The holidays are here and sometimes it feels that the time between November and January is a total whirlwind of preparing for parties, presents, and guests. With all the rushing around and social events, it’s easy to push down your feelings of stress, or cope with them in unhealthy ways. The healthy habits you’ve worked hard to develop all year can quickly be undone without second thought. By the time January comes, you’re left exhausted and overwhelmed, wishing you had taken the time to actually enjoy what was going on around you. If this sounds familiar, you might benefit from adding some mindfulness to the holidays. Mindfulness is simply the practice of being aware of where you are in the present moment. It’s noticing what’s going on around you and how you’re feeling mentally and physically. The act of being mindful allows you to slow down and check in with yourself, and if needed, respond to what your body is telling you. Below are some ways you might want to incorporate mindfulness into the holidays, or even in your daily life.
Set intentions for the season. Take some time to decide what the holidays mean to you and focus on that as they approach. For example, you may want quality time with family and friends to be your focus this season. If so, when heading to an event with that intention in mind, you can practice really connecting with the people there and not so much on tasting every passed dish, or making yourself so busy preparing or hosting an event that you ignore your guests. Defining how you want to spend the holidays or even just a specific event, will give you something to focus on and leave you feeling fulfilled when it’s over.
Stop to breathe. The frenzy of the holidays can make us feel frazzled, and frustrated. If you notice yourself feeling aggravated, or snapping at people, you are most likely feeling overwhelmed. Taking just five minutes for yourself to stop and breathe will help refocus your energy and reset your mind. Even if it’s in the parking lot of a busy store, or a few minutes in your room before you go downstairs to a house full of guests, focusing on your breathing will help center you. Breathe slowly, in through your nose and out through your mouth. When you exhale, focus on relaxing your body and imagine you’re breathing out your stress.
Listen to what your body is telling you. During busy times of the year, our normal routines get disrupted, which can leave us feeling out of sorts. It’s easy to push away what we’re feeling, telling ourselves that once this period is over we will get back to our regular routine. This holiday season, check in with your body and honor what it’s telling you. If you’re exhausted from a string of late nights, make time for a 20-minute nap. If you’re missing your exercise routine, even a shortened version of what you’re used to might make you feel better. Taking time for yourself will leave you better able to enjoy events and get back to your regular routine when things slow down.
Practice self-compassion. The holidays can be a challenging time for a lot of different reasons. Part of being mindful is noticing what’s going on around you and how you’re feeling about it, without attaching any judgement to what you discover. It’s ok to feel irritated, stressed, or sad. All your emotions are valid. If you catch yourself thinking negatively about your feelings or actions, write down three positive things about yourself and keep them somewhere you can easily access. The next time you’re caught in a cycle of negative self-talk, pull out the list and add to it.
Being mindful is a practice that is especially useful during the holidays, but can become a regular part of your wellness routine. These tips can be used anytime and anywhere, not just in times of stress. Slowing down this holiday, even if just for a few moments, can bring a sense clarity and gratefulness to the moment, allowing you to really capture the true meanings of the season.