Approaching the Holidays
Many people face the holiday season with a sense of impending doom, because they know it usually means heightened stress and anxiety. The amped-up workload (shopping, decorating, gift wrapping, meal preparation, finding a tree, writing and mailing cards, etc.) and concerns over increased spending--on top of responsibilities of “making nice” with family members you see infrequently and trying to prevent family disputes and clashes--can mark that celebrative period with serious tension … or make your life a living hell.
A recent article in Psychology Today offers a few recommendations that can help decrease feelings of stress over the holiday season and increase sense of joy. The main ingredient to all of these is mindfulness. “Paying full whole-hearted attention” is how mindfulness is defined in this article. Key features are your being observant without being critical and being compassionate with yourself. How does this apply to stress relief? Well, one very important way is being able to acknowledge the feelings of stress or unhappiness and realizing that they will pass.
Schedule to Lower Stress
So, while the time leading up to the holidays can be quite stressful, the author suggests incorporating something for yourself into your schedule every day, while always being mindful, can be, as the author suggests, the smart and healthy way to handle the season.
The holidays can be exciting and joyful, but they can also create feelings of anger, stress, resentment, anxiety, and exhaustion. These feelings can get triggered simply by waiting in a register line to purchase gifts for your loved ones, searching for last-minute items needed for holiday preparations, or looking once more over the list of all the tasks you still need to complete.
Putting Mindfulness into the Season
To this end and also toward experiencing all the positive feelings that the holiday season can offer, the author suggests a 10-day stress-lowering recipe with mindfulness as the main ingredient.
1. Eat some chocolate, but, this time, chew slowly and pay particular attention to the wonderful flavors, textures, and aromas, instead of simply devouring it like an animal. You can call it “chocolate meditation.”
2. Go for a 15- to 30-minute walk while paying close attention to your surroundings.
3. Carry out a three-minute breathing exercise.
4. Do something pleasurable, i.e., visit a friend, make time for your favorite hobby, read a book, or do whatever you know pleases you.
5. Follow the “Intensely Frustrating Line Meditation” whenever your progress toward goals is blocked. That is, if you are forced to wait long periods, try to get in touch with, become aware of, and be mindful of the thoughts, sensations, and emotions prompted by the situation.
6. Set up a mindfulness bell to help remind you to experience fully and enjoy each activity.
7. Use the “ten-finger gratitude exercise” to come to a positive appreciation for the small things in your life.
8. Practice the author’s “sounds and thoughts meditation,” which is central to mindfulness and to becoming a happier, more relaxed, and centered person. A link is provided in the article.
9. Reclaim your life. That is, if there was a point in your life where things seemed easier and simpler, recall as many activities as you can that you engaged in at that time, and make them part of your life again.
10. Visit the movies. Yes, you've probably seen movies on the big screen many times, BUT have you ever planned a trip to the movies at an established time that works best for you, without knowing what movies were playing? Why not set a time and choose a movie only when you arrive at the theater?
These are a few tips the author shares in his article for making your holidays more pleasant. Have you ever tried any of these? How likely are you to incorporate one or more into your holiday schedule? Perhaps there are other things you recall that have worked in reducing your holiday stress. Do you have any additional tips or recommended changes regarding the “recipe” offered by the author?
Penman, D. (2011, December 16). Christmas stress relief: A mindful ten day guide. Psychology Today, Retrieved from http://www.psych ologytoday.com/print/82625