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After 15 years working in corporate customer facing roles I’d realised that I’d peaked in that place

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Before & After

I enjoyed working but I felt a real guilt around not being involved enough in my two sons week. I wanted to do something more meaningful to me and I wanted to balance that with spending more time with my two boys. I wanted to feel passionate about my job. I wanted to love what I do.

I’m Ayshea Ryan and a year and a half ago I launched A Place For Space. We had just finished a seven month renovation project on our own home. My husband and I had worked really hard to arrange and provide for this renovation to bring our 1850’s period villa up-to-date and suit our family lifestyle. The thought of having the house just the way I wanted it and loving it and not being able to spend time in it properly working a 9-5pm job which realistically for me meant being away 8-6pm was just not sitting right with me.

It was at this same time, that a good friend of mine who had popped by to visit the newly renovated and organised house asked me to help her make the most of her beautiful new home. She has known me a long time and knew how passionate I was about organisation and how I consider it key to living a busy but relatively stress free life.

Her house was stunning but the ‘stuff’ was taking over. With five children she was overwhelmed with the clutter. By helping her to declutter her environment she was finally able to enjoy her beautiful home and minimize the stress that naturally comes with five children and all of their needs. And so the business was born.

Before & After

Before & After

Aim

The aim is to help people to be mindful of what they fill their homes with and to bring the joy back to busy family life. I firmly believe that by freeing yourself of the stuff you neither love or use allows you to love the space you live in.

A home is an ever evolving place, the needs change as the family grows. I encourage you to embrace change and not to be afraid of change as change is constant and something we can not avoid.  We must adapt and go with it.

The first step to declutter is to recognise the clutter. Once you begin to declutter you will begin to feel the benefits of reducing the stuff that surrounds you. Benefits such as letting go of something that was holding you back, freeing up your mind to help you make clear decisions or new changes.

Once you recognise the clutter and reach out to A Place For Space for assistance I will then call out to your home for a one hour consultation. I assess how big or small the project is.

I then make a plan how to tackle it with you.  A plan designed to work around you and what you are comfortable with. Send quote and estimated lead time for your consideration.

I encourage my clients to make time for themselves and time for their home organisation.  A healthy, clutter free home leads to a healthy clutter free mind.

Before & After

Before & After

Quick & Easy Declutter Tips

Tackle one room or category at a time. This makes the process less overwhelming. Try starting with one or all of the categories below.

1 Wardrobe & Cosmetics  – we just have way too much stuff. Adapt your wardrobe to your lifestyle. I used to wear suits for my old job but its casual now. Get rid off all with the exception of one.

2 Electronics – Got a box of power cords and adaptors with no corresponding appliance? Let them go. You’re never going to use that old Nokia charger again!

3 Kitchen – chipped dishes? Old cups you don’t like? Tupperware everywhere with no lids or lids with no boxes? Pair them up and bin any spares.

Try to declutter every season to keep on top of it, this makes decluttering much more simple.

Ayshea Ryan is founder of A Place For Space, she created it to feel free of paraphernalia and to create room to think in. You can find out more by visiting their website here.

Today’s world is often referred to as fast paced, busy and chaotic. We are overfed stress and worry and we are undernourished in areas that truly matter. This concept of being ‘overfed and undernourished’ goes far beyond any food we put on our plate. 

 

I would go as far as saying, that our country is becoming a nation of human beings that are over worked, tired and are operating continuously at maximum capacity. What happens our minds, our bodies and our souls when we get tired, bombarded or run down? We become sick. We become fatigued. We become anxious. We become ill. 

Having worked as a Pharmacist for almost a decade – I could see first hand the frantic, stress ridden, pill popping nation that we have become. I witnessed the rising scale in antidepressants being prescribed. I saw the rise in sleeping tablets, anti-anxiety medication and stress related diseases, ranging from auto immune diseases, inflammatory disorders, skin problems, stomach disease and cancer to name a few. From behind the dispensary – I could see with my own two eyes our society crumbling into sickness and disease. 

Dis – ease, the very word meaning “a lack of ease”. 

