Presence or Retreat: Mindful Christmas Day 21

December’s posts this year all share the theme of Mindful Christmas. There’ll be short posts each day encouraging us to pause and look at our celebrations in a more measured, mindful way. Every day has a concept heavily tied in to Christmas, and the plan is to look at them individually, examine what role they play in our own Christmas and, if we decide we don’t have enough of the secret ingredient, what we can do to have more of them. You’ll see what I mean as the month goes on.

Each day also includes a suggested film for the day and a mindful action, something small, fast and designed to give you the opportunity to pause and enjoy the season in its mad run down to The Day Itself. These are the films and ideas written in my advent calendar box, so I’ll be watching and acting alongside.

Today’s words are Presence or Retreat.

Hands up if anyone else finds themselves being overwhelmed at Christmas by the sheer number of people you have to relate to one way or the other during the month? No? Just me then?

It often seems that Christmas demands so much of our attention in so many ways that we get mentally exhausted just thinking about it. When the children were little there were nativity plays, school carol services, parties for Boys Brigade, fairs, play dates, sports events, and even a couple of family birthdays thrown in for good measure. December is a very busy month.

Some people feed off time spent with others: it boosts their energy levels, makes their eyes sparkle and gives them the audience they need to be happy. Some people can’t handle it at all. It tires them, over-stimulates them and makes them ill or mentally fatigued.

Most of us are somewhere in the middle. I love a good party, small or large, and there’s nothing I like better than table jumping from empty chair to empty chair meeting the crowd… but there are days when I would rather crawl into a hole than have to be On Show. I have gone to events as a duty, and come home with the vague feeling that I have wasted an evening, or been less than useful. The duty done, I’d happily leave early and grab that early night with a good book my body needed.

We’re four days out from Christmas. I wonder if I shouldn’t have done this post earlier in the month: because my advice to you today is make sure you get to retreat from life if you need to. Events, even events you attend every year as a sacred duty, do not need to make you tired and cratchety at a time of year when mental demands and physical needs already place a burden on you. Nobody will mind if you take the time you need to retreat and regroup mentally and physically. Just drop the straw that would break the camel’s back of your energy and goodwill, and give yourself a night of retreat to just be.

And if the issue is you’ve retreated too much and need to bump your enthusiasm? Have no events planned? Take a walk around the neighbourhood. Greet everyone you meet, stop off in the coffee shop, buy flowers, visit the local shops, mix and meet people. Smile. Open doors, offer to reach tall shelves (if you’re tall) or ask for help (if you’re small) or just ask the person next to you in the queue whether they have the time. Interact with someone. And take a Dickens of a walk in the evening. Do a Scrooge, and walk among the houses, looking up to the lights, greeting any passers by, smiling and being affable. (big hint here: dog walkers are always really friendly, in my experience, especially if they have a friendly dog. If you need human contact, try your local dog park)

Christmas is a marathon, not a race. You benefit nobody if, by the time the day itself dawns, you are flat as a pancake and missing the milk of human kindness. Feed yourself on kindness, so that you can feed others.

All the quotes this month share the same background, even if the headers are all different. Thanks go to Caley Dimmock on Unsplash for a very seasonal background ideal for all quotes, large and small. And today’s header is by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash. I chose it because the single candle is a useful aid to finding your own presence in a moment. Candle meditations are easy to do, and focusing on the flame gives you a point to concentrate on while your mind is free to just be.

Today’s Film: Love, Actually. I can’t believe this classic movie is almost 20 years old. I know I still cry during it. And that’s soft, but that’s me.

Today’s Mindful Action: Today’s a bit of a weird day, because my advice to you is to decide whether you need more presence or less? If you need to relate to someone, then grab the phone and ring a friend, or arrange to take a family member out for coffee. Find a way to be in the presence of another human and laugh your way through Christmas stress. If you, on the other hand, need some time alone, then do what you need to, to make that happen. Send the children on a playdate with a good friend (you’ll do the same for her one day), ask family or friends to stay away for the evening and withdraw into your boudoir for an evening’s retreat. In an ideal world, you’d book yourself a spa treatment in a luxury hotel or beauty salon, but my world has never been ideal. Put on a face mask, moisturise your hands, paint your nails. Do whatever you need to restore some equanimity and make the next few days less stressful.

How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.

I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. It always feels good if you get a book back in return for some money. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:

Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better. It’s filled with advice on a daily, weekly and annual basis to help you set up rituals and rhythms that boost happiness and work for you.

Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.

Of course Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas is an essential read at this time of year. Christmas is about the small things in life, much as hygge is, and establishing what you want from Christmas and then being able to say no to the excess is important. The book has hints and tips that hopefully will help you enjoy what is, too often, a frantic season.

Available as just an ebook, and a short, sharp read, is Enjoying a Self-Care Christmas: Easy Ways to keep the Joy of Christmas, and your Sanity, intact. It’s an easy read, with ideas and hints to keep you sane through the season. The self-care advent calendar is one I’ve followed for a few years now, and it really is a small daily dose of calm in a manic month.

And on the basis that we may well find ourselves in Lockdowns or unable to enjoy an absolutely normal Christmas under Covid regulations if numbers spike, why not read and plan alternatives? Celebrating a Contagious Christmas was written in response to the pandemic last year, and will need updating soon, but it is about celebrating whatever the situation, and does have good advice on stocking up an emergency cupboard, celebrating when travelling to relatives is impossible and putting the heart of Christmas back into the heart of the celebrations.

A (Hygge) Christmas Carol is my personal look at Dicken’s Immortal Classic through the eyes of a Christmas obsessive and hygge lover. It includes the full text of the book, as well as my short essays on why A Christmas Carol is a book full of hygge. I have no idea why, but Kindle version and paperback are on different pages.

If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it or save it so others can enjoy reading, thinking about and living hygge as well, and links to all the articles in this series are on the blogpost: Mindful Christmas 2021.

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