The holidays are a busy time at best, for a lot of us they can be really stressful. There are plans to be made, family visits, purchases, organizing, and maybe parenting or political discussions sprinkled in there as well. Through busy-to-stressful times, it can be hard to be present, connected, and at peace.
Here are a few mindfulness practices that can help us stay focused on the good and even magical parts of the season instead of the busy-ness and tension:
Take a Deep Breath
Long breath in, even longer breath out. If you inhale for 4, exhale for 6. This is magic that engages our parasympathetic nervous system, that “rest and digest” part of our body that counteracts the “fight or flight” that we might fall into when we’re stressed. Take that deep breath and long exhale any time you start to feel overwhelmed, whether it’s looking at your To-do list, or at the store trying to pick out the perfect gift for that super-critical family member.
Savor the Good
Try and take a pause when you are having a good moment, no matter how small. If you’re driving and your favorite holiday song comes on the radio, or you witness a little act of kindness, or that super-critical family member says something actually nice to you for once, take it in. Let yourself feel and really enjoy those small good moments, rather than letting them flicker by. You are building your well of positive feelings, which you will need to dip into when times are harder.
Let it Go
When something negative or stressful does happen, channel Elsa and visualize yourself letting. it. go. Don’t let it stick to you and ruin your day. A visual like a little bird flying away or water rolling right off of us like Teflon can help us feel like we have some control over how we feel in response to hard things. We can let them affect us, or we can drop those weights and move on.
Approach with Curiosity
When you’re feeling anxious about a certain situation like a holiday get-together or family meal, think about how you can turn your anxiety about what you think will happen into something more productive – curiosity about the unknown. Go into the situation like an anthropologist trying to find out about other people and observing as if you were an outsider. Feeling a little bit removed from the tension can allow you to see things in a different light, and maybe let go of some of the stress you’re putting on yourself ahead of time.
Find ways to spend time with people that you care about and make it about just that – caring about each other. If there are people who are easy to be around, be around them more. Do some of the connecting that feels best to you, so you have some strength and support for the connecting that might be harder. Chances are, the other person needs this as much as you do!
Written by Jessie Everts, PhD, LMFT
Photo credit: pexels.com