I could see both young and old becoming a nation where the concept of “ease” in our lives was merely non existent. A nation where our norm was to be “busy” and “stressed” and if you weren’t busy or stressed, then you weren’t successful. 

But this doesn’t have to be the way. We, as human beings have an infinite inner well of consciousness that wants to be healthy. We inherently want to be happy. We want to have inner peace. We crave to live a life that is healthy, and prosperous and rich in creativity and exhilaration. 

But we tend to get caught up in the rat race, we can often get stuck in a job that doesn’t fulfil us, or a relationship that doesn’t ignite us. We somehow can find ourselves living a life that is not full of “ease”. We can find ourselves feeling “stuck” or stale, and our life can lack meaning or inspiration. When this happens we can turn to food, or alcohol or some external source to try and bring some light or life back into our lives, only to find that, this too falls short and leaves us feeling worse off than ever before. 

So what’s the solution? How can we go about finding some “ease” in our lives? How can we begin to find some meaning in our world? How can we reduce the anxiety, the stress, the overwhelming emotions that surge us on a day to day basis? One way that helped me immensely was Yoga. 

If you read my earlier article on ‘Why yoga really can be for everyone’ and the benefits behind yoga, you will know that Yoga goes far beyond just the physical. One of the main benefits that I find, and that many of my clients experience, is the escaping healing feeling that yoga brings to ones life.

 

Yoga – meaning union, unites mind with the body, and body with the soul. 

In today’s world – this connection is vital. We don’t need more noise, or more busyness, or more loud music, or more adrenaline. What the world needs is more stillness. More silence. More space. More time out. More recovery. More rest. More breathing. More connection. Yoga delivers all of the above and more. 

When you get on the mat, you centre yourself. You ground yourself. You connect. To find more ease in our lives and in our world, it’s important that we first find some balance and stability within ourselves. 

Yoga empowers connection back to our inner world. It enables you to actually stop for a second and scan your body. Scan your emotions. Scan your thoughts. Check in with yourself and listen to your intuition. One of the best ways to reduce stress in your life, is to give yourself a break. In order to find some ease and relaxation in our lives we need to first stop, listen and feel. To take some time out from the busyness and connect to a space of stillness. 

Yoga Breathing or Pranayama: 

When you get on your yoga mat – you connect your mind and body through the breath. The breath – which is our life force energy – our Prana. Once we engage with deep mindful breathing we reduce the anxiety by activating our para sympathetic nervous system. This is our rest and recovery system – the opposite to our fight or flight system where we operate most of our lives from.

When we engage in yogic breathing (see the simple excerise below) we reduce anxiety and nervous tension in our central nervous system. When we are anxious – our nerve endings can become irritated and excited. They become heightened and activated, and we thus, become “on edge” and anxious and develop nervous tension and irritability. 

Doing this breathing along with certain yoga poses (asanas) we can calm down our entire nervous system. We activate this para sympathetic nervous system and as a result reduces our stress hormone cortisol. This reduces heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety. 

Yoga breathing (pranayama) is the foundation of your yoga practice. It begins with deepening your breathing and engaging is a 3-part breath technique.

Try this simple breathing technique at least once a day for a week and observe how it affects your body, breath, and mind. This mindful excercise can be done at just about any time of day, though preferably not immediately following a large meal.

How to:

  1. Lie comfortably on your back (with your knees slightly bent and your feet flat on the floor) about hip-distance apart or lie in savasana (corpse pose), whichever is most comfortable for you.

  2. Place one palm on your abdomen and just breathe comfortably for a few moments. Notice the quality of your breath. Does the breath feel tense? shallow? rapid? strained? Simply observe the breath without trying to adjust it or change it, or without any judgment.

  3. Then gradually begin to relax your breathing. Slow your breath down, deepen the inhalation and try make the breath as smooth as possible.

  4. Begin to draw the breathe in for a count of 4.

  5. Slowly introduce a slight PAUSE after each inbreath.

  6. Then gracefully release your breath through a nice slow relaxed exhalation to the count of 8.

  7. So the breathing goes something like this;  inhale – count 1,2,3,4… Pause and hold for 1,2,3,4…. Exhale count 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8… Pause and hold 1,2,3,4 and repeat.

