How to Practice Mindfulness During the Holidays

by | Dec 26, 2022 | Adulting, Anxiety, Counseling, Highly Sensitive People (HSP), Perfectionism, Stress

How to Practice Mindfulness During the Holidays

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It is common to feel overwhelmed during the holidays. There are so many things to do, from shopping for gifts and preparing for holiday parties to traveling and juggling multiple commitments. The demands of the season can be draining. On top of it all, the holiday season is a time in which many believe they are naturally supposed to be happy. The pressure to feel happy and festive throughout these months is not only unrealistic but may increase feelings of guilt and anxiety if one doesn’t feel this way. 

The holiday season is a wonderful time of year to spend with loved ones. It should be enjoyed and savored—not stressed over. However, it can be easy to let the holiday pressure get to you if you are not mindful. Keep reading to learn more about the art of mindfulness, and a few ways you can stay mindful and calm this holiday season—even when things feel out of control. 

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a practice that helps people focus on what they are doing in the present moment and not get caught up in their thoughts about the past or future. It can be described as the mental state that is achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations without judging them. 

It may sound easy enough to practice mindfulness, but during stressful times like the holiday season, it can be more difficult than you’d imagine. In times of high stress, it is common for our thoughts to race, as well as for these thoughts to sometimes be negative or anxious. You may experience those pesky “What if?” thoughts often, and although they may be frustrating, they are typical for those with anxiety, especially during stressful times. Mindfulness, however, allows you to sit with these thoughts without them having an effect on you. Think of it like watching your thought pass right by, like a cloud in the sky, without having to act on it. 

Many studies have shown that mindfulness promotes a healthier mental state, significantly reducing anxiety, stress, and depression in those who practice it regularly. Like most healthy habits, the more you practice mindfulness, the longer-lasting, and stronger the effects. One study found that people who practiced mindfulness every day for just 6-weeks reported lower levels of stress and higher levels of productivity [1]. Not only does mindfulness cultivate a healthier mental mindset, but it also has physical benefits, like lowering blood pressure, improving sleep, and alleviating gastrointestinal issues [2]. 

5 Ways to Practice Mindfulness: 

Now that you are aware of the health benefits of mindfulness, check out these tips for incorporating mindfulness into your holiday season:

  • Take time to slow down and savor the present moment. Instead of rushing from one task to the next, try to be present in each moment and fully engage in the activity you are doing. Whether you are at a holiday party, wrapping presents, or just enjoying a cup of hot chocolate with a loved one—try to acknowledge and value this moment. After all, the holiday season doesn’t happen that often. Before you even realize it, you’ll be going back to your normal routine. Make the most of this special time before it’s over!
  • Practice gratitude. Many studies have shown that practicing gratitude significantly decreases stress and increases positive moods [3]. Take a few minutes each day to reflect on the things you are thankful for. Consider writing down the things you are grateful for in a journal, so that you can look back on them at a later date when you may be feeling down. If you are more tech-savvy and prefer an online form of journaling, try out Three Good Things! This can help you stay grounded and appreciate the good things in your life. 
  • Be aware of your thoughts and feelings. Too often, we overlook our thoughts and feelings and view them as completely out of our control. Although it’s often hard to not feel a certain way in response to a situation that may upset you, it’s important to acknowledge your feelings and attempt to work through them. Notice when you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed and take a moment to pause and take some deep breaths (try the Breathwrk app for help with this!) Journaling about these feelings or talking them through with a loved one may help. 
  • Stay present with loved ones. As mentioned, savoring the present moment is important in all situations. However, during the holidays, it is extra important to stay present with loved ones. Remember, it may be a long while before you get to see these loved ones again. People tend to prioritize family/friend visits during the holidays before they return to their busy schedules during the new year. Put away your phone and fully engage in conversations and activities with the people you are with. If you have trouble with this, consider setting screen time limits on your phone!
  • Take care of yourself. Make time for self-care, whether it’s taking a relaxing bath, going for a walk, or meditating. Although it’s normal to feel stressed during the holidays, it should be a top priority to take care of yourself so that you don’t experience burnout. Try this guided self-care workbook to help you get started! 

The holiday season can be a wonderful time of year, but it can also be overwhelming. By practicing mindfulness, you can manage stress, stay grounded, and fully enjoy the present moment. So, try to incorporate mindfulness into your holiday routine and see how it can improve your overall well-being and enjoyment of the season! 

To discuss how therapy could help you during this season of your life, please contact me or schedule your free 15 minute consultation.

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