The holidays can be incredibly busy, and sometimes just thinking about them starts to make us feel stressed. There’s planning, purchasing, preparing, maybe traveling and hosting, and navigating relationships and expectations. All of this, of course, is on top of our usual responsibilities as parents and family members.
In times like this, when we know we need to stay energized and avoid getting overwhelmed, we can try to include moments of mindfulness into our days. The beauty of mindfulness is that it can be beneficial even in small doses, and it doesn’t require that we drive somewhere and sit in silence for 10 days. Mindfulness really means slowing down, being aware of what is happening in the moment, and paying attention to our thoughts and reactions without judgment. Mindfulness is something we can practice in many different situations, even when we are walking or eating…or in the bathroom! Research shows us that integrating mindfulness can benefit our physical and emotional health, our productivity, and the way we approach others in relationships.
The whole point of the holidays is to get to spend quality time with family and friends. How do we keep that intention while avoiding the stress of trying to get everything done?
Below are a few simple strategies for integrating moments of mindfulness into our days:
Slow down. Getting ready for a gathering or travel can feel like a scattered race. In these times I find myself losing things, sticking the milk in the cupboard by mistake, and generally feeling overly activated. Sometimes just repeating the words “slow down,” and encouraging our bodies to follow (e.g., taking slower steps around the house and cutting back on multitasking) is helpful. Other times we might need to cue ourselves to “stop and take 3 slow, focused breaths” before moving to the next task. There is a lot to get done in a short amount of time, but the cost on our bodies and emotions of anxiously running around usually isn’t worth it.
Find a moment to take a break…alone. One of the benefits of being in a larger group for the holidays is that someone might be able to watch your kids for a second if you need to take a break. Maybe your break will come while you are showering and getting ready, or maybe all you can do is sneak away to the restroom. While you’re alone, use that moment to take some cleansing breaths and note how you are feeling. If you find yourself stressed or anxious, remind yourself that it is just a moment, and it will pass. If you find yourself joyful, note that and try to take a mental picture of what is happening so you can savor the positive emotions.
Observe and enjoy for a minute. While everyone is gathered around the table or talking in the living room, sit back and (surreptitiously) be the observer. What is happening right now? Notice some of the good things happening around you (e.g., your kids are engaged in an activity with a family member, everyone is enjoying their food), and take a second to just revel in this moment. Acknowledge how nice it is to have this moment; sometimes the simplest observations of gratitude are the most powerful.
What are your mindfulness strategies for the holidays?