  8. Once the breath feels comfortable, relaxed, smooth and rhythmical, notice the movement of the body. As you inhale, the abdomen naturally expands; as you exhale, feel the slight contraction of the abdomen. To experience the pleasure of giving yourself a full, relaxed breath, gently try to actively expand the abdomen on the inhale and contract the abdomen on the exhale to support the natural movement of the diaphragm.

  9. Continue this breathing practice for 6 to 12 breaths.

  10. Check in with your body, mind, thoughts and emotions afterwards. (Have a pen and paper near by as you may get some moments of insights or clarity afterwards).

 

Benefits: 

  • Quietens the mind
  • Calms the entire nervous system
  • Reduces stress and anxiety 
  • Promotes restful sleep
  • Improves self-awareness
  • Promotes focus and clarity 
  • Develops inner peace 
  • Reduces blood pressure and can ease bodily aches and pains 
  • Promotes overall EASE in the mind, body and soul 
  • Promotes a sense of wellbeing and relaxation 

Examples of some Yoga poses (asanas) that can really help with reducing anxiety and stress are the following:

  • Cat/Cow pose (Marjaryasana/Bitikasana) 
  • Child’s pose (balasana)
  • Trees pose (Vrikasana)
  • Headstand or supported headstand (sirsasana)
  • Corpse Pose (savasana) 
  • Abdominal twists 
  • Legs up the Wall pose (Viparita Karani)

The trinity of Yoga, meditation and mindful breathing, is just one way that can help alleviate stress and anxiety in our modern world. It has helped me and so many of my clients. I really hope it can also help you. 

 

So your stressful life has contributed to sleeping issues? You have been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue or all at the very least the symptoms seem to fit. Your energy levels have dropped off significantly over the years and it’s especially problematic during afternoons.

 

Fatigued Coffee

The best remedy combines B-vitamins, magnesium, adaptogenic herbs and critical amino acids like GABA. However, there is no such thing as adrenal fatigue. Unless you have Addison’s disease, your adrenal glands are working as intended. It’s the signaling upstream that is the problem.

Adrenal glands don’t excessively secrete cortisol to the point where they can’t produce unless damaged. This is the finding by the vast majority of scientific research. So why do adrenal fatigue support formulations work? It’s because the effective formulas are resetting the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA axis) just as the vitamins, minerals and herbs previously mentioned.

Why is this distinction important? If only your cortisol levels are tested a patient can get a false negative for “adrenal fatigue” or worse. Then the patient is given cortisol that might exacerbate the situation. This is one more reason to always choose well-formulated herbal based supplements rather than synthetic stimulating or suppressing cortisol drugs.

Cortisol plays a critical role in sleep, stress and inflammation. Our cortisol levels should be highest when we first awake so we are alert and then it tapers off quickly. When perceived stress or chronic inflammation occurs, cortisol secretion is initiated. During times of stress it boosts our system in a threatening situation. Where there is chronic inflammation, cortisol reduces the inflammatory response to protect us from the aging process. Unfortunately sleep is interrupted when cortisol is secreted anytime other than early in the day.

There are four triggers causing HPA axis imbalance between these three glands mistakenly referred to as, “adrenal fatigue,” according to Dr. Thomas Guilliams, an expert the field of Molecular Immunology.

  1. Perceived stress.
  2. Inflammation primarily in the gut caused by small bacteria or candida overgrowth.
  3. Sugar dysregulation.
  4. Circadian dysregulation.

While this topic deserves a deeper dive, the important takeaway is that the HPA axis includes a set of neurotransmitters with self-regulating feedback loops. When the body isn’t in balanced, the pathways either no longer result in cortisol secretion or the cells become cortisol insensitive like a diabetic in the presence of too much insulin. This is the body’s system of checks and balances.

To address the four triggers, incorporate stress-reducing behaviors like meditation, yoga, essential oils and supplements. Begin by reducing inflammation in the gut by eating a healthy diet reducing sugar and eliminating rancid vegetable oils. Try to get outside and take in natural light and stay away from your computer screen late at night.

Qualified therapists use their extensive knowledge of Anatomy and Physiology to carry out Massage treatments. The massage is the manipulation of the soft body tissue that is used to enhance a person’s health and well- being.

