The magic of the holidays is upon us and behold, it can careen toward madness or mindfulness.
Some call it the holiday bustle. Others call it pandemonium. When you’re in the throes of planning a meaningful season brimming with decorations, dinners, guest lists, travel, and gift wrapping its overwhelming. Mindfulness can easily fall by the wayside. And if you have additional stressors in life, such as illness, financial hardship, or family conflict, it can feel unbearable.
So, how can you practice mindfulness and pull the emergency brake on that runaway holiday train?
Because let’s face it, if you don’t, there could be a pile-up on the tracks. If you do, there could be smooth sailing with peace, love, and goodwill abounding.
Start by taking care of yourself in order to take care of others. Try these simple steps to regain a sense of control and empowerment when you need it most:
- Start by Stopping – The art of not-doing is invaluable. Choose a few minutes each day to stop, sit, and breathe. This helps your body complete the stress cycle. Emily Nagoski, PhD and Amelia Nagoski, DMA deconstruct stress and the central nervous system in their book, Burnout, The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle. To further a sense of empowerment, reflect on what is going right and what you are excited about.
2. Delegate Tasks – Share how you feel and ask your partner or family members to complete items on your checklist. By participating this way, they may feel increased ownership in the flow and outcome of festivities, and you may feel relief.
3. Do 10 Minutes of Soft Belly Breathing – In James S. Gordon, MD’s book, The Transformation, Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma, he describes the effect of taking long mindful breaths while saying the word, “soft” on the in-breath and, “belly” on the out-breath. Notice your belly, pelvis, and buttocks relaxing. Make the exhale twice as long as the inhale. This simple act calms the emotional brain and activates mindfulness, self-awareness, and compassion.
4. Honor What Matters Most to YOU – Clarify what you cherish intrinsically versus external pressures. There is an important balance to strike. Notice what gives you meaning and purpose. Accept what you cannot change. Take meaningful action. Steven C. Hayes, PhD describes this process in his therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
Reconnect with Your Body
5. Take Time Out for Exercise/Stretching -This will get you out of your head and into your body. It’s grounding and centering. Go for a walk outside. Do simple yoga stretches, or hit the gym. 15 – 30 minutes of focus on physical movement is a game changer.
6. Hydrate – Often, when you feel foggy or sluggish, you’re dehydrated. Being busy and overwhelmed can lend itself to forgetting to drink water. So, plan to drink 8 cups of water per day for maximum productivity and energy.
7. Rest – In Matthew Walker, PhD’s book, Why We Sleep, Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, he explains why most adults need 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. During REM sleep, the brain stores information and detoxifies itself for optimal functioning in the waking hours. To boot, all your organs, cells, and hormones work on repairing themselves, too.
It’s counterintuitive but when you pause, you create an emotional boundary that gives your brain a chance to catch up, and space to regroup. So, use mindfulness to check-in with yourself. Mindfully breathe. Confirm your values. Prioritize your time. Set boundaries with people, including yourself. Ask for help. Move your body. Feel empowered!
The tendency to plow through the hectic times at full throttle is self defeating. While it has its merits, it can leave you feeling exhausted, depleted, and under-appreciated in the end.