7 Ways to Use Mindfulness to Reduce Holiday Stress

7 Ways to Use Mindfulness to Reduce Holiday Stress

Let’s face it, the holiday season is a stressful time. Too many activities, potential anxiety attacks and conflicts, falling into unhealthy habits…all of our weaknesses come to the forefront during this chaotic time of year. 

What can we do? Slow down, be present and be aware. Here are 7 ways to use mindfulness to reduce holiday stress:

  1. Set an Intention to Be Present
  2. This Moment is Perfect As Is
  3. Simplify, Say No, Set Boundaries
  4. Identify Triggers and Solutions
  5. Have Self-Care Plan in Place
  6. Breathing Spaces 
  7. Limit Phone & Electronic Use

Before we dive into these useful tips, let’s take a closer look at mindfulness and its benefits. 

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a state of being where you are present in the moment, aware of all your senses, without judgment. Imagine how wonderful it would be to be present and savor your special holiday moments instead of getting lost in regrets of the past or worries about the future.  

How to do this? It takes practice, power over your mind and an intention to be present without judgment. If you’d like more information on Mindfulness, take a look at Mindful.org

What are the Benefits of Mindfulness?

There are multiple science-based benefits to mindfulness. According to the American Psychological Association, benefits of mindfulness include “self-control, objectivity, affect tolerance, enhanced flexibility, equanimity, improved concentration and mental clarity, emotional intelligence and the ability to relate to others and one’s self with kindness, acceptance and compassion.”

Very Well Mind also includes reducing stress, decreasing depression, improving memory and strengthening relationships as potential benefits of mindfulness

7 Ways to Use Mindfulness to Reduce Holiday Stress 

 

Set an Intention to Be Present

How many times have you gotten to the end of a special event and not remembered anything? This happens to all of us because we aren’t present. Instead of focusing on the present moment, we let ourselves get carried away by our thoughts of the past and worries about the future. 

This holiday season, set an intention to be present. If you’re going to decorate the Christmas tree with your family, set an intention to let thoughts and distracting preoccupations aside (they’ll still be there later). Set an intention not only to be present, but to ENJOY. 

One way to do this is to focus on all the senses. Zero in on your child’s smile or actively listen to your father’s story. Savor the taste and smell of a special holiday treat. Really listen to a Christmas carol you’ve heard thousands of times. Ground yourself in the present with all your senses.

This Moment is Perfect As Is

A big part of mindfulness is letting go of judgment. What if you enjoyed a special holiday moment without judging? Without thinking that this moment would be perfect if …you had lost those 10 pounds, or if you weren’t single…or if only you had a cup of coffee and your favorite gingerbread cookies?

Stop. This moment is perfect, just as is. Be present in this moment. Stop regurgitating the past and stressing about the future, just for a few moments.  Everything is perfect, just as it is. 

This takes practice. Humans are programmed to worry and stress. Letting go and being present, and on top of that, enjoying the moment, is a tall order. Don’t expect it to happen overnight. It takes determination and practice. 

A smiling man and woman in a car with presents on top

Simplify, Say No, Set Boundaries

It happens every year.  Overplanning during the holiday season. This time, try to simplify your life by saying no and setting boundaries. Make a list of activities you truly enjoy, and give a firm “no” to those that create too much anxiety or push you past your limits. 

You can also delegate tasks. If your neighbors count on you for your holiday baking, cut the list down and ask for help. Ask partners, kids and friends to help bake, decorate or hang up lights. Think of a friend that doesn’t have any family in the area who might be sitting at home alone. She’d probably love to come over and help decorate cookies. 

Identify Triggers and Solutions

We all have our triggers that throw our peaceful mindset out the window. Bickering kids, an off-handed remark from a partner, or even a chronic pain we are dealing with can take a perfect holiday moment and turn it upside down. What to do?

First, identify your triggers. What, or who, irritates you or shuts you down? For example, if you’re going out holiday shopping with your family, what might go wrong? Okay, that might be a long list, but really, what are the deal breakers for you and your patience?

Next, brainstorm possible solutions to possible triggers, beforehand. Plan ahead, so you don’t get stuck in a bad situation. In the moment, taking deep breaths, counting to ten, or even spending a few moments by yourself in the bathroom to regroup might help take the situation down a notch. 

Getting “hangry”, low blood sugar or too tired also make it hard to concentrate on your activity and be kind to others. Make sure you take breaks and keep nourished and hydrated so that you can enjoy holiday activities. If you are too tired or not feeling good, postpone or take a raincheck. 

Have Self-Care Plan in Place

The best way to keep calm during the holidays is to keep your self-care practices in place. Your self-care practices are the activities you do each day, for you, to rejuvenate your energy. These could be meditation, a brisk walk, knitting or just sitting quietly while you sip a cup of tea. The activity depends on you, but it’s your personal time, without worries or distractions. 

If you would like to learn more on the benefits of self-care or need help putting a self-care plan in place, check out my blog post Affirmations for Self-Care: Your Ultimate Guide. 

A middle aged woman and her elderly mother toasting champagne by a christmas tree

Routine Breathing Spaces 

Take a time-out each day to stop and focus on your breath. Set some timers on your phone as reminders. Take a few minutes’ break from your busy day to close your eyes and focus on your breath. Let all thoughts go, and do nothing except breathe. 

If you’d like to use your breath as a tool for relaxation, try the 4-7-8 Breathing Method. Inhale through your nose for 4 counts, hold for 7, then exhale through your mouth for 8 counts. Repeat until you feel calm and ready to face the world again. 

You can also use this pause to check in with yourself. How are you feeling physically and emotionally? This isn’t a time to dive into fixing and analyzing, it’s just a brief moment to see how your day is going. Don’t judge. Just stop, breathe and move on with your day with a renewed sense of calmness. 

Limit Electronic/ Phone Use

There’s nothing that takes attention away from the present moment like electronics, particularly cell phones. You grab your camera to take a picture, and then you get lost in the black holes of messages and social media. 

What can you do? Be mindful. Put your phone on mute and keep it out of reach. The world will not come to an end if you don’t check your messages for an hour. If you need to reply to urgent texts or take a picture, do it mindfully and put your phone away. 

Be Present & ENJOY 

In conclusion, you CAN be present and ENJOY this holiday season. Don’t miss these special moments with family and friends by getting lost in your thoughts and worries. Set an intention to be present and stick to it. Those smiles, hugs and delicious meals that are savored mindfully with all your senses will stick in your memory as warm fuzzies forever!   

Mom tickling kids on bed by christmas tree

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