Massage Beach Lady

Most of you will remember when you were younger and perhaps fell or hurt yourself, having your Mother or Father hold you, or rub the injured part of the body, “to make it feel better”. Touch is a huge part of healing in general and Massage is one form of healing as well as being a relaxation and stress relieving treatment.

There are many different types of Massage and each one works in its own unique way. For example:

Aromatherapy: The therapist uses essential oils and it is the oil as well as the massage technique that’s work with the individual to relieve stress, provide relaxation etc.
Sports Massage: Will usually be concentrated on a particular part of the body that is causing a problem.

Holistic Massage: Your therapist will first sit down with you and discuss your Lifestyle in detail, then they will run through a questionnaire to determine if a Massage is suitable for you or not. They will discuss your Lifestyle with you and suggest numerous ways that you can improve or change things to make your Life better, this combined with the Massage will have a more effective outcome.

Massage is suitable for most people but there are certain contraindications when a person should not have a Massage. It is advisable, particularly if you have a Medical condition to first get advice or written permission from your Doctor or discuss this with your Therapist before booking an appointment.

Some Contraindications:

  • Fever.
  • Cardio Vascular conditions.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Contagious diseases.
  • Recent surgery.

Some people are unsure how the treatment is carried out and often have some undue concerns. Before the Massage begins the therapist will leave you to undress in private then you will lay down on a plinth or massage table. During the Massage you will be discreetly covered by towels or a cover and only the part of the body that is being massaged will be exposed as the therapist begins to oil your body and begin the treatment.

The Massage relaxes muscle tissue, which diminishes tightness or tension in the muscle. It improves circulation pushing oxygen into cells and helps to eliminates any toxins or waste from the body. There are several benefits to be gained from having regular Massage treatments. Massage can help to relieve chronic pain and having a therapeutic Massage can enhance your overall sense of wellness.

Massage Towel

Some of the many Benefits:

  • Improves lymphatic drainage.
  • It enhances your joint mobility.
  • Relieves muscle tension and stiffness.
  • By helping you to relax, and unwind.
  • Relieves headaches.
  • Reduces anxiety.
  • Insomnia.
  • Back, and neck pain.
  • And much more.

When Massage relieves stress, it helps the body, as a whole. It will also increase your self-esteem, help you to relax and bring clarity to a troubled mind. It has so many benefits on an emotional and physical level. It is appropriate for adults and children alike and is also suitable for pregnant women. (unless otherwise advised by a doctor)
It is so much more than “Just a massage”, it is a whole life change with wide spread benefits.

For this weeks #WellnessWednesday I’m super excited to be chatting to a very inspirational lady. I know Melissa Wood-Tepperberg from my time in New York and she is a truly beautiful soul.

She lives with authenticity and presence and if you follow her on social media you can’t help but be inspired. Her stories always leave you invigorated and motivated to live better and take some space for yourself. Here she tells us how she unwinds and copes with daily stress by meditating.

melissa wood health, health and wellness coach melissa wood, fitner app, juicing, benjamin tepperberg, meditation, destress, wellness wednesday, lifestyle quiz, plant based diet,

  1. How would you describe your lifestyle?

I have a very fun and healthy approach to everything I do. Whether it’s making food in the kitchen, working out, taking Benjamin to a class or working in the office. Living by my 3 M’s (meditation, mindful eating and movement) has allowed me to cultivate habits that no matter where I am or what I am doing; I find balance incorporating these three things.

 

  1. What’s your favorite food? Naughty or nice.

My ultimate favorite food is definitely avocado toast on manna bread with sea salt, nutritional yeast with squeezed lemon. I was told for years to stay away from carbs because they make you fat and this way of thinking created a laundry list of issues for me. Now, I eat this almost every day and tell myself that I am nourishing my body and my soul and I’m living my best life- so don’t always believe what everyone tells you. Carbs are not all created equal. At the end of the day you have to find what works for you.

 

  1. Do you exercise and if so what do you do to keep fit?

I work out on average 4-5 days per week and now that I’m sharing all of my workouts on the Fitner app this has become an even bigger part of my routine. Even 15 minutes of movement a day can change your entire mood. I’ve created 15-45 minute flows, so no matter what you can get something in.

