Just thinking about the holidays alone can be stressful, let alone dealing with family, crowds and parking. For many, the holiday season is filled with numerous extra activities, which can be difficult to fit into our already demanding schedules, so finding time for ourselves or time to regroup becomes limited. This can significantly increase our stress levels. The majority of people crave a happy, drama and stress-free holiday, which can lead to unrealistic expectations. All of this added together equals STRESS!
This may increase even more when we factor in all those extra tasks such as shopping, cleaning, cooking, dealing with traffic, long lines, and the financial stress it may bring. So how can we cope with the pressure and stress of the silly season?
Mindfulness can help. Mindfulness is described as paying purposeful attention without judgement to the present moment. It is something that is easy to undertake and practice daily. Mindfulness can be undertaken while undertaking most tasks, eg such as eating, cleaning, standing in a line, etc. It assists us in managing unhelpful thoughts and to help sooth us thus reducing our level of stress. Here are some ideas on how you can reduce stress mindfully.
1. Acceptance that you will feel stress.
Often when we don’t like a feeling, we struggle against it. Stress is one of those feelings and no matter how we try, we can’t avoid it. Experiencing stress isn’t a failure, it is inevitable in our lives and it is ok.
2. Cultivate awareness and self-care.
We are not often aware of the thoughts in our head, so start paying attention to your thoughts and feelings. This information can help you make better decisions, especially in relation to your own self-care. If you feel tired or worried about a number of things, it can be easy to become even more worried and stressed. Being aware of your thoughts and feelings might help you notice that you need some time out, or a breath of fresh air, or some rest. Its important to notice and be aware of what is going on inside of us so we can nurture ourselves better. When we feel better on the inside, we also make better choices for ourselves.
Self awareness is also a great way to notice what you do to fuel the negative coping strategies which you have been using in the past that increase your stress.
There has been a lot of hype about the importance of gratitude, though when you find things that you are grateful for, it can really change your perspective in a positive way. No matter how big or small, there is always something that we can find that we are grateful for. What you focus on you feel, so the more your focus in on what you are grateful for, the more you will feel more positive and loving no matter what the situation.
4. Become other-focused.
Often we might be thinking that we are the only ones struggling financially or with family, or that you’re the only one that feels unhappy and alone. We often forget to remember that we are not the only ones who may be struggling at this time of year. Sometimes we need to get out of ourselves and stop and think of others. It’s important to have some compassion for how others may be feeling or even what they could be going through, cause do we ever really know? By having some compassion and understanding, we open ourselves up to connecting with others at a more positive level.
5. Be curious.
Have you even noticed a child seeing something for the very first time? When we do, its like we are again seeing it for the first time with them. Being curious about the world around you is also a part of practicing Mindfulness. It helps us to see the world with new eyes and to examine it with care and interest. When you look through your “child like eyes” in a curious way, you notice all the sights, the sounds, the smells and textures of the world around you. Every thing is new and amazing. Tap into your senses and just pay attention.
6. Be Present
The holidays can come and go as quickly as blinking at times so its important to be present and in the moment as much as possible. Often our thoughts are trying to organise things over the next few weeks, or we are thinking about things that have happened. When our thoughts are in the future or in the past, we can’t be present. By doing the steps above, you start to sit in the moment and just enjoy it for what it is. It also helps to quiet the mind, which is where all our stress comes from.
Take time to savour the moment, the scents around you, and the taste of the food you’re eating. Tune into the music that you’re listening to, birds chirping in the background, and the kids laughing. Observe the colours in the sky, the shapes of the clouds above and the leaves, flowers and plants around you.
While there are some things we can’t control, we can control our perceptions and how we choose to cope in a more healthy way. Instead of letting things overwhelm us, make the positive choice to engage in practices that minimise our stress and also helps us engage in the world around us.
Pay attention to the present and keep finding things that you’re grateful for. Be kind to yourself and others and have a happy holiday season.