Updated: Dec 14, 2021
"Some of the secret joys of living are not found by rushing from point A to point B, but by inventing some imaginary letters along the way." - Douglas Pagels.
The holidays are right around the corner! And that means many of us will begin losing our minds, patience, and good cheer. Well, can you blame us? The holidays are one of the most stressful times of the year as it comes with a dizzying array of demands — cooking meals, shopping, baking, cleaning, and entertaining, to name just a few.
If you tend to get a little stressed over the holidays, try these simple, mindful-based practices that will help keep you in a healthy state of mind.
One major cause of holiday stress is the feeling that you're not in control. You can fix this by planning.
Create a budget for gifts, plan a day or two for shopping, and get a head start on any meal planning and prep as well. Being proactive can make the entire season more enjoyable.
Nothing and no one is perfect. No matter how hard you try to have "the perfect holidays," it's simply not going to happen. Accept imperfections, embrace reality, and focus on what really counts.
When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle, ask yourself:
Where does this fit in the grand scheme of things? If you're frustrated by the long grocery line you're standing in, remember that it is just a long grocery line — nothing more. Don't let it spoil there's of your day.
Can I use this moment of frustration as an opportunity to reflect? While the cashier rings up the customers ahead of you, take inventory of the good things that have happened today or the things you are grateful for.
Even if this moment seems stressful, can I find a way to make it pleasant? Connect with someone else in line with a compliment or kind gesture, or notice what's around you with fresh eyes and an open mind.
Most of the people you encounter throughout your day may also be dealing with stressors of their own. And some may be experiencing sadness, anxiety, or depression around the holidays because of loss and other trauma. Since you can't know what's in other people's hearts and minds, and you can't control others' actions, focus on managing your own and show kindness. You'll be surprised how you can completely touch another's heart and change their attitude with just a smile or thoughtful act.
Maintaining healthy habits and self-care during the holiday season will be one of your best defenses against stress. Make time to get good sleep, include healthy foods and snacks in your diet, drink plenty of water, and limit alcohol and caffeine. Also, regular exercise has long been known to decrease stress, so try to keep up with your exercise program if you have one. If not, this would be an excellent time to begin, starting out slowly with walking or yoga and focusing on keeping a consistent practice.
Respect your boundaries
There may be many demands on your time during this time of the year. It will be helpful to be clear with yourself and with others about what you are willing to do and what you are not. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Before you do your gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Beware of taking on more than you are comfortable doing, whether it's socializing, taking care of others, or anything else.
If you're feeling stressed during the holidays, it also may help to talk to a friend or family member about your concerns. Try reaching out with a text, a call, or a video chat. Volunteering your time or doing something to help others also is an excellent way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
Sometimes stress can exceed what we can manage, even with the support of family and friends. In times like these, reach out to your healthcare provider or mental health professional.
Set your intention to enjoy the holidays as much as you can
When you make the conscious decision to open yourself to true well-being and happiness, you'll be more likely not to miss those uplifting moments and even begin to have your radar out for them. Dr. Dan Siegel, a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA, asserts that we "prime" our brain to be ready for positive experiences when we consciously set our intention...
Try to take a few minutes to think about the overarching intention you want to set this holiday season. Maybe it's" "Go with the flow," Or" "Be positive," Or" "Kindness first" When you've chosen your intention, say it out loud to see how it feels. Then say it out loud again. Say it out loud a lot, like first thing in the morning, while you're waiting to get your morning coffee and just before you lie down for sleep. Saying it out loud helps you stay focused on your positive approach, even when minor irritations and distractions pop up.
Finally, remember that joy and happiness are contagious. Research shows that happiness can spread like a virus across three degrees of separation; if you're happy, you increase the odds that your friends, significant other and family will be happy, too. So the more you can tap into your own happiness, the more you help others get in touch with their own well-being. Happy Holidays!