 

  1. How do you find balance in your day-to- day life?

I read my daily lesson in A Course In Miracles and meditating everyday morning for 20. This has changed me as a person. I look at both my life and myself in such a positive light now.

 

  1. How do you manage stress in your life? Do you meditate?

Meditation all the way.

 

  1. People often set goals or intentions as they go through life. Is this something you do?

I don’t necessarily write down goals and intentions. At the end of every meditation I close with a prayer to help connect me to my highest power and open up the energy in every area of my life, “What would you have me do? Where would you have me go? What would you have me say? To whom?”

 

  1. How do you unwind after a busy day?

melissa wood health, health and wellness coach melissa wood, fitner app, juicing, benjamin tepperberg, meditation, destress, wellness wednesday, lifestyle quiz, plant based diet,I take Benjamin to the park and go for a walk almost every night after work. No matter how much stress I have from the day, it’s all washed away as soon as I’m with him. He brings a whole new meaning to happiness.

 

  1. It’s the weekend, what do you do for fun?

I take a yoga or Pilates class, go to the park with my family, have dinner with my husband, go out dancing with my girls and let Benjamin stay up late one of the nights and watch television in my bed.

 

  1. What’s your top health tip for our readers?

My top health tip for everyone would be to find stillness in your day by creating some space to sit with yourself and connect to the truth of who you really are and what matters most to you.

 

  1. Finish the sentence – Being complete for me means…

…Loving and accepting myself no matter what the situation is.

 

Melissa shares great easy to follow daily workouts on the fitner app

Check out her new website and you can follow her on

INSTAGRAM

FACEBOOK

**Melissa Wood-Tepperberg is a mom, certified health and wellness coach, meditator, Yoga and Pilates teacher and thriving on a plant-based diet. Her three pillars of focus are: meditation, mindful eating, and movement. Melissa Wood Health is a platform for sharing all of the wellness tips that she swears by – from food, fitness, beauty, fashion, baby and overall lifestyle – to help achieve your best self.

Are you feeling overwhelmed, over stressed and over Summer (and it hasn’t even started yet!)?? Could mindfulness help?

Well author of the Irish Better Birth Book and Founder of the award winning GentleBirth antenatal program Tracy Donegan, shares a great technique for coping with stress this summer.

sumer is coming, summer holidays, mindfulness, tracy donegan, gentlebirth, summer stress, summer camps

Summer is coming and like many parents around the world you’re scouring the pages of the local summer camp brochures trying to figure out how to keep the family sane. If you have younger children then summer camp might not be an option. Being pregnant and entertaining a 5 year old for the summer can be stressful.

As a Gentlebirth mum you know how important your daily practice is but between practice times you have a multitude of opportunities to use the tools every day.

Forget the meditation cushions and incense – and even the headphones (hardly practical when you have twin toddlers racing about the house).

DAILY PRACTISE

Your daily practice isn’t always about lying on the couch with your headphones on (wasn’t it so much easier on your first pregnancy)? The reality is those moments of madness are often the best ways to bring your focus training out of the GentleBirth App and right into your kitchen.

Author and meditation expert Jon Kabat-Zinn says children are like “live in Zen masters” and it’s so true. I guarantee you’ll have at least 10 opportunities to practice your Heart Breathing every day this Summer (particularly each time you hear the words “I’m bored”).   Try out the practice below and before you know it you’ll be paying more attention to how you’re reacting to the daily stresses of life, you’ll start to differentiate between what you can and can’t control and by doing this you’re activating brain circuitry which is protective of your mental health. Does that sound like something you don’t have time for? Focus training doesn’t mean adding anything else to your day – you’re just being more present in what you’re already doing (loading laundry, preparing dinner, changing diapers).

When you find yourself feeling stressed – what can you do in that moment to respond differently (in a way that is good for you and your family)?

TRY THIS

BreatheTake 3 deep breaths right down to your belly.

