Monthly Archives: December 2016

Winter Solstice 2016

Hey, we made it!! 😀 We’re finally here at the shortest day of the year. I always celebrate Winter Solstice because little by little, the days are lengthening from now. We’ll gradually enjoy more natural light in our days.

It takes a while for there to be a noticeable difference though, doesn’t it? January and February can be really challenging months for SAD and Winter Blues sufferers, especially when we get many dull days that make us not want to go out, rather than the crisp winter days that we’d like to step out in.

So, I thought now might be a good time to give you some tips based on my own personal experience and what I’ve learned about navigating winter.

Enjoy the beauty around you

frost on autumnal leavesWinter sun rises. Frosty grass and eery fog. Silhouetted bare trees against a dip-dye clear sky. Looking for stars. Appreciating the moon. Rainbows.

If you’re walking along (or any other form of travelling!), with your mind racing with lots of different thoughts, then it’s easy to get into a funk.

When you can remember to do it, try switching your focus to your surroundings and take pleasure in the small details of life.

Dress appropriately

I know this might seem an odd one, but if you’re dressed in a way that the weather doesn’t affect you so much, your mood won’t be affected so much when you’re out in the elements. There’s nothing like being battered by hailstones and arriving somewhere with soaking feet to make you feel miserable, is there? So pay attention to the weather forecast and plan ahead. Invest in waterproof clothing and footwear.

I haven’t always done this, feeling like I can make my boots last longer as they are otherwise okay, apart from letting water in. It is just horrible squelching around though, and it’s not good for me, so I’ve finally learned to be kind to myself and stop doing this! On that same note, I’ve also learned to treat myself to a taxi now and then instead of battling the elements – especially when I want to arrive looking respectable, instead of like I’ve been dragged backwards through a hedge!

Change the dialogue

On a similar note, see if you can change the way you think about the weather. I walk out in the elements every day that I need to be somewhere, whatever the weather is doing (except for the odd taxi treat!). I’ve learned that my experience will often be dictated by how I’m thinking about the weather. If I think ‘urgh this is horrible, it’s so cold and wet and windy’ then I’m going to feel sorry for myself having to walk in it. So I change the dialogue and say instead ‘this is refreshing!’ or I laugh at myself when I’m getting blown to work, or having to ice-skate down the hill.

This doesn’t come naturally, obviously! My first thought often is ‘urgh!’, but I try to change it quickly. I had to do it last night. There was an icy, strong wind and I was walking along saying in my head ‘oh wow, this is crisp!’ If all else fails, I focus on how nice it will feel when I get inside, into the warmth.

Embrace winter

Perhaps the biggest lesson that I can share with you is to be gentle with yourself. It really is tough, suffering with SAD.

This is the first year that I feel I’ve embraced winter and not fought with it so much. I think that the talk about women’s energy being cyclical at the One Woman Conference resonated with me. It gave me permission to say to myself, ‘it’s okay to hibernate more in winter and take time for myself.’

What’s interesting is I feel I’ve had more energy this winter than in the past. I’ve used it differently. Instead of pushing myself constantly to be out and socialising, running around getting stuff done, I’ve been using the time to plan. I’ve had whole weekends operating mostly from my bedroom, where it is lightest, and just doing what I fancy. That might be watching a self-development video and doing exercises, doing some work on the Little Light Room planning, catching up on messages from family and friends, or just reading for pleasure.

Wishing you…

…A fantastic festive break, whatever you’re doing. I hope that you take some rest, spend time with those you love and be gentle with yourself.

Thanks for your support of the Little Light Room this year. See you next year!

-Neens x-

Christmas Calm: Navigating the Festive Season with SAD and Winter Blues

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…! If that is making you groan and want to go back to bed, you’re not alone! I’ve got some tips for you to help you achieve Christmas Calm and have you floating about in a zen-like state… Well – maybe not that actually, but not the frazzled, overwhelmed state that you might recognise, at least! 😉

Grab yourself a cuppa or a glass of something nice while you read this one, because, y’know… why not?

Drop the guilt

If there’s one thing we’re good at, it’s beating ourselves up for all the things we haven’t done. Instead of seeing all of the things we have achieved, we see what’s missing. This is where compassion comes in. Trust that you’re doing your best and so is everyone else. You wouldn’t point your finger at a friend and tell him or her that they’re a failure, would you? Don’t do it to yourself, either.

There is a lot of pressure on to have ‘the perfect Christmas’. We think it’s driven by existing expectations, the plans of others and us comparing ourselves unfavourably, and of course, marketing. However, what all these things have in common is that they are actually your own thoughts about them that make you feel guilty; you think that you’re not measuring up. What if you instead chose to be inspired and excited by the things you see or hear about instead of thinking you can’t measure up?

