Hi I'm Leonie, Collector of feathers, pebbles and words, with ink-stained hands, an overactive mind, and a sunshine-filled heart.


3 ways to find peace during Christmas craziness

At this time of year, everyone tends to feel under extra stress and pressure thanks to the 'too much' mentality that the holidays bring. I know I do. Too much food, too much spending, too many things to pack into a short space of time, too much consumerism in general. Add sensory sensitivity into the mix and you also have too much noise, too much clutter, too much socialising, sometimes too much sun, JUST TOO MUCH.

This ends up with me feeling totally out of balanced, stressed, anxious and often carrying feelings of guilt or dread around the holidays, which is completely off centre and adds yet another stressor to the mix - 'Why can't I get excited about Christmas?'. The stress breeds more stress and compounds what are mostly manageable issues.

I have come to the conclusion that what I really need to do is to get my house in order before I try and mix about in the churning energy that surrounds this time of year. By that, I mean ensuring my life is not out of balance before the additional stresses of the season are upon me.

1. Know your enemy.

Firstly, I am doing a stress assess. I am writing down all the things that are causing me grief at the moment - lack of money, conflicting personalities coming together for a meal, finding appropriate, thoughtful, inexpensive gifts that don't conflict too much with my anti-consumerism values, food waste that drives me crazy, funds to buy two full sets of  new school uniforms, a week long holiday in close proximity to family members, minor but annoying credit card debt, having my messy lived-in house and hit-and-miss cooking judged by family, and fitting in a cumulative marathon (42.2km over the busiest month of the year).

So now I have my list. It feels better to just have all those negatives down on paper, and will feel even better once I address each and every one. I'm asking myself 'Why is this thing worrying me? Does that come from a place of fear? How can I neutralise it? Can I delay, tick off, or ask for help with each thing? Are there things I can say no to? Can I plan ahead or manage this thing so that it doesn't crop up again next Christmas?'

This is an experiment I'm in the throes of right now, so I don't have any hard and fast answers about what works. I can say though that just voicing my worries to the universe is a small weight off my shoulders.

2. Balance.

Spiritual housekeeping is another thing I am working through right now. I have laid out the core areas of my life where I am most active; things I need to function well as a human. Imagine a pie divided into segments - generally, for good mental, physical and emotional health, I like these segments to all be about the same size, so that I am giving each area an adequate amount of attention to stay neutral and in balance.

Lately I know my diet has been unbalanced - I got very tired, exhausted even, simply from trying to eat well all the time with so much contradictory activity going on around me. My family snacks a lot, I am the main grocery shopper so I am regularly bombarded with unhealthy options whenever I visit the store. Generally I'm good at managing this: I buy snacks for my family that I don't particularly like, and I try and stick to the outer edges of the supermarket where the fresh produce and essentials live. But I'm weak, like we all are at times. I got so tired of being good all the time. So freaking tired. Carrots. Again. I like carrots, but OMG I have been eating carrot sticks everyday for 22 months. I lapsed, ate a lot of chips over a period of 3 months, and consequently felt like crap.

Oddly enough, it was my contrary streak that pulled me out of that funk. Womankind Magazine (which I've been thoroughly enjoying of late) aired a week long sugar free challenge as one of their regular 'challenge yourself' tasks. Well. Didn't facebook explode in a cloud of feminism about that. So it was cancelled - readers thought it was 'restrictive', 'policing womens diets', 'judgement', 'a dogmatic food regime', and so on.

But I was already emotionally invested; I could handle a week without sugar, and it was suggested by a magazine whose writers and vision and values I respect. So I am doing it anyway.

It has been 4 days and motivation is still high, although I have been getting cravings particularly after dinner. I have decided not to indulge in dates and excessive fruit (from 4 pieces of fruit a day down to 1 or 2). I am tossing up whether the I Quit Sugar program is worth a shot, although I don't much care for their holier-than-thou dictatorial slant. Anyway, we shall see next Sunday how I feel being mostly sugar free.

The other areas of my life or parts of my pie are important too. If one is out of balance, the others fall like dominoes. So I regularly check in with myself - I scribble down that little pie chart to give me a visual of where I am out of balance.

3. Nature. 

Nature is the cure for all ills. Despite being hugely busy, I am trying to give extra attention and be fully present whenever I have a chance to be outside, whether it be a 5.30am run, picking ripe red tomatoes off our vine, or noticing which birds are visiting our yard today.

I had been excited to follow the progress of a pair of red whiskered bulbuls who had been nesting in our lilli pilli bushes, however a week of torrential rain and hailstorms in Sydney killed all three chicks.

I buried one in our garden in a scrap of cloth with a gemstone, like I always do when I find dead birds in our garden. This happens with alarming regularity, and all apparently die from natural causes.

Despite the sadness surrounding this, it serves to remind me of the impermanence of the universe. Nothing lasts forever, everything shall pass. The stress of Christmas included.

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