Helping you to get the most out of our region

Self-care at Christmas

26th November 2020

Sarah Chase suggests ways to keep on top of the stress this festive season

Christmas – everyone’s favourite time of year, right? After all, what’s not to like? Families gather, gifts are given and received, carols are sung, and we all have more to eat and drink than we can possibly digest. For those in charge of creating the fun, food and frivolity, however, it can be a different story: one where frantic hosts or working parents juggle work deadlines with the pressure of putting together the perfect few days for their loved ones.

With numbers for gatherings limited this year, it may help to view the enforced subduedness as an opportunity: the universe is offering you some time to pause and reflect. Here are some ways you can capitalise on this during the coming weeks.

Talking therapy

Personal psychotherapist and hypnotherapist Grace Marriner

A problem shared is a problem halved, and if you’re concerned by burdening friends and family with your troubles, perhaps some counselling sessions might be the answer. Grace Marriner is a qualified personal psychotherapist and hypnotherapist who believes that everyone, young and old, could benefit from some self-reflection in a safe, non-judgmental space.

‘We spend time and effort planning our Christmas presents and social life, and decorating our houses,’ she says, ‘but when do we spend time looking after ourselves?

‘I’m talking less about crazy workouts and shopping expeditions, and more about giving ourselves some time to stop and reflect on our lives at the busiest, most stressful time of the year.’

Changing behaviours may seem like a daunting prospect, but, often, it’s the minor alterations that make the biggest differences – and talking through those behaviours can be an invaluable starting point. Grace welcomes clients to her relaxed home office and offers Zoom or Whatsapp calls, too: she can be contacted on 07775 915892.

When looking for a personal psychotherapist or counsellor, always make sure they are an accredited member of the National Counselling Society; you can have an initial consultation to see if you like them.

Natural solutions

Getting outdoors has never seemed more important than it has this year. Our Country Parks are hoping to continue this positive trend with various initiatives aimed at bringing together like-minded people to enjoy the bounty of nature that surrounds us. 

Walking for Health offers free, weekly ranger-led walks around the beautiful Country Parks of East Northamptonshire, including Barnwell, Brixworth, Irchester and Fermyn Woods. Described as being ‘perfect for those just starting their fitness journey’, the walks can accommodate up to 30 walkers, with Covid safety guidelines adhered to at all times. 

The Natural Minds sessions at Barnwell and Brixworth Country Parks are specifically for adults and aim to offer some ‘active rest’ in a natural environment. The two-hour sessions consist of a ranger-led walk and seasonal craft activities such as bark rubbing, cutting herbs for a bath tea, and creating Hapa Zome pictures – the Japanese art of transferring leaf dyes to papers and fabrics.

‘These sessions have already proved really popular,’ says ranger Amber McNaughton. ‘They offer all the benefits of social contact along with fresh air and an appreciation for the changing seasons – there’s always something different to see along the routes.’

The parks are open and free to the public all year round, so if you can’t make it to a ranger-led session, wrap up and get outside regardless.

Visit for more details

Attend a class

Calm your body and mind with yoga or pilates. Addressing both physical and mental strength, these practices can be deeply relaxing whilst simultaneously promoting good health. Local practitioners can be found in all our towns and in many local villages, and, if physical proximity is out of the question due to Covid-19, or you’d prefer to avoid classes in person, look for teachers offering classes online. 

Visit for details of many different teachers, based on your postcode

Archway Health and Wellbeing in Market Harborough offers classes and services ranging from yoga and mindfulness to massage, acupuncture and chiropractic treatments, as well as counselling and psychotherapy, all provided by a team of skilled and experienced practitioners.

‘We understand how much our physical health can be affected by our mental health and happiness,’ explains practice manager, Alec Welton.

‘That’s why all of the practitioners here at Archway, whatever their area of expertise, take an holistic approach to the treatments they offer, meaning they always have your wellbeing, in its broadest sense, in mind.’

More information can be found at 

Mindful creativity

Colouring book by Kings Cliffe illustrator Katie Cardew

Simple, repetitive actions are known to slow and relax busy brains. Instead of turning on the television of an evening, why not put on some background music and try one of the following absorbing activities that require concentration and focus without stressing your mind: colouring books; jigsaws; knitting; bread-making; collage; and model-making.

Life coach Catherine Morgan offers her tips to help promote a more balanced festive experience:

• Firstly, consider what was best (and worst) about last year’s festive season? Rate your stress 1–10 by the end of it. Which elements do you want to keep? And which ones do you not want to repeat? Which emotions do you want to feel more? What can you change, throw away or introduce that would help you to honour these insights? Use this to guide your planning.

• Think about the jobs, tasks and activities that fill your days ahead. Do they feel more like ‘have to’ than ‘choose to’? Do they make you feel ‘light’ or ‘heavy’? Check the reasons you give yourself for doing each item very honestly and pay attention to the reasoning you give. Is it a stubbornly held belief you adopted years ago that just feels really uncomfortable to challenge? Is it in direct conflict with what will truly benefit you? Does that change your list?

• What do you want and need from others? Discuss your boundaries, so that people around you know about them and can help make them real. Don’t make people guess – it’s your responsibility to communicate clearly, but avoid setting ‘rules’ for other people. Rules are not the same as healthy boundaries.

• Work your gratitude muscle each day. With a list, journal or ‘jar’, it will build on what’s good in your life. Consider each day what you are grateful for and why.

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