The hustle and bustle of December can be intense. I know I’m just trying to hold everything together long enough to make through the next week and a half of work, school, and holiday prep. Here’s some advice on how to slow it down and take care of yourself in these busy days ahead.
Whether the stress is good or bad the holidays are busy. We plan, shop, bake, entertain and spend lots of time with loved ones. I don’t know about you, but I always get excited about the idea of Christmas. Once the season is upon us, I’m a big ball of stress. What happened to the singing, laughing, and mistletoe of our expectations? Where is the magic? We don’t find the magic because we are too busy.
Being in the here and now
Don’t buy presents, be present! But how? Being in the here and now is the driving point behind the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness and the holiday season go hand in hand. Mindfulness is beneficial all year round; the holiday season makes the perfect introduction. Mindfulness encompasses the good we think about when it comes to the holidays. Being present, being kind to yourself, not passing judgement, and being purposefully aware.
It’s no secret that the holiday season can be hard for people mentally. On top of general holiday stress people also struggle with illnesses such as Seasonal Affective Disorder. This season can also be particularly tough on those who have recently lost loved ones. Therapists use mindfulness to help with their client’s mental health. Everyone is capable of practicing mindfulness. Daily stressors and the disconnect with this way of thinking in our upbringing makes this practice unnatural to us. This is the way our society works; how we grew up and learned to live and cope with life.
How do we use mindfulness to get through the holidays?
Mindfulness is putting pause amid ourselves and reactions. Stop and smell the egg nog. Here are some ways you can introduce yourself to mindfulness during this season:
Meditation. Using meditation to explore your mind and senses allows you to explore yourself. I know meditation doesn’t sound like everyone’s cup of cocoa but the goal isn’t to have your mind completely blank. The goal is to be aware. To keep bringing yourself back to the present moment no matter where your mind leads you. To allow your mind to do as it will with awareness rather than judgement. I suggest guided meditations for this. You might not feel like you are “good” at this at first. That is why it is a practice, keep at it, it becomes easier. There are many free resources for this online. There are lots of options. So, you will be able to find what works for you.
Take time daily. Mindfulness is by no means traditionally associated with the holiday season. Yet it is a wonderful practice that people use throughout their life. Take 10 minutes a day to practice. For example, do a meditation or take time to be aware of the thoughts you are having. Those 10 minutes a day can become your “you time”. No need to hesitate in getting a jump start on your new year resolution for personal positive change.
No judgement. You’re going to think what you’re going to think. Let thoughts come in to your mind. During both meditation and in your daily life. Let them come in without judgement. Acknowledge them and set them aside. Take this a step further during the holidays by extending this to the people around you as well.
Breathe. Breathing exercises are an effective way to relieve stress and calm yourself. This is also an excellent way to bring awareness to your physical body; all a part of being in the present moment. As someone who has an anxiety disorder, I find this particularly helpful. Try it out. When you feel yourself needing to step back close your eyes. Take a deep breath through your nose, feel it travel down, and breathe out through your mouth. Repeat three times or for as long as you feel you need.
Letting go. Remember that no judgement thing? Letting go goes hand in hand with it. You think your thoughts and then you let them go. This is helpful in meditation as well. When you feel your mind wander, which is natural and will happen, acknowledge the thought without judgement and set it free. Bringing yourself back to the present moment.
We don’t always need to be rushing to the next thing. It is important to care for ourselves. It is important to live and truly experience our lives. We cannot do this without taking pause, without being aware of self. This is easier said than done by all accounts. The concept is simple but the execution is difficult. That’s why mindfulness is a practice. You will never be perfect at it, it is about the journey.
This season I invite you to use mindfulness practices to help you through. You may have a million things on your to do list, way too many things to buy, and your family may drive you nuts, but it is a magical time of year. You just have to let it be. Take the time to enjoy your family. Experience the magic the season has to offer through doing something good for yourself.
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.