“I never knew that being truly present was the best present I could give myself”
Lucie Ann Trickett, 33, artist:
"My career as a secondary school teacher meant the Christmas period was always stressful. The lead-up was crammed with school activities, assessments and deadlines, so the festive season was more overwhelming and exhausting than the rest of the school year. The pressure to make the most of the two weeks off always left me feeling disappointed, and more drained than before.
Last year was a particularly difficult Christmas. My mother had died in the April, leaving me heartbroken and numb. The thought of Christmas became unbearable, which led me to seek ways to find peace and solace over the holiday. I left my teaching job and attended various workshops and retreats through Psychologies, even taking part in the 12-week Artist’s Way course, which boosted my creativity tenfold. I began to reconnect with my passion for painting, something I hadn’t done since college. Art was always something that came naturally to me, yet the busyness of life led me to view creativity as an indulgence, not a necessity for my wellbeing.
My shift in perspective had a huge impact on how I experienced Christmas. It taught me to slow down, take notice and simply enjoy ‘being’ instead of ‘doing’ all the time. I started to take inspiration from the frosty mornings, crisp evergreens and bright berries that surrounded my home. Everything I could see, touch and feel became a stimulus. Finding those quiet moments in which I could switch off and paint helped me to balance the usual Christmas frenzy, which would have swept me away before.
Art became a way for me to relax and express my feelings. I struggled with meditation and other mindful activities because meditating while grieving can be painful. Painting was a wonderful alternative, helping me to be mindful in a focused and creative way. When I’m painting, I’m completely in the moment, physically and emotionally but within the safety of the creative process. Art has dramatically changed the way I experience the festive season, and the way I live my life.
I opened my own Etsy shop last year and I am excited to be working with interior designers and architects from across the UK to create bespoke artworks for clients. I never knew that being truly present was the best present I could give myself."
“We keep it minimalist and low key, and we don’t spend a fortune on presents”
Helene Jewell, 43, workshop facilitator
Growing up, we had traditional family Christmases, with a big meal and lots of presents. I enjoyed it when I was younger, but things got more complicated, especially after my parents split up when I was 20. As you get older, you’re aware of the politics involved, who you need to see, and all the work that goes into it. It’s not that simple any more. Between 1999 and 2004, I spent three Christmases in Nepal while working as a speech and language therapist – and they were the most amazing Christmases I’d ever had. Nepal was a Hindu kingdom then, so there was no sign of Christmas: no decorations, tinsel or cards.
My colleagues knew about Christmas, in the same way that I know about Diwali or Eid, but it wasn’t something they thought about. It made the festive experience so much nicer – more thoughtful and less materialistic. I’d get together with some Western friends and have a meal, but there was no pressure or expectations.
After I got back, I found the Christmas commercialism disgusting, so I had a few years of ‘minimal’ Christmases. That first year, I spent Christmas in Amsterdam with friends from my Nepal days, and I felt like such a rebel! In 2007, my daughter was born – on Christmas Day, funnily enough – and, once you have children, Christmas is a different experience. We’ve gone back to a traditional family Christmas, with birthday cake in the afternoon, but we keep it minimalist and low key, and we don’t spend a fortune on presents.
When you live in a developing country, you become aware of our greed and over-the-top approach to Christmas. I want my children to understand that you don’t have to spend masses to enjoy it; that it’s about being in the moment and enjoying the small things. I sometimes feel it’s a battle to fi ght the tide, then I remember the kids and try not to be so ‘bah humbug’ – although I do think if we didn’t have kids, I’d go and hide on top of a mountain somewhere!
See more at jewellfacilitation.com.
“I have four days to prepare for Christmas!”
Lucie Ellen Beeston, 34, Jewellery maker
The run-up to Christmas is crazy at work. The big shops start placing orders in September, and I also have to stock my shop, get items made and photographed and online by mid-October. Then, it’s pretty much solid work for two months with no time off. I work in a studio in my garden, and usually I’m in there at 9am but, as we approach Christmas, I start at 7am. I work until 7pm, have dinner, and then do more work.
Work finishes on the last posting day, around 21 December, so I have only four days to prepare for my own Christmas! A couple of years ago, I realised I wanted a better work-life balance. It’s difficult when you work for yourself, because you feel you have to work all the time – especially in this industry when a third or more of my income comes over the festive period. If it’s making you poorly or anxious, it isn’t good.
Now, I make sure I keep up with exercise and I ensure I eat well. I save nice tasks for the end of the day – like painting and varnishing jewellery, which I can do while listening to the radio, so I have a more chilled-out evening. I try and stop work an hour before I go to bed and do an activity such as embroidery or reading, so I’m properly wound down before I sleep.
I don’t have a specific mindfulness practice – I think, for me, it’s just about always having in the back of my mind the things that are truly important. Last year was my most successfully mindful Christmas yet. I got to the 21st and I didn’t feel burned out, but I felt like I’d done my best. That really helped me switch o and be able to enjoy my Christmas. This year, I’ve got the additional pressure of opening a physical shop, Venner, which is probably the most stressful thing I’ve ever done.
I simply have to keep reminding myself to stop sometimes and to look after myself properly because, while my work is important to me – and it really is – there’s no point killing yourself in the process.
See more at lucie0ellen.etsy.com.
Pictures: iStock and Rebecca Lupton