Make time for yourself over the festive period to ditch the stress and relax… Whether you have five minutes or 50, try our simple solutions to revive your body and mind.
Take a spicy tea break
There’s nothing more comforting than a good old cuppa, but instead of your usual brand try Teapigs Spiced winter Red Tea (£4.49 for 15 bags). Rooibos tea is mixed with orange, cloves and cinnamon to capture the best bits of the festive season. Think mulled wine and log fires. Add it to hot, frothy milk and it can be used to make a delicious caffeine-free latte too. What better to warm you down to your toes on a cold, crisp morning?
Strengthen your breathing
When your up against it with festive preparations, it is all too easy to forget to breathe properly, which will just cause stress and anxiety. Try this abdominal breathing technique for a quick calming fix: with one hand on the chest and the other on the tummy, take a deep breath in through your nose, ensuring the diaphragm inflates with enough air to create a stretch in the lungs. Breath out, slowly – aim for six deep, slow breathes per minute for five minutes. If you find it hard to control your breath, try the Breathe Strong app. It was created by breath-training expert Professor Alison McConnell (£1.49, iPhone App Store), which will help you pace your breathing, wherever you are.
Did you know that most adults spend an average of one hour and 50 minutes fretting about something each day – and that’s before you factor in the added stress of of Christmas! This news comes from a survey by Rescue Remedy, the much loved mixture of Bach flower essences, renowned for its instant ability to sooth anxiety. If you haven’t tried it, do! It’s now available as lozenges – Rescue Plus Lozenges, which contain vitamin B5 and vitamin B12, plus the traditional essences and a soothing natural orange and elderflower liquid centre (£3.69, boots.com).
Make your showers mindful
“Focusing the mind on one thing is a technique common to many types of meditation,” advises Lina Lotto, Spa Director of the SenSpa at Careys Manor in Hampshire. In this mini mindfulness exercise you focus on showering. “Most people find showering really pleasant and, as it’s something we do daily, adding mindfulness techniques super-boosts its beneficial affects. Showering in this way heightens and raises awareness, which, in turn, calms and relaxes.
Feel the sensation of the water on your skin and hair…feel the temperature and the pressure of the water. Hear the sound as it sprays and falls.
Observe the droplets spraying on your body…take time to feel your skin’s texture, see its colour.
Deeply inhale the scent of the shower gel as you wash; feel the lather. Notice how you relax under the heat of the water. Keep focused on all these sensations. If other distracting thoughts enter your mind, simply witness them and return your attention to observing. You will have just completed a five-or-ten-minute meditation – and cleansed yourself into the bargain.
SenSpa’s Clear The Mind Body Wash, which has extracts of spicy Thai basil along with peppermint and lemon peel.
Raise your spirits with Belle of the Ball gift set from Soap and Glory. There’s a scrub, body wash, hand cream and body cream – all in characteristically exuberant packaging.
Nurture your inner goddess
No, not in the Fifty Shades Of Grey way, but think about finding a new role model. That’s the message from Jaqui MacDonald, life coach and founder of The Goddess School. “We are all so often trying to be superwoman,” she says, “it is worth considering a new role. Maybe this Christmas you could channel your inner zen goddess, which means being calm and loving whatever life throws at you. The way I teach this, it is about honouring and nourishing every aspect of yourself – body, mind, heart and soul.”
For the body
Go easy on the sweet treats; not so much to avoid weight gain, but because sugar creates a lot of stress for the body. It increases cortisol levels, which makes you feel wired and gives you brain fog at the same time. Taking L-glutamine tablets (£8.29 for 50, hollandandbarrett.com) can take the edge off sugar cravings.
For the Mind
Gift yourself some frankincense essential oil (£14.40 for 10ml, nealsyardremedies.com). It helps quieten a arcing mind and promote serenity and relaxation. Wear it like a perfume, or pop a few drops in the bath.
For the heart
Cultivate compassion. Stop and think about how much you spend on extras, like gift bags or baubles. Perhaps you could instead give that money to your favourite charity, or volunteer to work with people who aren’t having such a great Christmas. It’s a wonderful thing to nourish your heart and bring down stress levels.
For the soul
Christmas is a good time of year to start a mini meditation practice, just for two or three minutes in the morning. Take deep breathes and go inwards into your mind and ask, “What do I need?” You will be amazed by what your intuition comes back with. People often think they don’t have time for even a short meditation, but the odd thing is when you do meditate, it somehow creates more time in your day by helping you to see clearly and prioritise.
Give tired legs a treat
Wrap up warm and take yourself out for a brisk walk, as physical movement and fresh air help clear the mind.
Wind Down At Bedtime
Get a good night’s sleep with these tips from soakandsleep.com (which has silk eye masks for a bargain £6): switch off technology an hour before bed, have a hot, non-caffeinated drink and a soothing bath.
Extras For Your Beauty Sleep
Treat yourself to skincare that works overnight. Origins Like A Dream set (£40, Origins.co.uk), contains Precipitation, a lovely body cream to massage in after your bath, High-Potency Night-A-Mins cream and the Drink-Up intensive mask, which can be left on for a boost of hydration.