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December 18, 2023

Mindfulness Practices for a Stress-Free Holiday

By Jordan Rome

Are you excited for the hustle and bustle of the holiday season? As the holidays approach, there’s so much to do to feel prepared. The never-ending lists, packing, planning, bookings, socializing with family and friends, and revisiting familiar but distant places can be overwhelming. However, during this time, getting swept away is almost inevitable. Hence, it’s crucial to maintain balance and navigate it all with grace, gratitude, and a sense of groundedness. This is where mindfulness practices can be extremely helpful. They assist us in staying connected and present during this busy season, allowing us to fully appreciate and maximize the value of this precious time of the year. Here are some mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your holiday routine to cultivate a sense of calm and joy.

Mindful Breathing

Focus on your breath for a few moments each day. Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths, paying attention to the sensation of the breath entering and leaving your body. This simple practice can bring you back to the present moment and reduce stress.

It’s important to acknowledge our limitations, especially during the holidays. Realistically, we may not always have enough time to set aside significant amounts of alone time for practicing mindful breathing. Therefore, it is equally beneficial to incorporate conscious breathing into our daily activities, even briefly. Remember, you can always take a moment to take a deep breath! Whether you’re in between emails, preparing snacks for your kids, or on your way to run errands, your breath is always with you. Being aware of this simple fact can be transformative. Knowing that we have this internal support system to anchor us throughout our day is powerful. So, inhale deeply through your nose, feeling the air fill your nostrils. Then, exhale loudly, releasing any tension. Repeat this as often as you like. At first, this practice may feel insignificant. Still, it profoundly stabilizes our nervous systems and brings us back to the present moment with a clearer mind.

Gratitude Practice

Take a few minutes each day to reflect on what you’re grateful for. Write them down in a gratitude journal or simply say them out loud. This practice can help shift your focus from stress to appreciation.

The holiday season is a truly magical and joyous time for connecting with others and enjoying warm social gatherings. It’s a time filled with love, laughter, and cherished memories. It presents us with the perfect opportunity to express deep gratitude and appreciate the multitude of positive moments we are fortunate to experience. This heartfelt acknowledgment allows us to be deeply thankful for the present. It helps us stay firmly rooted in the present moment, fostering a sense of mindfulness and contentment.

Moreover, it strengthens our connections with others, deepening the bonds of love and friendship that bring us together. So, let’s not hesitate or hold back from vocalizing our love and gratitude. There are countless ways we can express our heartfelt appreciation during this special time – whether it’s expressing gratitude for being graciously hosted at a gathering, rejoicing in the company of our beloved family and friends, savoring the delectable food shared with us, or expressing sincere appreciation for someone’s dedicated effort in preparing a delightful dish. By actively and openly expressing our gratitude, we bring joy to those around us and continue cultivating and nurturing the seeds of gratitude we plant in our daily lives.

Mindful Eating

The holidays are often associated with indulgent meals and treats. Instead of mindlessly consuming food, try practicing mindful eating. Pay attention to the flavors, textures, and smells of your food. Chew slowly and savor each bite. This can not only enhance your enjoyment of the food but also help you make more aligned and balanced choices.

There are a lot of emotions that can sometimes be uncomfortable that arise during the holidays, and food can be a coping mechanism for many of us when dealing with difficult emotions. That being said, extend yourself compassion and be gentle with yourself. The beauty of food is that it is comforting and pleasurable, and we should definitely enjoy that without guilt or shame. We can amplify our pleasure by inviting our presence and senses into the experience of eating. This is when we can incorporate the previous two practices, mindful breathing and gratitude. Taking a deep breath before eating a meal helps to relieve stress in your gut and improve digestion. In addition, taking deep breaths as you’re consuming will also allow you to slow down the experience and be more in tune with your body’s cues, signaling when you’re full.

Setting Boundaries

The holiday season can be full of social obligations and demands. It’s important to set boundaries and prioritize self-care. Learn to say no to activities or events that don’t align with your values or may overwhelm you. Taking time for yourself and honoring your needs is crucial for a stress-free holiday.

Establishing and communicating boundaries effectively is vital to maintaining peace and balance during the holiday season. By clearly expressing your needs and limits, you can ensure you have enough time and energy to take care of yourself and enjoy the festive season. Remember that it is okay to prioritize your well-being and decline activities or events that may cause unnecessary stress or exhaustion. By prioritizing self-care, you will feel less obligated to meet the needs of others. You can fully embrace the joy and relaxation that the holiday season brings.

Staying organized and keeping track of your tasks and priorities is also helpful. Prioritize your to-do list based on your capacity and availability, and tackle the most demanding tasks first. It is important to establish boundaries at work to avoid miscommunication or unmet expectations. Being aware of your schedule will help you set the necessary limitations. This preparation can also be useful when dealing with groups of people or family members with whom you have a strained relationship. It allows you to make an informed decision about whether or not to accept certain invitations.

Digital Detox

Taking a break from screens and digital devices during the holiday season can reduce distractions, improve mental well-being, increase productivity, and enhance connections with loved ones.

The holiday season is an opportunity to embrace simplicity and enjoy the beauty of the present moment. Constantly being connected to our devices can distract us from fully enjoying the present moment and connecting with our loved ones. By taking a break from screens, we can focus on the people and activities around us, enhancing our relationships and creating more meaningful memories. Get creative with how you create memories. Last holiday season, my family and I had a Christmas storytelling competition, a playful way to exercise our imagination and do something a bit different. Maybe you can learn a new recipe or perfect an old one, have a game night, or start a new family tradition. The options are endless if you’re open to it! When you intend to take time away from your phone, you’ll be amazed at how much space opens up.

Mindful Movement

Engaging in mindful movement practices can help you connect with your body and release tension. Finding time to move your body mindfully and paying attention to the sensations can help reduce stress and promote relaxation.

One of my favorite mindfulness practices is walking. It’s a low-stakes movement practice that I can commit to that always brings me back to myself. I feel satisfied in the knowingness that in a simple stroll, I’m able to slow down, connect to my breath, be outside in the fresh air, have time away from my phone, and just be in a space of gratitude for all my body has granted me to do. This, for me, is self-care, self-maintenance, and self-love, so I’m dedicated to giving this gift to myself regardless of where I am. This type of value for yourself and your well-being makes it easy to implement boundaries because it’s something you find worthy of protecting and that’s not to be jeopardized. Of course, there are so many other forms of movement, so find what works for you and take steps towards engaging at your own pace!

Remember, the holiday season is about spending quality time with loved ones, reconnecting to your values and what’s important to you, and taking care of yourself. Ideally, these suggestions can be gently incorporated into your seasonal routine and built upon to support you in your healing year-round. Take what resonates, and leave the rest.

Wishing you a stress-free and meaningful holiday experience! Happy Holidays!

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