So, pay attention to that critical inner voice and what it’s saying. Challenge it. Think of why what it’s saying isn’t true. Do you really always leave everything to the last minute? When have you planned ahead successfully? If you can find even one instance when what your critical inner voice is saying isn’t true, then you can ignore whatever it has to say.

This technique is founded in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is based on the notion that your thoughts create your feelings and lead to your behaviours. You can read more about it on the NHS website.

I know that you might be thinking ‘well it’s okay for you to say that, but I just feel how I feel’. I used to think the same when people said these things to me too, but a mixture of CBT and Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) has helped me a lot. If you find yourself plagued by the critical inner voice a lot, then you can often get therapies on the NHS, so check within your area.

Make a plan – and a budget

Speaking of planning ahead successfully… Yes, some people have their Christmas shopping all wrapped up by September. Bravo them! But they’ve still had to do the same decision-making, shopping, wrapping, etc. that you’re going to do.

Christmas calm: standing still in a busy marketIt doesn’t matter when you do it. It can be less harried to do it earlier, but there are ways to reduce your exposure to the hussle and bustle. Shopping later in the evening or early in the day, at out of town shops, or online can all help.

So, in true Christmas fashion, if Santa makes a list, then so can you! Who’s been naughty or nice? And what gift would you like to give them?

You can indicate a rough budget too, so you don’t stress yourself by overspending. It’s so easy to do, isn’t it?

Now think about all the other things you need to do. Order the turkey. Buy cards and wrapping. Put decorations up. Whatever you need to do, get it all down in a list. You can also assign it a priority to help you with the next tip!

If you like, you can use my Christmas Calm planner template to either plan or take stock where you’ve got to; I hope it helps! To make your own copy of this, got to file > make a copy and it should save in your own Google Drive. Otherwise if you’re not a Google account holder, you can just copy the headings and paste them into whatever spreadsheet software you use.

Downsize your Christmas

Okay, so have a look again at your list. How is it making you feel? Excited? Overwhelmed? Stressed?

What things can you cross off that aren’t really necessary for you to do? What things on that list won’t make a real difference to your or your loved ones’ enjoyment of Christmas? Maybe you don’t really need to buy charger plates and more table decorations? Maybe there’s no need to buy a new TV right now? Can you simplify dinner a bit? Are all the social engagements you were planning going to make you happy?

It’s so easy to get caught up in the feeling that you need to make sure that Christmas is ‘perfect’ – and to shoulder all that burden yourself.

Part of downsizing for you might be to share the burden around a bit more. Can family members or friends take on some of the tasks on your list? Is there any they might actually enjoy?

Remember that the best thing you can give your family and friends this Christmas is your time and energy. If you’re completely spent by the time the festive season comes round, then you’re not going to be able to do that. And you’ll probably beat yourself up for that too…

So think about what’s really necessary and do those things first. The rest is nice-to-haves, if you have time and energy to complete them. Or you might snuggle up on the sofa with a Christmas film with your family instead! 🙂

Make it a pleasure

Isn’t it funny how we run around, head-down, on a mission to prepare for Christmas? We’re so busy working towards making the ‘big event’ enjoyable that we forget to enjoy the preparations.

Christmas calm: taking time out with a coffeeI know you’re busy and might feel you don’t have time to go get a coffee mid-shop. You will feel so much better if you do though; give yourself breaks and your shopping time will be more productive.

Slow down and enjoy the lights. Take a taxi if you are overloaded with your Christmas booty. Allow yourself to wander around and take in the scents and sounds of a market.

There’s a lot of talk about mindfulness and if you have ever tried to practice it, you have probably seen its benefits. Christmas Calm will be more of a possibility if you stay ‘in the moment’. Do your best to focus on enjoying what you’re doing right now, rather than allowing your mind to run amok and make you anxious with all the things you have to do.

Christmas Calm: all in the mind?

I don’t know what your Christmas to-do list looks like. You might be reading this post thinking ‘that’s all right for you to say, but I have sooo much to do!’ I don’t blame you; I would probably think the same.

But consider this: you have at least some of it to do anyway unless you decide you’re cancelling Christmas! So you can either enjoy the experience or find it a hassle and a pain. You can change your experience of it by choosing how you view it. Try it out and let me know how you get on?

Wishing you an enjoyable festive run-up! Remember when we get to Christmas the days are getting longer and lighter again too! 🙂

– Neens –

Image credits:

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