Christmas time invites the most festive and lively of all the seasons, full of family, amazing food and beautiful decorations... but the reality is a fast-paced December can also be an extremely stressful time. Our already busy schedules are then overrun with holiday duties. Battling through crowds of equally exhausted shoppers, buying presents for numerous people and filling the fridge to bursting before relatives and friends arrive to celebrate.
This can be very time consuming and more often than not the little things we do that perk up our days (making ourselves a delicious breakfast, going to the gym or that class, getting our nails done, baking peanut-butter brownies…) get put on hold- our me time is sacrificed. We force the actions that make us happy to take a back seat.
"When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things—not the great occasions—give off the greatest glow of happiness." Bob Hope
All the while we are putting in this extra effort and exhausting ourselves for our friends and loved ones and they are the people who deal with the brunt of our overwhelmed and short-tempered nature- causing more strain and even more stress! Taking time for ourselves is in not only good for us but for everyone around us, too. But what effect does this deprivation have on our mental, emotional and physical health if we do not take this time for ourselves?
Well, cutting back on personal time and trying to fit more into our schedule can actually be counter-productive. Just because you are busy does not always mean you are using your time productively and you could potentially be adding more stress to your life by restricting yourself from fun! Stress not only gives us physiological symptoms such as headaches and poor sleep- which are hindrances to our daily life and slow us down anyway- but has an effect on us mentally causing us to have difficulty when concentrating, difficulty making decisions and to constantly worry- something both mentally and physically exhausting.
‘Intelligence is creativity having fun' Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein famously quoted ‘Intelligence is creativity having fun.’ Knowledgeably put. Our brains need creativity to thrive. Getting in touch with your creative side (journaling, drawing, doodling, writing poetry, painting, designing, creating recipes- the list really is endless) awakens your brain, whilst simultaneously helping you to be more mindful.
Colouring, for example, is a meditative and easy means to express oneself and de-stress along the way. The activity not only provides a low-stress way to unlock your creative potential, it also unlocks memories of simpler, childhood times when the biggest cause of anxiety was trying to get out of eating your greens at dinner time!
Psychologist Antoni Martínez explained to the Huffington Post. "I recommend it as a relaxation technique… We can use it to enter into a more creative, freer state. I recommend it in a quiet environment, even with chill music. Let the color and the lines flow." In the past 20 years, there has been a growing recognition that spending some time in meditation and contemplation activities is a valuable part of people's lives. It can help to reduce stress both by calming people in the moment and helping to break the cycle of repetitive thoughts that often maintain anxiety.
Creative activities can also boost your self-confidence, consequently improving self-esteem. It can even help with losing weight! People often eat out of boredom when they are inactive. Taking up a new creative hobby can help reduce calorie intake by keeping your hands and mind busy!
That’s not all… CNN reports that taking part in creative endeavors protects neuron growth by promoting the production of new neurons – which delays dementia. Meaning, getting creative is not just about relieving stress and being mindful. But functions further deep within our brains to battle against diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Solitude is creativity's best friend, and solitude is refreshment for our souls. Naomi Jude
If you are struggling to think of ways to find time for yourself, here are a few to get you started: schedule a bubble bath every Wednesday evening, get up thirty minutes before everyone else in the house, make yourself a cup of tea and read that book that you’ve always wanted to read, book a dance or cooking class months in advance so it’s locked away in your diary (also something to look forward to!), on the commute home from work instead of scrolling through social media on your phone- do some journaling or doodling!
If it’s been a while since you tried something creative I hope you pick up those pencils, cookbooks, coffee brewing gadgets, or watercolours and get to work. Your brain will thank you for it.