lots of great little moments and if we stop to appreciate them, they add up. Often there’re enough of these moments to outweigh the not-so-great interactions and create an overall fond memories of your family Christmas.

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December 3, 2014

How To Deal With Difficult People At Christmas

Picture this: It’s Christmas day; you’ve got 12 people staying with you – including your critical, difficult mother-in-law, your drunk, obnoxious uncle and four kids under three – and instead of enjoying the festivities in a calm, serene manner, you’re hiding in the pantry, swigging on a bottle of champagne (French, obvs) to calm your frayed nerves.

Related: Managing Stress In The Lead-Up To Christmas

The festive season can bring great joy, but great stress – it ain’t easy dealing with a multitude of difficult personalities when your extended family unite under one roof for the holidays.

We can choose our friends, not our family, so the saying goes – but your urban tribe will probably be of no good use to you when battling your own private Vietnam on Christmas day, they’ll most likely be too busy trying to win their own battles! And, on a serious note, the festive holiday season proves so stressful, sad and lonely for some people each year that for Lifeline’s 24 hour crisis support telephone line, 13 11 14, the days leading up to Christmas and New Year are its busiest time of the year.

So, how do we keep Christmas stress on the down low? Here are some fast tips from relationship experts and Lifeline alike:

  • Try not to expect too much – aiming for the “perfect” Christmas or New Year’s Eve and assuming that everyone will be on their best behaviour is unrealistic.
  • Keep tidy – there’s a temptation to drink too much at Christmas, but alcohol can fuel arguments and cause conflict.
  • Avoid the expectation of disapproval, because this leads to misunderstandings – everything your family says then sounds like a criticism which may not have been intended.
  • In-laws should avoid giving unsolicited advice and criticism.
  • If you are the recipient of unsolicited advice and feel criticised, don’t be over-sensitive. State calmly that, yes you can see their point but you and your partner prefer to do things differently.
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  • Try your best to treat in-laws (this goes both ways of course) as you would your friends: be tactful, thoughtful and kind.
  • Set firm boundaries with your in-laws in a calm way about things you feel strongly about, for example: children’s bedtimes and eating sweets, so that in-laws don’t inadvertently break the rules.
  • Look for mutual topics of interest that are not contentious, avoid topics that are likely to lead to conflict. Remember, most grandparents love and are very interested in their grandchildren and want what is best for them. This is a good place to enhance the relationship – stick to talk of them.
  • If you have a house full of relatives, keep calm by reminding yourself that they are most likely very pleased to be there and grateful for the time they can spend with their grandchildren. Try to focus on the positives and not expect disapproval or criticism.
    in-laws, Christmas, conflict
  • Know your limits and listen to your emotions. If you need to calm down, take a walk or find a quiet place (pantries can come in handy).
  • If times are tough financially, don’t be a hero and try to shoulder all the costs alone. Make a plan as a family for a Christmas that is reasonable, or ask people to chip in and/or bring a plate.

If you are feeling in crisis, tell a trusted friend or family member, or talk to your GP/counsellor, or phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit

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November 27, 2014

Simplify Your Holidays In 4 Easy Steps

Holidays are meant to be fun and relaxing, but for many of us Christmas is different. Too many presents to buy, too much to organise and not enough time, money and energy to do it all. Is just the thought of Christmas stressing you out? Make a change this year and simplify your holidays with these easy steps.

RELATED: 7 Tips For Stress-Free Entertaining This Christmas

1. Write a list of everything you need and want to do

Include everything – every present, every card, every social event. You might end up with a super long list, but don’t let that discourage you. Even just writing it down means that you don’t have to hold it all in your head and now you have mental space available for other things.

2. Decide on what’s important to you

How do you want to feel these holidays? How do you want the other people around you to feel? What are your values? Pick the top 3-5 things that are important to you and that you want to focus on this holiday season. Here are mine: family, creativity, giving.

3. Colour your list

You’ve already completed the hardest part of the process, now the fun begins. Grab some highlighters and pick a colour for all the things you really want to do (just thinking about them puts a smile on your face). Now go through your list and highlight them. These items are staying!

Next pick another colour. Go through the rest of the items and highlight the ones that are in line with your values from Step 2. You may not necessarily want to do them, but on some of them you’ll have to compromise. For example, spending time at your in-laws may not be your favourite pastime on any day of the year, but family is important to you, so you don’t want to negotiate your way out of it.

Everything else on your list that you haven’t coloured can go. You don’t want to do it and it’s not important to you, so cross it out.

4. Get creative with the things you don’t want to do

Now let’s go back to second group you coloured – what doesn’t light you up, but is important to you. How can you make those tasks easier for yourself? Is it you that has to do them? Can you ask for help? Can you trade tasks with your partner? Is there a simpler way of doing them? (Hint: the answer to the last question is usually ‘yes’.) Only because something has been done a certain way in the past, it doesn’t mean that it always has to be that way.

By the time you’re finished with this process, you’ll have a list that excites you and a holiday season to look forward to.

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November 14, 2014