How to build your mental fitness for the festive countdown

A woman practices yoga at Christmas, mental health, fitness, festive season

Article provided by Kate Hesk, Co-founder and CPO, Cognomie

Are you feeling it yet? That familiar creep of end-of-term to-dos, panic filled Amazon baskets and an over-commited social diary?

Mix this in with shifting hybrid working policies, scaled back Christmas parties (the one year you were actually looking forward to it) and project deadlines. Add a sprinkle in pandemic fatigue and a side of more Covid uncertainty,  and you have Christmas 2021.

It feels like a lot right now. Our brains – and nervous systems – are in overdrive.

But, by introducing a few simple self-coaching practices in these coming full weeks, your can build the Mental Fitness needed to help you navigate this crunch-y time. Not only will this help you feel more connected and intentional. You’ll create a Christmas you want.

It all starts with pausing 

When you press the pause button on a machine, it stops. But when you press the pause button on human beings, they start — start to reflect, rethink assumptions, and reimagine a better path. Mental Fitness is about making sure you’re carving out gentle pauses throughout the day – to check-in with yourself, recalibrate, re-align. A quick walk round the block, a few deep breaths at your desk, making yourself a lovely cup of coffee.

Breaking the day up with mindful pauses helps you move from one intentional action to another, rather than zooming through the day on autopilot. It brings an awareness and presence into this time too, which after all, is what this season is about.

Focus on noticing your thoughts

Again this is about bringing awareness into your day and a key strategy towards mental wellbeing. The mix of end of year exhaustion, work pressures and the new wave of Covid uncertainty can be overwhelming, and you’re not alone if the emotional turmoil has started to affect you.

Focus on your thoughts before they run away. Catch the “What? No Christmas cards yet?” or the “That project should have been wrapped up yesterday” spirals, rather than chasing them.

This awareness creates space and perspective, that can put you back in control. It helps you re-write the narrative and be gentler with yourself. Ask for an extension on your project to give it the time it deserves and you the opportunity to deliver your best. Engaging with a thinking partner, like a professionally qualified transformational coach, will help you regain perspective and plan a way forward to stay in control.

Create your own December mantra

I’ll admit, I love creating monthly mantras at any time of year, but I find this serves me and my coaching clients exceptionally well at Christmas. It’s always a time of heightened responsibility and obligation – particularly, for women. So it becomes all too easy to let positive habits slip, only for us to beat ourselves up the rest of the time.

Developing your own mantra is a powerful way to build in routine and discipline.

Start with: In December I will….

So, for example:

In December I will prioritise myself.

In December I will give myself to permission to pause, to breathe, to step away and choose how to respond.

In December I will only say yes to things that feel good.

This can also boost your pause practice (see point 1). This mantra should feel empowering and meaningful. It says, “This is who I am and this is what I’m about.”

Stick it on your desktop, pop it in your phone notes, reconnecting with it frequently so it becomes your north star.

And if you’re struggling to define a mantra, a coach or thinking partner will be able to help you create the clarity you need to explore these to open new possibilities for you.

Know your non-negotiables

Sometimes it feels that the term “self-care” gets overused. Especially at this time of year when a trip around the supermarket counts as “me time.” But simply taking time for oneself, is a brilliant way to maintain mental fitness.

This comes down to knowing yourself. What are the daily practices that keep you replenished and resilient? They’re often very simple things you can weave into your routine – your favourite YouTube yoga, drinking 2 litres of water, reading an inspirational passage before you start your workday. Understand what your non-negotiables and commit to honouring these throughout the day.

You don’t have to make these all happen before 7am – just commit to honouring these throughout the day. Perhaps create a mini checklist on Google docs of your 3-5 non-negotiables. Set yourself the challenge of a 5-day streak. See how you feel at the end of it.

Get clear on your boundaries

Becoming conscious of how you manage your boundaries – with yourself and others- is a key step towards mental fitness. In my experience, leaky boundaries can be a significant contributor to festive stress.

With the complexity of uncertainty adding a whole layer of confusion and stress to the season, being crystal clear on your boundaries is an essential survival tool.

Give yourself permission to say no when you need to.

Again, this comes back to knowing yourself. Say no to the new project that runs past your last day in the office. Say no to organising the team lunch. Say no to organising the teacher’s collection. Use conscious communication to be clear on your own boundaries and say no with kindness. Let this free up time for things that matter most to you.

These tips aren’t about creating a whole new to-do list – they’re practical, fast, self-coaching practices we can all access daily. In micro-moments of self-care. Again, a coach would help you find space to become more aware of, and to take responsibility and choose to take action around. You owe it to yourself to give yourself permission. By putting self-awareness at the heart of your practices, you can regain a sense of control and calm to support you through, what I hope, is a wonderful holiday season for you.

Kate HeskAbout the author

Kate is co-founder and CPO at Mental Fitness HRtech startup Cognomie, where she leads a 100+ Global Coaching Community. Formerly a senior healthcare executive, Kate has also led and grown a number of leadership and coaching consultancies as well as a social enterprise. Kate believes that Mental Fitness is for everyone, whoever and wherever they are, a mission embodied by Cognomie.

About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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