Find your feet – look at them if you can and wiggle your toes if you’re barefoot. Are your feet warm or cold? What else do you notice? (Pay no attention to the remnants of the pedicure you got for that wedding 6 months ago or that’ll just invite judgy mind to join in). If you’re wearing shoes do they feel comfortable or tight? Stay with this exercise for a few moments more – as you can probably tell this exercise has really nothing to do with your feet but it’s reducing activity in one part of your brain and activating another healthier brain circuitry.

sumer is coming, summer holidays, mindfulness, tracy donegan, gentlebirth, summer stress, summer camps

So let’s say F- THAT to Summer stress (or any kind of stress you’re experiencing at work or home) with this mindfulness technique.

 

Focus – stop whatever you’re doing

Feel your breath – breathe in and out deeply

Find your feet – notice how they feel, wiggle your toes and respond with Fierce kindness towards yourself.

 

The school holidays won’t magically become a fairytale when you become more present with mindfulness but you’ll have some tools to make it a little less stressful for everyone.

#SelfcareSunday #mindfulness

 

BREATHING, MEDITATION, MINDFULNESS, CONNECTION, BREATHWORK, PEACE, INNERWORLD,

BREATHING MEDITATION:

For this meditation we are going to use the breath as a support.

I find it helpful to take 3-5 really deep breaths as I start to help calm my system down (as most of us are always rushing around)

So

 

  • Chose a quiet place and sit in a comfortable position either on a chair or on the floor
  • Keep your back straight
  • Close your eyes gently and relax the face, jaw and shoulders
  • Place your palms face up or down on your lap, whichever is more comfortable
  • Take 3 deep inhalations and exhalations through your nostrils
  • Then settle and start to notice the natural flow of your breath. You don’t have to breathe in any particular way here just breathe as you always do
  • As you breathe in and out it can be helpful to focus on one point like the tip of your nose where the breath enters and leaves again
  • It’s completely natural for your mind to wander so don’t get frustrated when this happens just gently say to yourself “whoops there I go again wandering off” and come back to the breath again.
  • Continue with this breathing meditation for 5-10 minutes each day and build from there

MY TOP 3 TIPS:

START YOUR DAY THE RIGHT WAY

I meditate in the morning as I find it helps start my day in a positive and intentional way. It’s a great way to settle yourself before the madness begins and I find if you give yourself 5-10 minutes in the morning your ability to cope with stress and any obstacles you encounter during the day is much better. Focusing on our breathing is a very powerful tool to help with anxiety and depression.

 

SMALL STEPS EACH DAY

Real change happens when we are consistent with our habits. 5-10 minutes each day is far better and more beneficial than 2 hours once a week. Even though small changes might not feel like a lot, trust me they make a big difference and the kind of difference you are really looking for = REAL CHANGE.

 

BE EASY WITH YOURSELF

As you begin your journey into meditation be kind and compassionate with yourself. It’s too easy to beat yourself up for wandering thoughts or unwanted emotions arising but this is not the time for that, we do that too much anyway. Instead, this is your time to focus on the present in a non-judgmental way to increase awareness, which in turn helps to calm the body and mind.

Join me on Facebook in my Minding Mum Group for live weekly meditations

Shine Bright

Ali xxx

making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas,

Some tips on how to transform your stress this holiday season

We all know that Christmas is a big opportunity for stress—the combination of having to appear to be having fun, while coping with all the frustrations and extra work can be a real downer.

One of the things we need to know about stress is that it closes things down. It’s hard to feel joyful and enthusiastic when you are stressed. We tend to close in on ourselves and set up a kind of survival regime to get us through. Maybe it does help us to struggle along but it does not help us to care for ourselves, to open our hearts to others, to learn anything about the habits that lead to the stress in the first place.

Let’s take a look at some ways we could set about making connections this Christmas instead of going into survival mode.

Connecting with yourself first of all

 making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas,

Do you ever feel like this gingerbread person at Christmas—all in your festive gear but not able to communicate how you are really feeling? The holidays can be a strangely lonely time, even when you are surrounded by people.

As the lead up to Christmas gathers pace, why not take some time to check in with yourself and see what you are hoping for from the holidays.

Whether you are religious, or not you can ask yourself what is important to you about this holiday. Is it having family around and lots of good things to eat and presents to share? Or is it about having a few days off from work and routine in the middle of winter. Whatever it is, it will help you to set an intention for yourself—a kind of inspiration for the holiday.

