by Amanda Etkind
The holidays have officially begun. From cozy movie nights to quality time with loved ones (whether virtually or close-knit and in-person) to seasonal sweet treats, there are ample reasons to celebrate. But more often than not, this time of year—that is considered the most wonderful—ends up being one of THE most stressful. If you’re feeling extra stressed right now (don’t worry, us too) and need a way to zen out, we recommend trying mindfulness practices. According to Neda Gould ,Ph. D., at Johns Hopkins, “Mindfulness is bringing your attention to the present moment with an element of non judgment and acceptance. It is noticing when we get caught up in thoughts about the past or the future, and returning our attention to the present—the only reality.”
Basically, try not to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season, and take the time to focus on the present. To help you get through this oh-so busy time of year, we’ve gathered our best de-stressing mindfulness practices so you can actually enjoy the holidays.
Tip #1: Focus On What Really Matters
Between work being extra busy, long lines at the grocery, and just the overall feeling of urgency, it can be hard to take a second to appreciate what’s important. When times get stressful, rather than letting the stress overtake you, take a moment to ask yourself where this moment of frustration lies in your overall life. Remind yourself that this is a moment of temporary chaos—don’t let it put a damper on your entire day. Shift the focus towards gratitude and the good that is happening in your life instead of allowing the negative thoughts and energy to consume you. What is one good thing that happened to you today? What are the top five things that you most appreciate about your life as it stands? It’s certainly a more pleasant way to distract yourself from the insane, wrap-around-the-store line at Trader Joe’s, and helps shift your mind into a calmer, more positive state.
Tip #2: Just Breathe
Trust us, we understand how maddening it can be to get that email from your boss asking for your year-end report at 5 PM minutes before you’re clocking out for the holidays. But before you spiral, it’s important to take a second to breathe. Megan Jones Bell, PsyD, Headspace's chief science officer told The Thirty, "Focusing on our breath can have a profound effect on our state of mind. Try taking five deep breaths whenever you are feeling stressed or anxious.” Another method of breathing we find helpful is the 16-second method. To start, breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold it for four seconds, then exhale out for four seconds, and hold for another for seconds. After you’ve completed this exercise, you’ll feel a sense of calmness—similarly to that post-massage blissful feeling before you go back out into the real world.
Tip #3: Take A Moment of “Me-Time”
The holidays are all about giving—yourself included. While you may be so focused on how you can help those around, it’s important not to forget to take care of yourself too. Suze Yalof Schwartz, CEO and founder of Unplug Meditation also told The Thirty, "Don't take a moment for yourself—steal a moment for yourself," she suggests. "Self-care is not selfish because when you feel good, it's not just you you're affecting; it's every person you come in contact with." Plus, what you do is entirely up to you. It could mean taking a walk, baking cookies, watching a movie, reading a book—just remember you do you.
Tip #4: Incorporate Movement
Like we previously mentioned, the holidays are busy. Your typical healthy habits can take a back burner during this time, but don’t let it. Movement is just as much physical as it is mental, meaning it can help with feelings of anxiety, stress, and exhaustion, irritability for the short and long term. That’s why it’s so important to do some sort of physical activity you love—whether it’s dancing, walking, yoga, boxing, etc. In addition to taking the edge off those stressful feelings, movement allows you to physically remove yourself from whatever situation is at hand and do something entirely for yourself. Do a form of movement that brings you joy. As the great Elle Woods once stated, “Exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy.”
Now that you have a few mindfulness tips and techniques to carry you through this holiday season, it’s important to keep in mind that the main thing is to go easy on yourself and to let yourself enjoy this spirited season ahead.