Much of the end of the year (and beginning of next year) is dedicated to holiday-related activities. And while this season can be full of love and cheer, it can also be a lot to handle. From being around many people to planning for travel and gifts, it’s often hard to stop and breathe.
During this time, it’s helpful to remember the power of mindfulness. Overwhelm and busyness, even the good kind, can cause anyone holiday stress and anxiety—and for some people, even depression. So here are some mindfulness techniques you can use to help ground you and keep you present going into the holiday season.
1. Choose Something to Be Grateful for Each Day
Gratitude practices are powerful mindfulness techniques; they can help you remember what matters most.
Each day during the holiday season, find something to be grateful for. It could be certain people in your life, the ability to travel, a roof over your head, a good meal, pretty holiday decorations, or anything else big or small.
Make a mindful effort to focus on things that are good, that you consider blessings in life.
2. Give Yourself Permission to Feel the Emotions
Cut yourself some slack for being human.
If you experience intense feelings or emotions during the holidays, stop and sit with them instead of fighting them. Say out loud or to yourself, “I am feeling _____, and that’s okay.”
Often, recognizing and naming the emotions we feel is the first step to feeling better.
3. Use Your Breath as an Anchor
If anything gets overwhelming, come back to your breath. Pause briefly and take just a few deep inhales and exhales from your belly:
- Stop and close your eyes.
- Inhale through your nose as you feel your belly expand.
- Pause for a moment at the top of the breath, then exhale forcefully through your mouth as you feel your belly contract.
- Repeat three times—or longer, if you wish. Try to focus just on your breath going in and out.
This is one of the best mindfulness techniques for activating your body’s relaxation response and stopping the “fight or flight” reaction anxiety or stress can trigger.
4. Take Time for Self-Care—Even Small Acts
Give yourself time to doing things that are just for you versus deliberately productive. It’s much easier to be mindful and present during the holidays if you feel good.
Small acts of self-care (that are also mindfulness techniques) could be:
- Sleeping in a little or going to bed earlier for a full night’s rest
- Connecting with your body through some movement, such as a walk or yoga poses
- Going for a drive and listening to music to clear your head
- Watching something that makes you laugh
- Sitting and breathing or meditating for a few minutes
- Doing absolutely nothing
Do little things for yourself that keep you feeling happy and healthy—even during busy times.
5. Use the Opportunity to Unplug More
If you take off work for the holidays, use the time as a nice break from being overly connected online—which is good for all of us.
Make a mindful effort to put your phone away, stop checking email, and put social media on the backburner. Try to focus on those physically in front of you, and only use your phone for making calls to those who can’t be there.
6. Slow Down When Shopping, Driving, Cooking, Etc.
It might seem like speeding through your to-do list will help you get done sooner, but it’s not doing your stress levels any favors. Here are some mindfulness techniques for different aspects of the season:
Mindful Shopping and Traveling
Slow your walking pace a little to notice what’s around you and pay attention to your breathing. Notice the lights, sounds, smells, and air around you. Even as you decide on gifts, try to be in this present moment.
Holidays are often spent with people you don’t talk to or see often the rest of the year. Use this as an opportunity for mindfulness techniques to be present with others.
See if you can observe and actively listen to what the other person is saying. Try to put yourself in their shoes, even if they seem snippy or in a bad mood (even it’s a moody store clerk, who may have been on her feet and overworked for hours this season).
Interact with an open and mindful heart.
With each bite, whether it’s a salad or a pumpkin pie, slow down and notice the tastes, textures, temperatures, and smells of what you’re eating. Set an intention to fully enjoy your food—and to notice when you’ve had enough or need more.
Also, put your phone away and just focus on those around you in between bites.
The Bottom Line
As you navigate these mindfulness techniques this holiday, remember this: all we have is this present moment, and it’s precious. Even when holidays are hard or overwhelming, stop and see how you can appreciate the beauty in each present moment while it’s here.
And from all of us at Michael’s Health, we wish you a healthy, happy, mindful holiday season this year!