Then at the other end of the scale, try to see what it is that triggers stress for you. Take a moment to sit quietly and then ask yourself these questions:

  • At what times do I experience a high level of frustration over relatively small events?
  • How does it feel in my body?
  • What do I do about it?

Going through this exercise will help you to identify the times when stress can creep up on you, so you can prepare for it and hopefully, avoid it. Allowing yourself to use your body like a stress barometer shows you the effect that stress has on you. Spending time thinking about how you deal with stress helps to get you off the survival treadmill and really consider how you can ease your stress.

Connecting with the present moment

making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas, cake

So often when we are busy our minds are just rushing away with us thinking ahead of all there is still to do. That’s particularly sad at Christmas when there are so many enjoyable rituals in getting ready—like making the cake.

So one way we can ease a feeling of stress is to connect with the present moment. For example, instead of hurrying to make the cake while worrying about the mince pies, a present for grandma and whether you have enough wine in the house, try focusing on simply sorting your ingredients for the cake, weighing and adding them in the correct order and mixing it all to a delicious consistency. Take time to smell the fruits and the brandy. Allow yourself to enjoy the texture of batter. Remember to make your wish and just be with the making of the cake. When it is in the oven, you can go on to the next task and approach it in the same way. 

Connecting with a sense of enjoyment and celebration

making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas,

The more we can get our stress into perspective, the more chance we have to enjoy some of the magic that there can be around Christmas. We said earlier that stress closes things down and one of the first things to go is any sense of enjoyment and celebration.

Allow yourself time to look around you and see the things you enjoy. I am a big fan of Christmas trees both indoors and out in the open. There is something about all the lights and glitter on a dark winter evening that just says home and love to me.

What is it that you enjoy most at Christmas? 

Connecting with family and friends

making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas,

Probably if we are honest, one of the biggest sources of stress is how the family is going to manage together over the holidays. It can get complicated with all the in-laws and the extended family. We all know that awful tense feeling that can come when uncle George manages to come out with the opinions that we know will drive our teenage daughter to distraction, or when grandma insists that we don’t know how to out on a Christmas like they did in her day. You dread the moment when your sister-in-law, who always manages to make you feel like bargain-basement wife, arrives for dinner looking as if she just stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine, along with her two immaculate children. You, on the other hand, hot and bothered from the kitchen feel less than glamorous.

Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind while the family dinner is underway.

Everyone around the table wants to be happy—just like you do. None of them want to be anxious, or worried, or miserable and yet, inevitably they all have times when they are—just like you. Chances are that each one of them have their own insecurities about the family gathering—just like you do. Perhaps some of them are even intimidated by aspects of your behavior–what a good cook you are, how you juggle family and career—who knows? It can help so much if before your irritation arises you can put yourself in the shoes of the person irritating you—perhaps they are more like you than you think.

Connecting with the rest of the world

making connections, awareness in action, stress free christmas, maureen cooper, be complete, alison canavan, mindfulness, christmas time, top tips for a stress free christmas, As well as closing things down, stress makes us loose perspective. Whatever is going on with us seems so much more important than anything else that is happening in the world—which in the scheme of things, really does not make sense.

During the holiday period you can counter-act any tendency to feel that getting the lights working on the tree is more important than, say, global warming by consciously allowing yourself time to think about what is going on for everyone else in the world. Many millions of other people are celebrating Christmas around the world, with traditions that may be very different from your own. There are also millions who are not celebrating Christmas and it is just another ordinary day for them. Then there are the millions who whether or not they wish to celebrate Christmas are not able to because of poverty, or war, or persecution. Keep them in mind also.

So, a very merry stress-free Christmas to everyone!

 

Maureen Cooper is the author of The Compassionate Mind Approach to Reducing Stress. She combines more than thirty years of experience as a professional educator and senior manager in a non-profit organization with a hands-on education in Buddhism. In 2004 Maureen founded Awareness in Action, a consultancy dedicated to the secular application of mindfulness, meditation and compassion in the workplace.

www.awarenessinaction.org