The holidays are a joyous time but they can also be a stressful time. Dealing with family, stressing over buying the perfect gift and a full schedule of holiday parties and events can leave us feeling overwhelmed during a time that should be happy.
However, there is a way to navigate the stress – mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When we are mindful, we carefully observe our thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad.
Mindfulness can also be a healthy way to identify and manage hidden emotions that may be causing problems in our personal and professional relationships. It means living in the moment and awakening to our current experience, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future.
It has many positive benefits, including lowering stress levels, reducing harmful ruminating, improving our overall health, and protecting against depression and anxiety. There is even research suggesting that mindfulness can help people cope better with rejection and social isolation.
A person’s experience of time tends to be subjective and is heavily influenced by their emotional state. Fears and insecurities about the past and the future can make it difficult to fully enjoy the present.
The key is learning how to pay attention and focus on the here and now. Mindfulness is a tool that allows people to be more aware of their physical and emotional conditions without getting bogged down in self-criticism and judgment. Mindfulness done well allows one to regain control over destructive feelings and even to capture positive memories that can be savored at a later date.
How to practice mindfulness during the holidays?
Be open and accepting to a range of emotions in yourself
The Holidays can bring up a whole host of different emotions—and not all of them happy or celebratory. For many, the holidays can be reminders of loss, grief, or loneliness. You might experience these difficult feelings, especially when loved ones are absent, so allow yourself to make space and acknowledge whatever emotions come up for you rather than try to get rid of them.
Make sure you’re taking care of yourself
Get regular sleep and exercise, and take time to do relaxing or fun things so that you can recharge. Taking care of yourself allows you to be able to be more attentive and calmer when you’re with others during the holidays
Know when to say no
During the holiday season our schedules often fill up quickly with work and personal holiday parties. Holiday obligations can be important but be sure to balance them with awareness of your own needs. Operating on obligations alone and trying to please everyone’s expectations can lead to resentment and burnout. These back-to-back events can start to feel overwhelming as we try to juggle them with all of our other commitments. You do NOT need to say yes to everything.
Get rid of expectations of perfection
This time of year can make you feel like you have to “get it right”. Everything has to look and feel perfect. Having this notion not only makes the holiday season feel less joyful, but we also set ourselves up to experience a lot of disappointment.
Practice mindful eating
During the holidays we tend to be bombarded with food and drinks. Its easy to fall off the wagon and indulge. This sets us up for feelings of guilt and self-deprecation. Moderation is key. Its fine to indulge a little, but make sure to be mindful in your choices.
Approach family stress with compassion
Conflict with family and friends during the holidays can lead to judgment and self-criticism. While there might actually be very real difficulties surrounding the interpersonal dynamics of our family, we sometimes get caught up in fuelling the fire, rather than abating it. So, while in the midst of the tumult of the holiday season, try to re-center by consciously being grateful for the multiple aspects of this season, and our loved ones, that we are blessed to engage with.
While the holidays can definitely be a stressful time, practicing mindfulness can make it not only possible to navigate the season, but to thrive. Thus allowing you to enjoy this time in a deeper and more profound way.